“Dynamic” and “Incisive.” Those are the terms I associate with the attacking brand of Arsenal football I fell in love with over a decade ago. In recent blogs, I’ve made mention of the identity crisis at the club and the deviation from the swashbuckling, eye-catching offensive ethos we developed over the course of the Wenger era. Only in small spurts and one-off games over the last three seasons have we seen such attacking verve and never for prolonged stretches of games.
It’s six wins on the bounce for Arsenal and three wins over eight days. It seems as though we may be on the verge of an extended run of attacking proficiency (Stoke aside). Since the victory over AC Milan on March 8, Arsenal have gone undefeated and outscored opponents 18-4. Slow, sideways passing has gradually given way to forward-thinking intent while finding space in the channels and playmakers between the lines. Our attacking priorities have changed and the sense of urgency being displayed is refreshing to see.
Impressively, and out of the Wenger-ordinary, a variety of personnel have been used during this six game run. Usually Wenger teams display their most cohesive stretches with almost unchanged lineups and first choice XI’s. Injuries, rotation, and a cup-tied world-class striker have made that impossible. One can’t help but wonder if Alexis’ ball dominant, oftentimes selfish personality having relocated North is finally starting to have a positive effect on overall team dynamic.
I want to analyze the last 3 games against Stoke, CKSA, and Southampton. During those games, Arsenal have outscored opponents 10-3 while creating 40 chances to the opposition’s 25. Maybe it’s the caliber of opposition or the fact that we’ve been at the comfy confines of the Emirates the last five games, but it seems we’ve done much better playing with expansivity, transitioning quickly to attack, and finding runners in advanced areas. Below are five of the more underappreciated moments that may have gotten lost among the headline grabbing goals of the last three games.
The first example shows a Cech goal kick aimed at Bellerin on the right touchline. He does well to win the header and start the progressive right-sided triangle. Ramsey’s cheeky shoulder pass to Wilshere adds some pizzazz to the attacking movement that ends in Ozil being released in behind and Ramsey’s eventual disallowed finish.
The next begins with a left sideline touch and leads to central combination play and ends with a right-sided overload. Elneny does well to let the ball run across his body which takes the defender out of the play and transitions us to the next phase of attack.
In the clip below, central one-touch football and Ramsey’s ability to read the deep-lying Stoke DM’s intention to join in on the press, leaves a central channel for him to run. Having a response to teams that look to exploit pressing triggers in central midfield is important for us to combat moving forward. Ramsey’s advanced running prowess is on full display here.
The next clip just shows a lovely run by Ozil and a pinpoint find by Xhaka as CSKA offer us time and space off a corner. I love the intelligence of movement, the perfect timing of the pass, and the placement of the ball right at Ozil’s feet. It’s a shame he couldn’t have made it 5-1 inside the first half.
The last example displays the tail end of a nearly 1 minute long piece of interplay that included 25 consecutive passes against Southampton. The overloading of the right half-space outside the Southampton area pays dividends as quick interplay turns into an Iwobi attempt on goal.
Those that know me have heard the following saying time and time again: “Football is the beautiful game so you should focus on the beautiful moments.” I understand that this has been a rough season; I get that we have played five of the six games during this win streak at home; I’m fully aware that the opposition has been less than stellar lately. That being said, there has been some brilliant attacking football on display lately and it’s been a joy to behold. Let’s celebrate it.
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