The Arsenal Column

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

David Silva’s inside game creates tactical anarchy

David Silva  is quite a player, isn’t he? Shorn of many outstanding individuals, Silva has risen above the challengers to claim the crown as the Premier League’s top talent.  But perhaps, therein lies the question. Manchester City-Arsenal was a great advert for the league, argues Michael Cox for ZonalMarking.net – it was played at a pulsating pace, full of trickery and cunning and not to mention great technical ability –  but it lacked a certain control the best European counterparts, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona, are masters at. Indeed, is it that the hectic nature owes in part, to the failure of English sides in the Champions League and thus the extra space allowing David Silva to become the best in the league?

Cesc Fábregas talks similarly of the Premiership, saying in Four Four Two magazine as being “alocado” (crazy). On the other hand, a mix of continental astuteness and British urgency has seen Fábregas start the season wonderfully in La Liga and key part of Pep Guardolia’s plans. But the manager has also commented on the tactical “anarchy” that Fábregas brings to the side, sometimes to eager to get forward and thus relinquishing some of their vice-like grip on matches. Yet, control might not have been paramount in this game and in Manchester City’s case, Roberto Mancini was perhaps happy to cede some possession as he was always going to play through his front four. Nevertheless, Manchester City did have control for large periods of the game with and without the ball and showed ruthless ambition on the break Arsenal did not have. For The Gunners, they lacked spark in attack. They essentially also played with a front four although the difference between the sides’ interpretations was noticeable.

Gervinho made his best performance in an Arsenal shirt in terms of involvement, attempting 48 passes (42 successful) and was generally Arsenal’s biggest threat. But he, like the rest of the team, lacked end product. The Gunners looked best when he got involved, often linking up with Robin van Persie and taking up his spaces but while it highlighted what was good about Arsenal, it proceeded to show what could be better. Because City’s front four did it better. David Silva jinxed and drifted from his right-flank and that dragged Arsenal’s defenders this-way-and-that. When he vacated his right position, Mario Balotelli often took up his space. If he didn’t, Sergio Aguero did. Samir Nasri also had a neat game and the goal was perhaps the only time, in an attacking instant, where the coaches tactical plan paid off. Manchester City won the ball back and suddenly the front four darted into life, breaking with speed before Silva anticipated Balotelli’s shot. It’s generally difficult to defend from breaks – highlighting why Arsenal are often punished despite the paucity of chances they concede; most are quick breaks/counter-attacks – but Laurent Koscielny’s confusion summed it up as Nasri played the pass to Balotelli, somehow popping up on the left. They did it in the Carling Cup and Mancini’s selection, choosing Kolo Toure at centre-back to read Arsenal’s attacks, indicated he wanted to do it again.

While City’s attack interchanged and buzzed, Arsenal’s jerked and in the end, was too functional. Aaron Ramsey often found himself in dangerous pockets but lacked the movement to deliver a telling pass. Theo Walcott, on the other hand, isolated himself on the right-flank and when he did get into good positions, was not found.

This was not a bad Arsenal performance but just a bit short of Manchester City’s exuberance in possession. Wenger has decided to go with a three striker policy although in the meantime, it’s alienating Yossi Benayoun who would have revelled in the spaces “between-the-lines.” The tactic depends 1) on technique, which Mikel Arteta has provided, 2) on movement, which had usually come from the midfield three rotating but Wenger, in the last three games, choosing to play closer a 4-2-3-1 and 3) creativity, which Ramsey wasn’t too comfortable with and Alex Song unable to break forward as he has. His pass which found Gervinho in the first-half was an uncharacteristically rare moment of incision.

Arsenal clearly suffered without any full-backs and when they did push forward in the second-half when the personnel changed, they were punished on the break. That’s why Wenger has pushed Ramsey forward more recently although this time, his tactic failed to pay off. If they had either one of Andre Santos or Bakary Sagna, Arsenal might have been more confident of getting at least a point. As it was, both sides pressed without achieving the desired impact, creating a game of pass the parcel. It was up to, then, the two front fours to decide the game and it was David Silva who came up with the clincher, causing anarchy to Arsenal’s defence.

Pass masters: Both teams' main threat came from clever passes, Sergio Agüero in particular making shallow runs to beat Arsenal's defence. *NB: We couldn't produce an image better than The Guardian's to illustrate the article so we stole their's instead. All royalties will be paid to the trustees of the media group in due course. When we actually make some money from this site. If we do. Actually, we lose more money than we make.

Filed under: Match Analysis

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11 Responses to “David Silva’s inside game creates tactical anarchy”

  1. silentstan says:

    wonder why wenger doesnt employ you as his tactician.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

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    marcus Reply:

    @silentstan,

    And I wonder why fans like you think no one should dare to think about, discuss, observe & have an opinion about Wenger and his team.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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  2. Bob says:

    I didn’t think he stood out at all actually. Seems more to me a case of ‘scored a goal therefore everything he did seems marginally better now’. It wasn’t even a particularly good goal, and only came about because of the change of personnel and positions due to Djourou’s injury.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

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  3. DaStuDawg says:

    Good article (Y)

    I think with the ‘between-the-lines’ play of Man City, it would have been better for Wenger to drop Song back just behind Arteta, into a midfield anchor role.

    Thus far this season, Arteta and Song have been functioning as a box-to-box partnership, both playing roughly alongside one another, with the freedom to make off-the-ball runs forward, dragging their opposite numbers deeper and creating more space for the backline to advance.

    This has been a very effective tactic for us, but in the City game, as you rightly state, Nasri and Silva were getting a lot of joy in the pockets of space between the midfield and the defence.
    A Mourinho-like approach could have been beneficial, with a midfield anchor (Song) supported by an auxilliary defensive midfielder (Arteta), ready to drop into the space should aforesaid anchor get pulled out of positions.
    This might have taken some sting out of our attack, but at the same time, could have helped stifle the creative talents of Silva and Nasri, by suffocating the space between the lines.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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  4. Fares says:

    I think with the full backs being out, I think Arsene should have played with 3 backs along a false center back. Rather than forcing center backs to play outside backs and asking them to help the in the attack, which clearly looked very weak and unsure.

    3 center backs with Per M’lke centrally, RCB Dijourou and LCB with Laurent K. Asking Varmalain to play as the false center back since his involvement in the attacks is better than the 3. Gervinho was doing a good job dropping back and helping, but we playing way out of his comfort. Maybe Youssi would have been better. I still think Arshavin is the best player behind RVP. At least now better than Aaron.
    Would liked to see:

    X (Laurent) X (Per) X (Mikil)/Varmlean*
    X (Varmlean)/ song*
    X (song)/ aaron*
    X (Arteta)
    X Theo X (Youssi)/ Gervinho*
    X (Arshavin)
    X RVP

    Since a point was good for Arsenal, an experienced line up would have secured this point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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    Arsenal Column Reply:

    @Fares,

    Tee Song made a comment about the back three in a previous post. Ultimately, without wing-backs but more relevantly, because the wing-backs are injured, playing with a packed midfield might be futile. Because it’d expose Arsenal on transitions unless they can keep the ball 70-30 with little turnover. On the other hand, they can deploy it like Chile do (which relies heavily on wing-backs anyway but let’s forget that for a moment) which is more vertical, rapid and focused on playing as much of the game in the opponents half.

    It ultimately, however, turns the game into a squeeze-fest, with rapid closing down. It’s much of a radical approach to happen (or even work) and I think it’s the best way Arsenal can play due to the nature of the Premier League. I just don’t think it’d be as effective without wing-backs stretching the play in the early build up; the wingers won’t because Wenger wants them to play closer to as strikers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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    Jared Reply:

    @Arsenal Column,

    Nice, i like the way that Chile Played at the World Cup, but it would mean that Arsenal would have to press more.

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  5. [...] David Silva’s inside game creates tactical anarchy for Arsenal “David Silva is quite a player, isn’t he? Shorn of many outstanding individuals, Silva has risen above the challengers to claim the crown as the Premier League’s top talent. But perhaps, therein lies the question. Manchester City-Arsenal was a great advert for the league, argues Michael Cox for ZonalMarking.net – it was played at a pulsating pace, full of trickery and cunning and not to mention great technical ability – but it lacked a certain control the best European counterparts, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona, are masters at. Indeed, is it that the hectic nature owes in part, to the failure of English sides in the Champions League and thus the extra space allowing David Silva to become the best in the league?” Arsenal Column [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Tee Song says:

    I have to disagree a little on the idea that City’s attack was more effective simply because their front four played better than our front four. I watched the game again and both Zabaleta and Richards advanced higher up the pitch and more often than any of Djourou, Vermaelen, or Miquel. They might not have made the telling pass or cross but just their presence stretched our back line and allowed space for Silva and Nasri to drift inside. From an Arsenal standpoint, some of our best opportunities came from stretching the play wide. Song’s through ball for Gervinho in the first half was set up by Theo taking a wide position near the touchline which opened up space for Gervinho’s run and shot, forcing a save from Hart. And Theo’s vicious shot from just outside the penalty area, forcing another good save from Hart came when Koz ran along side him down the touchline which occupied a defender and allowed space for Theo to cut inside. But overall, City’s attack looked marginally more dangerous not only because of the interchange of their four attackers but the support from the fullbacks.

    As for the “lack of control” evident in this game, it seems it’s a bit of a chicken or egg question. Do good teams win as a result of controlling games or does control of the game result from establishing winning margins? I guess all good teams do try to control the game to some extent but when two good teams play each other, the game will always ebb and flow. Good analysis, as always.

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  7. Subir Kumar Roy says:

    Your figure or the Guardian’s figure has one very important observation screaming. Look at the position of Song. As a DM when the opposition have the ball and with such attacking options, it would have made more difficult if Song had been more central behind Arteta, thereby cutting off the channels. See also that Vemalaen has bombed forward. Like it or not we have a soft centre due to Song getting caught out of position.

    Arsenal are very poor at squad rotation. In big matches we could go with more experience for ex. Yossi in place of Ramsey or Arshavin behind the main sriker in the hole. If it does not work we could start making changes from the start of the second half. Since it was known that Pablo Zabaleta was starting, Arsenal missed a trick or two up their sleeve. i) Gervinho and Walcott could have changed flanks, gervinho also compensating the weak RB ii) Alternatively Walcott and Ramsey could have been subs with Arshavin/Benayoun playing initially.

    These days with infusion of technology, it is not just sufficient to play beautiful football, you need to surprise the opposition with your unpredictability. We are also not comprising the lofty Arsenal principles, are we?

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  8. [...] forward, the central midfielders were in position to cover. Man City might not have been able to take advantage as they did in the reverse at The Etihad due to the absence of David Silva but certainly, Arsenal showed more [...]

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