ARSENAL 1 – 1 EVERTON: 5 TACTICAL POINTS
Arsenal see less of the ball, but offer more directness
Arsenal had only 44 per cent of possession which is much lower than their season average – 55 per cent after this game. Again, their starting eleven featured no truly wide players. Their shape was pretty narrow, but there were two things which prevented them from dominating the game.
First, Arsenal pressed quite cautiously, especially for most of the first half. This allowed Everton to settle on the ball and pass out of defence.
Second, Everton themselves had numbers and quality in the centre of the pitch. Both Barry’s and McCarthy’s distribution was reliable, Barkley was constantly on the move and dropped deep willingly, Pienaar drifted inside from the left and Mirallas positioned himself quite centrally as well.
So the teams matched each other in midfield in terms of numbers and Everton controlled the game for longer periods. However, Arsenal managed to make 170 attacking third passes compared to Everton’s 135. This owes to the simple fact that they have more attacking quality in Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey and Wilshere all capable of penetrative vertical passes.
Barkley finds space
Ross Barkley is definitely emerging as a top class attacker. He is a good dribbler with a fearful shot and has a great spacial awareness. In this game he constantly got the better of Arteta taking up intelligent positions and permanently finding space between the lines. Although the Spaniard made five successful tackles – the most among both sides – his defensive contribution is hardly commendable given the space he allowed to Barkley. But it was not only the former Everton player who was guilty of that. Aaron Ramsey’s positioning was quite advanced and he did not offer him much protection.
Koscielny brilliant against Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku had a quiet game not recording a single shot on target. Laurent Koscielny did a great job both on him and overall making 8 interceptions and 9 clearances.
The Frenchman is known to have these strengths. Lukaku could have shown more attacking intelligence working the left-of-centre channel – which the far less mobile Mertesacker was responsible for – more frequently.
Ozil not good enough defensively
Cazorla, Ozil and Wilshere (especially the latter two) exchanged positions frequently throughout. The German international is never really fond of tracking his man which was the case in this game as well.
Everton are always dangerous down their left with Baines or his excellent replacement Oviedo getting up and down the wing and Steven Pienaar moving inside. Until Theo Walcott came on on 67 minutes, Ozil appeared on the right very frequently with Wilshere moving to the centre. The German’s unwillingness to track back resulted in two very dangerous Everton attacks down their left, and on a couple of occasions Arsenal were fortunate that Everton were unable to work the ball to that side.
Walcott is definitely co-responsible for the goal Arsenal conceded. Oviedo whom the England winger was supposed to track back – especially because he was fresh, it was so late on and Arsenal were 1-0 up – found himself in too much space to deliver a cross which ultimately led to Deulofeu’s strike.
But he also played a crucial part in the Arsenal goal. He filtered into a channel between Oviedo and Distin before getting on a Rosicky’s ball and flicking it on to the onrushing Ozil. The way this Arsenal attack evolved demonstrates the positve impact Walcott had on his team’s performance. Since the England winger had appeared on the field, Everton sat much deeper afraid of his pace in behind. This helped Arsenal build up pressure and pin Everton back. That fine ball by Rosicky would have barely happened had the Everton back four been higher up.
This was an encounter of two similar systems. Both managers did not make any reactive changes either in personnel or in their approach. Arsenal did appear more cautious than usual and allowed Everton time on the ball, but were more direct and dangerous in the final third. Barkley came out on top in his personal battle against Arteta which indicates that the Spaniard might use more protection from one of his fellow midfielders in the upcoming fixtures.
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