The Arsenal Column

Arsenal Analysis and Tactics. All views expressed are those of Pat Rice. (Disclaimer: they are actually not his words).

Analysing Arsenal’s pressing system

Arsenal’s pressing game has suffered since the start of the season mostly due to a matter of distances.

Shortened names are all the rage these days. From Subo (Susan Boyle), R-Pat (Robert Pattinson) and Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), it’s a wonder they still haven’t thought of one for Babyshambles front man Pete Doherty. And after Barcelona swept all before them to bag six trophies last year, with Bordaeux and Chile prevailing as underdogs doing it, Arsenal became the latest side at the start of this season to adopt football’s trendiest tactic – that of “high intensity pressing.”

Enter the first game and a swirling cloud of red, snapping and snarling at the heels of each Everton player, giving them no time to rest, was a welcoming surprise from a jittery pre-season campaign trialing the same tactics. Somehow such usually difficult opponents were swatted away with great ease and efficiency also, and it was not just defensively Arsenal had found improvements on – the Gunners put six past Everton. Arsenal were voracious in attack, averaging around three goals per game and even though they leaked the odd goal, it seemed at last Arsène Wenger had found the right balance and the players were tactically maturing. But fast-forward to defeats at Barcelona, Tottenham and Wigan and that pressing system has started look fragmented, no less exposed by the Catalan side and their pressing standards.

Why Pressing is Important in the 4-3-3

As Barcelona have shown, pressing is as much an art to them as a through ball, with Pep Guardiola claiming that his side would not be as effective as they are were it not for the mechanism put in place of pressing the ball when it is lost. And after watching Barca’s dismantling of Arsenal in this year’s Champions League, many felt that that was the key difference between the two teams – that Barcelona had a more thorough defensive system in place to complement their attacking style. The need to press in either sides variant of 4-3-3 is a pertinent one as it allows allows the side to remain compact in a way not offered by most formations. Typical formations are more concerned with zones therefore when possession changes hands, they can more easily fall back into a defensive block to retain their shape and press within. “There is less high-intensity pressing from the front in advance areas (in top-level European football),” says Fulham boss Roy Hodgson. “This is partly because concern of the interpretation of the offside law has led to teams to play deeper. Sides are sill compact, but this is mainly in their own half of the pitch.” Teams who played a similar style – the Ajax sides of the late 60′s0/early 70′s, Dynamo Kyiv and Holland in ’74 – were able to do this because the interpretation of the offside law meant they could play in a small area of the pitch to squeeze the opponents.

The 4-3-3 deployed by Barcelona and Arsenal is unique in that, when in possession, in order to be dynamic in attack and offer more angles in the pass, the side is required to stretch play up the pitch. However that is also what makes it such a specialised formation in the modern game because the danger is, when you lose the ball, the distances between your players will be large and thus presents a great opportunity for opponents to exploit. Therefore, the need arises for the team to compress space and that is best served by pressing the opposition when the ball is lost. Which sounds simple enough, however, pressuring still requires a structure –  a framework –  which all players should be willing to conform to. And that, in essence, was the gulf in execution between Barcelona and Arsenal in both legs of the quarter-final.

A Matter of Distances

Much of Arsene Wenger’s talk early in the season was one of maintaining correct distances and indeed the different defensive assignments he gave to his players led him to label the formation as a 4-1-4-1. The midfield four behind Robin van Persie as it were, were to pressure along the same band as each other with Alex Song the self-titled stopper of counter attacks.

The auxiliary left central midfielder was to have a stabilizing role – one to cover for the left forward (who was usually Andrey Arshavin because of his tendency to drift infield) and the other, to drop slightly more deeper to help out Song.

That ploy would of course allow Cesc Fabregas to push further up the field and enable the captain to exert greater influence between the lines and pressure higher. However, slowly but surely, as Arsenal’s goals dried after van Persie’s injury, Fabregas was pushed closer to the main forward in order to create goals but rather than it multiplying his impact, it proceeded to inadvertently upset the balance of the side.

That problem was in part highlighted in the 2-1 defeat against FC  Porto, where Swansea manager Paulo Sousa, commentating for ITV Sport, mentioned that Arsenal’s problem with pressing was in balancing their intensity. The gap between attack – the first line of pressure – and defence was too large and that made it a difficult transition from the attacking phase to the defensive phase. So if Tomas Rosicky, starting on the left in that game, pressured the right-back high up the pitch – of which he attempted on a number of occasions – his hard work would invariably fall flat as one pass could essentially free the defender from the Czech’s advances. And that made it all the more difficult for Rosicky to track back as the ball is hit forward quickly.

In truth, that was only half the story as Porto purposely made it difficult for Arsenal by looking to stretch the game as much as possible, defending very deep and stationing the three forwards in direct confrontation with the Gunners defenders at all times. Nevertheless the idea was to expose burgeoning problems in Arsenal’s defensive phase which, after a good start to the season, was feeling the strain of chasing silverware.

The Cesc Fabregas Question

Arsene Wenger once stated you are more worried about correcting the creative side of a team than the defensive balance and indeed as Arsenal’s attacking play started to become stale, Cesc Fabregas was pushed higher up the pitch. The game against Liverpool, following successive defeats to Chelsea and Manchester United, saw Arsenal attempt to revert to a more pragmatic approach to balance both sides and it proved successful. The full-backs got tighter to their opposing wingers and likewise the two central midfielders to their opposite numbers while Fabregas and Arshavin led the way in closing down aggressively high up the field. And just as that re-found stability looked set to reignite Arsenal’s title challenge, old habits soon kicked in.

The biggest problem is seemingly in the centre where teams, especially during December and January, where able to profit from the gaps in the centre. On paper, it looks like pushing Fabregas higher may have had an adverse impact on the balance. Yet, Barcelona, in their new variant of 4-3-3, whereby Guardiola has deployed Messi in an interior role similar to Fabregas indicates that is not necessarily the case. The difference comes in how rigidly Barcelona stick to their individual and collective assignments and press aggressively not just the ball carrier, but to eliminate all passing options completely. That means when the forward presses, he will continue all the way even if the ball is passed backwards while his team-mates back him up by looking to get tight and at times, get in front of potential passing options. That tactic may in part explain why opponents are not so willing to go direct as confidently against Barcelona and of which enables the Barca defenders to be more assured in taking the risk to push up. Because it is true that, if teams go direct more quickly, as Inter did in their 3-1 win, Barcelona can be exposed from the ball over the top. Indeed, Aston Villa, Burnley, Everton, Fulham and West Ham have displayed similar tactics against Arsenal, stopping the Gunners from passing the ball out from deep and profiting through gaps in the channels.

If one uses the example of Rafael Marquez in the second leg, four or five could go and press him as they did in Arsenal’s 4-1-4-1 in the defensive phase but that would surely result in inefficiency. It may theoretically claustrophobe the target but not necessarily stop him making a pass to an opponent were he was in space. So when Marquez had the ball, having the vision the Mexican has and the movement his teammate’s do, all it took was for Xavi or Buqsquets to drop into a pocket of space and an opportunity opened up. And on the occasions that one player did press Marquez, the others did not quite follow up and get tight on the potential passing options on offer. What that will inevitably lead to is inefficient pressing, which if not followed through correctly will become false pressing – which is not exactly pressing at all.  The different defensive assignments Wenger has given to his players are there for a reason and are there to help balance the side defensively – the 4-3-3 can feel like chain reactions and one player’s movement can impact on the effectiveness of another. Simon Kuper, writing for the Financial Times, wrote of how Bayern Munich’s strikers, under Louis Van Gaal, “harries their defenders, not in order to win the ball but to pressure a pass to central midfield, where Bayern will win it.”

It is an area Arsenal must improve upon otherwise repeats of how Denilson was exposed in the centre during the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United are likely occur again. It seems at the moment, the Brazilian is stuck in transition of which system of marking to follow - zonal, man-marking or neither. Gael Clichy’s indifferent early form goes some way to suggest this is also indicative of more than one of his team-mates. ”With 4-3-3 it’s all about choosing when to go and when to stay rather than just going for the sake of it,” says the left-back.

Final Thoughts

In that respect, Alex Song has been a vital cog in Arsenal’s pressing system as he has looked the one who has most benefited from closing down early. His presence in the middle often results in a better team performance for the Gunners and allows Arsenal to win the ball back quickly. Robin van Persie is also arguably a better presser of the ball than Nicklas Bendtner but it also must be stressed the importance of the role the Dane played early in the season on the right hand side of the attacking trident. That Nasri and Rosicky have had more game time later on in the season in wide areas may have also had an adverse effect on the pressing game as their tendencies are not so forward thinking and quite lackadaisical. Arsenal have also been bad starters of games, only scoring twice in the league in the opening fifteen minutes which can again explain that Arsenal need time to adjust to the distances.

Pressing however, is best realised by a good attacking game, and that Arsenal have not been as dynamic in attacking in the second part, nor as obsessive in possession of the season has probably undermined their confidence in pressing the ball high up. Nevertheless, as a team collective, there is no doubt that the pressing game has been for the better for Arsenal and with the players maturing each time. They have less been exposed on the break as previous seasons and the strain their expansive style causes on the back is not as apparent. Thomas Vermaelen has improved Arsenal’s winning back of the ball and that Arsenal are the best utilisers of the offside trap indicates an effective back line which only needs greater synchronicity with the midfield. “I think we all want to get the ball back very quickly,” explains Bakary Sagna. ”Everyone is defending quicker and the forwards are doing more. It helps us play as a team. We worked a lot on this in pre-season because we changed the formation and we have to keep working on it.”

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39 Responses to “Analysing Arsenal’s pressing system”

  1. Myrsine says:

    Insightful stuff.

    Is AW a manager that demands enough defensive, system-based discipline to make this pressing work as well as Barca? I don’t think so. There were times when I thought Barca tried a pass in the final third, expecting it to not come off, but did it anyway preparing to pressure the ball with four or five men even before they lost it, thus winning it back and catching the defense at 6s and 7s. I can’t see Wenger’s Arsenal doing that!

    But let’s say we are a poor man’s barca, then ok. The rest comes down to Who’s our Messi, b/c that man can always be an outlet that buys you time. When Bendtner kept losing the ball it put us under so much pressure. When Alves loses it, same thing – it puts Barca under pressure. RvP is pretty good at holding it up with some mobility but Messi brings unmatchable possession and mobility that pulls defenses around at the same time let’s you get in place to press if you lose the ball.

    Maybe Spanish teams aren’t direct enough? Maybe Mourinho learned the long ball tactic from his time in England? But I thought a key difference between Inter and Arsenal was that Inter was prepared to two-touch pass it quickly forward from the outlets near the halfway line, whereas Nasri and Arshavin and Bendtner and Eboue and later Walcott all tried to dribble in those areas. (Maybe I am just repeating something your also said – it was a long blog!)

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  2. Myrsine says:

    Make that: “Maybe Spanish teams [in La Liga] aren’t direct enough to give Barca tactical problems with their pressing?”

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  3. Alex says:

    Some excellent observations. Kudos.

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  4. Steven says:

    I know that much of what you discussed here about our pressing game is part of what AW say he will sit down to take a long look at in preparation for the next season.Unfortunately, I think the WC will surely affect this plan.The players who are crucial to the team’s spirit/spine like Fab4, RvP, Song, Diaby will all be at the WC and may not have too much of a pre-season. Then there is that new rule that may surely disrupt the team for next season…I am disappointed by how this season ended but I was expecting much from the next one…until I realized all these…oh my Wenger, I don’t envy you at all…so, so stubborn, so much so unlucky!

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  5. Richard says:

    Great article as I agree entirely. This system requires you have to work hardest when you dont have the ball. At times when we lose the ball we just seem to wait for the other team to give it back rather than hunting down posession. Against the poorer teams this worked but against the better organised ones this is why we were found wanting. Are the players as a unit intelligent enough to make it work against the best? More than ever any transfers this summer are about how well they will fit the system rather than individual brillance. We dont need names we need more players like Verminator.

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  6. Ole Gunner says:

    Pressing as a tactic came into football in the 1970s. Somehow it’s as if it’s the new magic bullet.

    Almost as if all teams could be pressing all other teams. Surely there’s a limit to that?

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    The Brain Reply:

    It’s true pressing has been around for a while but teams became reluctant to use it high up the pitch possibly except those ardent to the philosophies (Barca under Cruyff).

    Barney Ronay for the Guardian jokes two teams pressing under great intensity will create a diamond!

    But that’s why Spain v Chile could be the first great match of the World Cup. Chile play almost four upfront, and we have seen the dangers Spain are posed when numbers are committed to getting the ball quickly and high up.

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  7. bob says:

    That’s a really good post. Thanks for the indepth insight. Definitely worth the read and it’s a good amount of food for thought.

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  8. Le Bob says:

    Interesting piece. Been thinking along similiar lines myself. Kudos.

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  9. Mannix says:

    Barca return leg against Arsenal they played a very tricky formation.Almost look like the one Wenger used in 2005/6 CL.Barca use 3-5-2 formation which they congest the midfield n left Arsenal with no space to go bt got stranded in their half which any moving forward is suicidal & almost impossible.Tht’s where we were left with no option bt give them them ball n hope for counter attack. When any team lock the midfield u left with nothng bt individual skill or playing high ball whch we are not used to it despite our majority heights to win the high ball.2005/6,we played similar tactics & it works very well to final where we almst win the CL only to lose to barca after 74mins of the best encounter i have ever seen.Wenger must prepare his team to deal with any eventualities,whether its a cornerkick,free kicks or high balls. Allow players to use individual skills when his system fails to work. We can’t even try to shot frm 28yards and if we do,we can even hit the target. Either fly over the bar or off the target.We need to work hard and try to utilise all opportunity than wasting them the way we do.

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  10. anthony says:

    great article but don’t u think the 4-3-3 was just 4 this season and he will revert back to his 4-4-2 / 4-4-1-1 formation how do you think that will look in terms of personnel -assuming we get chamakh- and how we will approach games defensively-pressing- and offensively- barcelona build type play or counter strike invincible play?

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  11. Samir8,kenya says:

    Problem no 1 we have so far and neither Wenger or players have try to worked on these weaknesses.No 1 problem,we wasted many chances by using so many passes infront of the net,Walcott,Sagna,Eboue can rather pass to a marked player/overcrowded area than finish the job themselves.2nd, we hardly benefit frm set pieces,either free kicks/corners it normally went wasted.3rd, we don’t have s’one like Rooney,Gerard,Scholes,Lampard or Essien who can send unstopable shot out side the box n save the day bt all our players preffar to score frm inside the penalty area only Denilson n Cesc did in a rare occassion. We definately need a power boot to add some spices in our style of play,who can force the win jst lyk Drogba, Lampard & Kalou alwys did not forgeting Rooney.

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  12. marcus says:

    Where’ve you been Brain? Been missing your articles!

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    The Brain Reply:

    Busy. But I hope you enjoyed it.

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  13. Yuval Mnisk says:

    good analysis. i think what we lack is organization. this “false pressing” we do is not, imo, by choice. if a player presses the man with the ball, their is no help. not with pressing the opponents passing options, and not with second wave pressing, that is, to press the player immediately after he manged to get past the first pressure line and is still not fully in control of the ball. i think their is no “system”, no clear instructions to who does what when. when we got the first 11 playing their quality as individuals overcomes the issue, but when the subs start getting in, they are not instructed what to do when without the ball, and we get a confused game we get so often.

    p.s

    i have been saying forever that when pressing the defenders you don’t need to get the ball, you don’t even need to make them think you are going to get it, you only need them to have to make a long pass without a clear view of the field. the long ball will most often be handed to you as you got more players up near your goal.

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    The Brain Reply:

    That’s a point I missed when talking about Denilson that I completely forgot. Thanks.

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    SpaceGhost Reply:

    Agree that there seems to be no system. With top notch players against less than top of the table teams it is probably enough to just say “go press” and they will figure it out. But against the top competition, and with less than the first choice XI, a well defined plan is a necessity.

    Also, you’re dead on about no help. Tackling is most successful in congested areas, because then most of the moves that beat the tackler expose the ball to the second defender. So if you are going to press high a team has to get numbers in the zone of the ball and man mark in the zone of the ball, with a very loose zone away from the ball. Like what Brain says about “spaces”.

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    Yuval Minsk Reply:

    hi brain,
    i think this is the first time i entered this site, and i am fully impressed! i love the way you put the emphasis on the systems and tactics, rather then over personalizing everything like most people do. it really think that at this level, most players are as good as the team makes them. and oftentimes, when you have a problem it is with the system not the players as they are all capable at this level.

    great job you guys are doing. thanks, and keep it up!

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    The Brain Reply:

    Thanks. Hope you continue reading (although we’ll try to publish more regularly!)

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  14. eze mike says:

    I have always read about gunner fans thinking that without fabregas that we cant progress and i quite disagree with that notion.I still believe that Fabgregas is part of Arsenals problem.
    Song is a good defensive midfielder but he has the problem of the hanging on to the ball rather too long and ends up most times being adventurous in playing long passes when he should just give the ball to the nearest man and continue with his marking.The trio of Arsenal midfielders are actually THE CLUB’S PROBLEMS.
    In my opinion,Fabregas is simply an average player despite his highly over rated status by Wenger and some other gunner fans.A good midfielder needs to have the following attributes:good shot power,good marking technique,a bit of dribbling skill,good passes,quick,physical presence,dead ball(free kick).
    Of all these qualities,Fabregas has only but one:passes.
    Often times this has been Arsenal’s problems against the other big four teams as we rarely see fabregas perform in such matches as all they do is simply put a man near him and Arsenal is finished because he needs time on the ball to throw passes.The only way he can perform is when you play two good defensive midfielders that will make up for his lapses and give him time to stay isolated and have the ball for longer times.We have a bit of that in only Song,the rest are all but converted defensive midfielders.Arsenal needs a defensive midfielder in the mould of Toure,Mammadou Diarra and likes with sheer physical presence.A midfield of Toure,song and Fabgregas will be good as this will give the little spaniard the spine to play.Arsenal is equally the only team in the premiership that plays the highest defence line,our defenders are almost like the midfielders staying almost close to the half line and we do not have mobile midfielders to chase the ball whenever we lose it creating space as the defenders tend to retrieve to their areas once there is a counter.We have very slow midfielders and this closes the space that the technical players we have upfront need to function effectively.
    The way forward is that Wenger should buy a central defender as if Gallas or Vermallen should get injured,it could mar the season as we are sitting on the keg of gunpowder which can explode anytime.Wenger also needs to buy a striker.The job of marking is entirely a teamwork thing but the midfielders if they fail to cut off attack,it becomes more risky for the defenders because any mistake can result in nasty decisions.Wenger’s philosophy of you must always get behind the defenders to score equally is not in tandem with modern football,you can score without getting behind defenders and the boys should taught how to shoot and contest for every ball lost immediately.The Arsenal players are also too lightweighted and often get pushed off the ball without referees looking their way and so Wenger has to work on this by having the build their stamina levels.The mark of a good team is when you cross your own half and lose the ball, it has to be lost either as a throw in,corner,foul but often times this is not the case with us.

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    Gris Gris Reply:

    probably the most ignorant analysis of Fabregas I have ever read. Cheers, eze mike, you made my day!

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  15. rafi says:

    We do have players that can try from afar in denilson and nasri (rosicky hits them like a 1960s defender!). Most videos of nasri that i admire when he was at marseille show him hitting plenty of screamers from outside the box. now even when the team cant get a sniff of the penalty area he always tries a frustrating, wasteful sideways which invariably eases the pressure on the opposition. This must surely be down to wenger.diaby is however the most criminal of offenders in this regard. he clearly believes defenders will one day let him go all the way and round the keeper. hell knows how many shooting chances he gets but opts to dribble further or side ways pass. eboue can’t escape either.

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  16. rafi says:

    P/S
    thanks for pointing out the lack of early goals with this arsenal team. most of the players always act as if a second chance will always materialise until the very last minutes. chief culprits – bedtner, diaby. One player who clearly escapes thois is the ever lively RvP who will start shooting from the first whistle. part of why rooney is such a great player is the urgency he always shows, never mind the time, the team! the hunger in him is ferocious and he gets his rewards.
    concerning the need for pressing for the ball, i dont know why aw did not impress this need on his players particulary v barca, its what the team did in 2006 at the bernabau and won 1-0 then drew 0-0 in the retun leg. that they only came out of their shells so slowly against barca must also be blamed on the manager. he knew what he was up against, it was expected and that no player did it must be down to him.

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  17. JAMES GUNNER says:

    If it’s true that Arsense doesn’t worry about the opposition prior to match day,I fear for Arsenal.If that’s the case,no wonder the gunners got humiliateed by MU,Chelsea and Barca.I believe all top managers have a tactical plan when playing the opposition. You look at Inter. I had a feeling that Messi though brilliant against Arsenal will find it hard going against Inter.
    If Inter prevail in the cl 2nd leg,everybody will hail Mourino as a tactical genius.It remains to be seen though.Knowing Mourino he will play ultra defensive and play on the counter.If Barca get the first goal it will open up the game.Conversely if Inter score first,it will be goodnight Charlie.It will a game of attrition.
    That’s why if you don’t have a plan against the opposition of the Barca and play your usual attacking style with gung ho no wonder you will lose.

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  18. jeremy goldsmith says:

    So Ashvin wants to go to Barcelona.How many games has he played for Arsenal this season?He has been injured so far it will make sense to let him go. he could be a resounding hit or be a waste of time.

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  19. robert says:

    Barca don’t play 433 anymore.. They have been doing that previous years but now they play 4411.

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    The Brain Reply:

    It’s a variant of 4-3-3.

    “This new look was implemented so that Messi could connect into the game more often because it’s good for us when does,” explained Guardiola when using the same system earlier this season in a 2-1 win over Malaga. “We found him more often than in other games. It also to puts him closer to Ibra. It’s as if Messi were an ‘interior.’ They (Xavi and Busquets) were never on the same line. We have never played with a double pivot. However, we did make a small adjustment with the wingers and their defensive roles.”

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  20. hkm says:

    Good, thoughtful stuff. Thanks.

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  21. LW says:

    With regards to ‘The Cesc Fabregas Question’, I think your comparison of Cesc and Messi, while talking about the space in the centre, is incorrect. Messi is part of the front-3 of the Barca formation, while Cesc is part of the middle-3. With this in mind, when Messi is deployed in the ‘interior role’, he can obviously play much further ahead – this is what he is supposed to be doing – and he can drop in deep to collect the ball occasionally. When Cesc goes to play further ahead, it will create a gap in the Arsenal midfield, not so with Messi/Barca.

    So, you were right in saying ‘it looks like pushing Fabregas higher may have had an adverse impact on the balance’. But I don’t see how you can counter that using Messi’s example.

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    The Brain Reply:

    A couple of matches, Cesc Fabregas played very close to Bendtner, almost as a second forward. Messi has almost exclusively now been playing behind the main forward and sometimes as the forward, but less and less on the left.

    Their roles will never be the same attacking-wise as they are two different players – Fabregas liking to create – but defensively, their jobs are similar – pressing high up, backing up the main forward. In fact Fabregas has been Arsenal’s best winner of the ball higher up the pitch, he just needs people to squeeze the play behind him otherwise the balance will be lost. That’s why – against Stuttgart – Toure played towards the left centre, Busquest deeper and Iniesta left. Asymmetry and commitment created stability.

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    LW Reply:

    I agree with what you said in the article – Barca’s style pressing higher up depends on the whole team working together cutting off options and angles. I also agree with what you said in your reply – if Fab is to do the same, he needs people behind him covering the midfield. These are exactly the reasons why Fab shouldn’t be pressing so high up. Let me explain why I think so.
    Arsenal don’t play Barca’s formation, which in its new incaranation is like a 4-3-3 with the two forward bands tilted right. So while Messi has 3 players behind him to occupy the opponents midfield (say Xavi, Busquets and Keita), Cesc has only 2 (Song and Diaby/Denilson). I’d agree with you if Arsenal’s wide left (Arshavin or Eduardo) drops back to midfield to play a role similar to that of Busquets or Keita and provide additional cover. Without similar support – or even the same number of players – behind him, how can Cesc’s pressing work? If Cesc lets the forward 3 press up ahead while he supports them in midfield, then that would be an appropriate comparison.
    Your thoughts?

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    The Brain Reply:

    I’d agree. Wenger’s idea when he plays Rosicky or Nasri is that they are “half-wingers” but essentially they are starting wide, which makes it hard to press efficiently. With Kieta or Iniesta to the left, they can be more compact and because the left can push forward in that space, allows him to get tight to the winger.

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  22. Mango says:

    Excellent writing as always! :D

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  23. 8 inch knob says:

    Awesome article. A very good read indeed.

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  24. DaStuDawg says:

    Good article as ever :D

    In recent times, I have noticed a flaw in our pressing system which is not concomitant with fatigue, but simply with poor tactical discipline IMO.

    In our 433 system, the two central midfielders ahead of Song seem intent on pushing forward and pressing the defensive line of the opposition, which creates large gaps in the centre of the pitch into which the opposition can play.
    To offset this, our wing-forwards seem to be dropping deeper, which ultimately reduces the incisiveness of our system.

    Think of how many times Walcott has been forced to drop deep into his own half to receive the ball or to help cover gaps in the central midfield area, because Diaby or Nasri has been caught too far upfield, trying to play the second striker role in effect.

    I’ve noticed that, because of this lack of tactical diligence, Walcott has had to make many of his attacking runs for deep – making them easier to anticipate and negate. Walcott is not a technical player; Walcott is in the side to play high up the pitch, force the opponent’s backline deeper, and to ultimately play on the shoulder of the full-back – he cannot do this if he is being forced deep to cover for one of our centre-mids’ forays forward.

    Barcelona’s system allows for great fluidity, but ultimately, the wing-forwards are always stationed high up the pitch, whilst the central midfielders retain their discipline in the centre of the park.

    This is not to say that our central midfielders can’t push forward – of course, Fabregas did this to great effect earlier in the season; this is to say that our midfield needs to rein in their attacking instincts a bit, and ensure there is sufficient cover before driving forward.

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    Dean @ footballgambler.co.uk Reply:

    I agree with a lot of your views about Theo Walcott.

    Whenever I watch Arsenal play he does seem to have to drop deep a lot of the time to get involved in the play, not sure what his instructions are from Wenger but he sometimes looks a bit lost and not knowing where to put himself.

    Not sure if his confusion arises from a lack of tactical know how on Walcott’s own part, or if it comes from the team not playing to his strengths, ie, making him come deep looking for the ball.

    I believe that to maximise Walcott’s ability you have to give him the ball high up the field, preferably when he has his full back isolated. I know thats not always possible though.

    Maybe this is where Walcott himself has to improve his own game. Maybe he can’t keep expecting the team to play to his strengths and he has to play to the teams strenghts.

    But from what I have seen of him lately, he ususally plays as part of a front three, and in that role he would expect not to have to be dropping deep too often to look for the ball.

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    Joakim Löf Reply:

    Yes, agree with the analysis of the imbalance of the midfield three. Fabregas should be the only one allowed to focus on offensive duties mostly, the problem is Denilson, Diaby and others roam to far upfield and expose our defences. I think a more intelligent player needs to take the role of the second defensive midfielder alongside Song, either try to get Nasri to play there or to sign a new player for that role.

    Also, we can only have one light quick player in the starting forward line. That is, either Arshavin OR Walcott. I think Wenger has recognized that in signing Chamakh meaning we can rotate him with Bendtner and van Persie and always have two strong pressing strikers than will pressure the opponents.

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  25. [...] afforded the Strum Graz lone forward the opportunity to break past the offside trap. Last season we highlighted the problem in distances in Arsenal’s had in their implementation of the pressing g… and for it to work, space must be squeezed for the side to remain compact. Of course, it can be a [...]

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  26. oxdmax says:

    wOIT7E jbkzjaqheafi

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