Our first pre season game was underway against MK Dons yesterday. In this article, I will provide an in depth review of our 4-1 victory against ‘The Dons’ and analyse certain individual performances.
Unsurprisingly, Arteta set us in a 3-4-3 system. It’s clear to me that we will continue with this formation until we have someone available who can drift in between the lines and provide creativity. Throughout the entire first half, I was encouraged by our shape and organisation both in and out of possession. There were plenty of positive elements in our performance that must be discussed and dissected. One aspect was the way we successfully built attacks from deep through playing out from the back. When in possession, the two outside centre backs (Saliba and Tierney) occupied wide positions, which opened up space and created better angles for passes. Both Elneny and Xhaka were always available to receive the ball from the back line and be the link between defence and midfield.
If we take a look at how we attacked from the left, Saka would drop in midfield and give Saliba another option. Cedric would then be tasked to push forward, take advanced positions and create width. We also saw Soares on many occasions, drop deep and draw the attention of opposing players, with Saka then playing on the shoulder further up the pitch. The same patterns, in the way we progressed, occurred on the opposite flank.
Out of possession, we dropped into a 5-2-3 system, to nullify threats coming through the wide areas. Xhaka and Elneny were the two in the midfield pivot and provided a screen to the backline. Both AMN and Tierney would position themselves as defensive wing backs.
Our pressing game has improved significantly since the arrival of our exciting young coach, back in December. It’s very calculated and reminiscent of the style Pep deploys. Nketiah led the charge through the middle and was continuously pressing the MK Dons keeper with high levels of intensity and energy. Our two wide attackers in Saka and Aubameyang took positions which eliminated passing lanes and prevented them from playing out the back, forcing the MK Dons defenders to go long regularly.
On a few occasions when MK Dons did pass their way into midfield with some neat build up play, both Saliba and Tierney were clearly instructed by the manager to step in and be aggressive. This is certainly an advantage when playing with a back three as one of the centre halves is given slightly more freedom to step up.
Tierney won the ball back on a few occasions in this manner and allowed us to regain possession and build attacks further up the pitch.
The deadlock was broken in the 5th minute, after a wonder strike from the Mohammed Elneny. Lot of credit must go to Eddie here as his desire to make life uncomfortable, throughout the time he was on the pitch, for the opposing keeper was rewarded as he forced him into making a loose pass.
The build up play for our second goal was neat and tidy. Saliba receives the ball from deep, drives with it into space, and plays a perfectly weighted pass to Cedric. He then plays Saka in, who takes a great position in between the opposition full back and centre half, and exploits the space in behind. Both Aubameyang and Nketiah take good positions in the box and Bukayo does well to find Eddie, who converts the chance brilliantly.
In terms of their goal, Holding gets himself in an awkward position and converts the header into his own net. The 24 year old English defender was having a good game up until this point but will definitely know that he should have dealt with the cross a lot better.
Clearly, there was a lack of cohesion in our play after the interval, especially after making wholesale changes. Once our exciting youth players came on, we struggled to string passes together and maintain any sort of fluidity and tempo in our play. Our third goal came from a corner, with Reiss picking out McGuinness, who fired in a towering header. Nelson was once again key for our fourth goal, carrying the ball from deep and drawing the foul in the box. Our Hale End product converted from the spot and was certainly the standout performer in the second half.
The first half performances from certain individuals was encouraging. All eyes were on Saliba, after it was announced an hour before kickoff that he would be starting. He didn’t disappoint and provided us with an assured display. The young French defenders style of play is tailored to the modern game. Very comfortable in possession and always looking to make forward, progressive passes that break the lines. Showed calmness when pressed and always knew when to play the ball back to Leno. Defensively, he will face tougher tests.
Tierney put in another standard solid display along with Maitland Niles. On the opposite flank, Cedric was, at times, sloppy in possession. But what I liked about his display was his directness and his offensive play. Both him and Saka developed a partnership offensively and looked threatening throughout the half. Bukayo was lively as usual, and his encouraging display was rewarded with an assist.
With regards to the second half, Bola and Cottrell impressed me on the left hand side, with the latter combining well with Nelson on a few occasions. Ballard played well although could have done better in a few defensive situations whilst McGuinness was commanding at the heart of the defence and took his goal well.
Miguel Azeez is one to keep a close eye on in the U23’s this season. Technically, he is gifted and is a joy to watch on his day. But in terms of his performance yesterday, he seemed slightly off the pace and struggled to really impose his game. Similar descriptions could be applied to Smith Rowe’s display on Tuesday evening.
Nelson looked very sharp. Whilst he initially started the half on the right, he switched wings with ESR as the game went on, and was certainly a lot more threatening on the left hand side. A goal and an assist will definitely boost his confidence.
Overall, it was an encouraging performance. Players would have certainly increased their fitness levels and gained some sort of sharpness from the game. Liverpool on Saturday will be a far tougher test. But i’m confident that we can go on and win our fourth Community Shield in the space of six years.
Comment below and message me via my social media links in my bio.
23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.