A Tactical Dissection of Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to West Ham


I know, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Cech was supposed to be a rock, Ozil and Santi were supposed to weave through the West Ham defense and the 3 points were supposed to go to Arsenal.

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It is really easy to blame specific players for the result, especially Cech for his two mistakes, but Arsenal had issues from the first minute that they could not solve. These issues revolved around tactical mistakes made by Wenger, who is in a bit of a tactical pickle in regards to flexibility going forward.

All we have heard about is our depth going forward, but in turns of our versatility, we have a serious problem if a winger, not a striker, isn’t bought before the end of the window.

This Ramsey/Cazorla situation is just not going to work against solid defensive teams, and it destroyed our attacking shape the entire game. It really doesn’t matter which one of them is playing in the middle or out wide, the same problem is there, we are effectively playing with one winger.

Both Rambo and Santi play as an inverted winger for Arsenal when out wide and make the pitch extremely narrow. Thus, Ozil has much less space and is only really able to play small intricate passes as there is only one player running behind the defense, the Ox. Furthermore, to create space for himself, Ozil has to drift out wide a lot, hence removing him from his best position, the number 10.

Having said that Ox is the one player running behind the defense, he was guilty of drifting into the middle as well, which is understandable when you see all the other midfielders flocking to a certain space to get the ball and your isolated out wide waiting for it. Everything was so bunched up today that West Ham’s narrow midfield diamond really didn’t have to deal with anything dangerous.

All of this is compounded by Giroud, who yes was not great, but is not suited for the starting 11 when there is only 1 real winger. The defense wasn’t stretched at all, and Giroud mostly found the ball with time out wide rather than in the middle. That’s where the space was and he understood that, but the issue then becomes that we have no one running forward to support him with the only player who makes those runs, Rambo, not feeling confident and empowered.

This was all compounded when Theo(I know you might have forgotten he even played) and Alexis came on. The ball was literally stuck to the left side for the final 20 minutes as that was where our one winger was due to Theo really just waiting in the box, figuring he wouldn’t touch the ball on the wing where he does not want to play.

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For the final period of the game Arsenal probed the exact same way each time, intricate short passes in the middle, get it out wide to the left and whip in some sort of cross or ball on the floor into a crowded area. That is not our game and it showed as we looked like me when I haven’t studied for my tests, absolutely lost for answers.

The one player who this tactical conundrum benefits is the full backs, as they are essentially are main wide players, going so high up the pitch. Monreal is able to fill this role due to his brilliant technical ability. I thought he was fantastic going forward today. Debuchy however, is not great going forward and looked very rusty, Bellerin was definitely missed.

This is going to be a serious problem, especially when Wilshere gets back, if he can end up getting on to the field, as him, Santi, and Ramsey all want to be the box-to-box midfielder. Our starting wingers have to be Alexis and Ox to provide us real width and allow Ozil to play his real role; but we all know that Ox is going to miss some games with injury, so there needs to be more depth in that area.

Next: Arsenal vs West Ham Player Ratings

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