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Versatility in abundance, but has Arteta now found Saka his perfect position – Tactical Analysis of Victory at Hawthorns

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Found Saka’s perfect position

Formations/tactics

Mikel Arteta retained the 4-2-3-1 deployed in the last two Premier League encounters, with Martinelli given a much-needed rest following the number of minutes the Brazillian has played in the last three fixtures across all competitions. The Spaniard recognised that his side would come up against a stubborn deep block, and adjusted accordingly, bringing in Ceballos to partner Xhaka in the double pivot.

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Out of possession, Arsenal would shift to a 4-4-2 when West Brom were in possession within their own half. As the home side transitioned forward, Emile Smith Rowe would drop into midfield and make it a 4-5-1, similar to the previous two Premier League games, with the wingers/inside forwards supporting the full-backs to prevent numerical superiorities.

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The Gunners during the build-up phase and when Leno was in possession would utilise a 4-2-3-1, and transitioned to a 2-3-5 as players progressed forward. The balance was perfect, with the visitors utilising both flanks efficiently, creating effective wide overloads. Once passages of play developed through the left, Tierney would combine with Aubameyang, Bellerin played an inverted role and Emile Smith Rowe would drift in between the lines and position himself intelligently, and on many occasions through the right to create an overload with Saka.

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Whilst Tierney would predominantly overlap, Hector Bellerin also was given license to advance forward when attacks stemmed through the right. Saka would have an option on the outside (Bellerin) and inside (Emile Smith Rowe), which enabled him to be at his most lethal best. The three rotated and interchanged at will.
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First Half

Surprisingly, West Brom started the game well, with the home side dominating possession in the opening 10 minutes. But normal service would eventually resume, following this early spell, with the North Londoners stamping their authority, and maintaining control.
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A rejuvenated Alexandre Lacazette was key in many of the attacks the Gunners developed in dropping deep, holding the ball up and bringing others into play. The Frenchman showed his quality in the 12th minute, releasing Saka from a deeper position. Bukayo goes onto test the palms of Johnstone.
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Smith Rowe and Saka were developing a dangerous partnership, with the two replicating the strong chemistry developed in the second half vs Brighton. Arsenal’s No.7 was always a threat and delivered a great ball to Auba, who failed to strike a clean connection early on in the game.
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Saka continuously probing/threatening, but it was Tierney who broke the deadlock. The Scotsman provided great width for the Gunners, delivered some dangerous balls into the box, and his endeavours were rewarded with a great goal, firing a shot past the West Bromich keeper with his weaker right foot.
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An early goal was crucial as it enabled the game to open up in favour of the visitors. And the positive aspect was that Arsenal continued to take the initiative, rather than sit back with their second goal in the half a standout on the night.
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After a quick pass to Saka, the Croydon De Bruyne moves into the space vacated by Bukayo. The 19-year-old teenage sensation lays the ball into the path of Lacazette, who maintains the pace in the move by feeding Smith Rowe immediately on the outside, who then finds Saka to finish the move off. Intelligence, rotation and quality on show from the Hale End Graduates.
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Chances continued to arise with Lacazette weaving away from Ivanovic on the left-hand side, before forcing a smart save. Overall it was a half that Mikel Arteta would have certainly been pleased with, especially considering the undesirable conditions presented in the West Midlands.

Second Half

It was a spirited attempt in the opening periods of the second half from the visitors, with Sam Allardice clearly instructing his men to show more quality on the ball. A goal ruled out for offside, however, was the closest they got to troubling Leno.
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Any hope of a comeback was shattered in the 59th minute with Saka playing a pivotal role. Lacazette carries the ball forward, before passing it to the electric Hale End Graduate. Bukayo shifts the ball to his left, delivers a cross into a good area which is eventually converted by Lacazette.
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Arsenal’s No.9. continued to shine and added to his tally moments later. Tierney attacks the space vacated out wide after being found by Auba, with the Scotsman going past his man easily with a shoulder drop before finding the Frenchman with an inch-perfect cross.
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The Gunners continued to create chances but it finished 4-0 in what was a brilliant display. The key positives:
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-Structure in possession was balanced
-Effective overloads created through wide areas
-Hale end Graduates shine
-Lacazette developing consistency
-Tierney influential

Individual displays

Despite two smart stops, it was a quiet game for Leno. But when the German was called upon, he dealt with everything in a comfortable and reassuring manner.
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Arsenal’s central defenders were also untested at the Hawthornes. But the two certainly can be pleased with a second successive clean sheet. Holding has rewarded Arteta with a string of convincing displays whilst Mari has done a good job, coming in for Gabriel. The two, however, do need to be braver on the ball and look to play more forward line-breaking passes, the key to initiating attacks from deep.
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A steady display from Bellerin, making the most ball recoveries out of any Arsenal player on the pitch before he was substituted for Ainsley Maitland Niles. In possession, he was careless at times and could have shown more quality in the final third.
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Tierney, however, was outstanding! A constant threat out wide, driving with intent. The Scottsman’s fine display was rewarded with a fantastic goal and an excellent assist for Lacazette.
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The two in the double pivot in Xhaka and Ceballos quietly impressed. The Spaniard in particular, had a strong second-half display, evading pressure deep in Arsenal’s half and delivered some well-executed long balls in behind the West Brom backline. The two together isn’t a sustainable partnership but were rightly paired yesterday.
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The Gabonese international, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang showed intensity out of possession despite frustrating on the ball. But with the current system implemented, Aubameyang should go on a goalscoring charge soon given the calibre of player he is. His partner Lacazette, however, continued to impress. The Frenchman was pivotal both in the build-up play but also showed great quality in the final third, scoring two well-earned goals and looks a rejuvenated player.
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Continues to shine

Emile Smith Rowe continues to shine. Operating in between the lines, the talented 20-year-old is excellent in scanning his surroundings, picking up space and unlocking others. He times his passes brilliantly and developed an excellent partnership with Saka. An assist to his name shows his ability to provide productivity.
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Operating on the right as an inside forward, Bukayo Saka may have just found his perfect position. The exciting teenager is always positive, can go past his man on the outside and inside, intelligence on and off the ball and yet again provided an influence. With Saka maintaining high performance levels, its hard to see how both Pepe or Willian can pip the youngster for a starting spot.
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