Arsenal’s cunning strategy for breaking down stubborn defences

Apart from the occasional clueless rant - Paul Merson knows what he's on about

Apart from the occasional clueless rant – Paul Merson knows what he’s on about

Today’s Sunday Times carries an interesting article by Jonathan Northcroft based on an interview with Paul Merson.

He talks about possession, breaking fast and powerfully, and says that Arsenal have conceded possession as a tactic and achieved better results. Arsenal’s worst defeats have happened when they have had what he describes as “heavy possession”.

He says that Ozil may have less pace than Sanchez, Walcott and Bellerin but he has speed of thought. He sees things ahead of others and moves things along more quickly taking advantage of the pace of team mates.

But in part this depends on how the opposition are set up – if they have two banks of four with one of the attackers also retreating a quick break is difficult. When playing against a strong defence – a massed defence – quick breaks are not on, and the requirement is to play probing balls – often referred to as tippy-tappy.

Here we have possession but ahead of us the penalty area is crowded. Sometimes we get frustrated and urge players to shoot from outside the area in the hope that a shot will result in a goal. Sometimes we pump a ball into the crowded area – but most of the time we probe – down one wing, down another, wait for the full backs to join the offense, constantly looking for a run from midfield to create an option for a goal.

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So it is a truism but the way we play is clearly affected by the tactics adopted by the opposition: if they have come for a draw it is tight; if they go one down it remains tight unless our goal comes in the final 15 minutes and then they need to go in search of an equaliser and press forward allowing us breaks at speed against possibly depleted defences.

Merse is right: we are best breaking at speed, and we showed that in the 3-0 win against Man U; though we were helped by United’s decision to play just three at the back – our speedy attacking force did so well and made use of the extra space.

What is interesting in Merse’s article is that as a tactic, Arsenal have surrendered some possession –  we encourage the opposition to press forward and relax their policy of smothering defence. It is like a chess game – cat and mouse, changing tactics during a game.

A thought: how do the changes take place – it is agreed in advance or does Wenger communicate from the touchline? Do players go down to enable Colin Lewin to carry messages? or is it just experience and intuition and captaincy on the pitch?

Cesc is not a villain. Don't boo him.

Cesc is not a villain. Don’t boo him.

One last thing – no booing for Cesc please. I doubt Chelsea fans will boo Cech so are we going to let ourselves down and boo Cesc? He was great for us – he was loyal to us – he made himself available for us – but Wenger (rightly) declined to take him back into the fold.

Applaud him and lets avoid letting ourselves down.

Getting ready for this afternoon. I will be tweeting from the Emirates with the hashtag #arsenalcircular


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One Response to Arsenal’s cunning strategy for breaking down stubborn defences

  1. ron January 24, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    Boooo snaky cesc. Boo

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