A Tactical Dissection of Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Palace


This was a hard fought win that a real title contender needs to be able to pull out. This game was never going to be easy, but the Gunners pushed through to get their first three points of the season.

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The game went through four miniature phases: Arsenal attacking and dominating possession, Palace attacking off the counter and pestering our midfield, Arsenal attacking and pushing forward, and Arsenal defending.

The first phase of the match, in which Arsenal looked extremely dangerous and were rewarded with a sublime goal, was down to Wenger beating Pardew. The decision to play Ramsey out wide, and Pardew’s rash decision to start with two attacking mids with one holding allowed Arsenal a ton of space in front of Palace’s back 4.

With a combination of the darting runs by Ramsey, spanning anywhere across the final third, along with Sanchez keeping the width of the left and Ozil and Santi playing magically, Palace were left dumbfounded by what to do defensively.

However, once Palace equalized the game changed again, and phase two began as Pardew realized his mistake and shifted back to two holding mids and one attacking. This brilliant move took away acres of space for Arsenal’s forward players, giving them less time on the ball and making it easier for Palace to break forward.

Coming out of the half-time break, Arsenal once again were the dominant side, playing beautiful passing football. This was the result of a triangle of players playing superbly: Ozil, Cazorla, and Monreal.

These three never seemed to lose control or misplace anything. Ozil was consistently majestic, confusing and amazing the Palace defenders over and over again. His bouncing Cruyff turn on the touchline to win a free kick was absolutely beautiful. Santi, restored in the middle of the pitch, was his usual conductor self, moving the ball from left to right, forward and back, with a great sense of composure and creativity.

Monreal though, was a huge difference maker. He kept Zaha at bay until he came off and although Zaha is clearly faster, Monreal made a myriad of clean and composed tackles and never really got turned 1 v 1. More importantly however, he was so precise with his passing going forward, rarely losing the ball. A truly masterful performance for the left back who so deservedly has won the starting spot.

Finally Arsenal’s second came through their pressure and attacking play, I couldn’t care less it was an own goal, we were winning. However, the game completely changed once Coq got his last warning from the ref. One more mistimed challenge or anything like it, and he was off.

Immediately Wenger did the right thing and took him off, shifting Ramsey back in and putting Ox out wide. But the smart, intuitive, and unusually safe tactical moves didn’t stop there. He then brought on Arteta(yes I was terrified at first) and Gibbs for Sanchez and Ozil. While I didn’t want Ozil off due to his ability to pick a pass on the break, that was me being a native Arsenal fan, still thinking about the potential of the next goal instead of solely focusing on holding our slender lead.

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Arteta brought more structure to the middle as Ramsey got more and more tired and Gibbs helped bring more stability to the flank as Palace continued to push and push. Furthermore, Per and Kos were very, very solid and tenacious in the challenge.

Tactically, Wenger made all the right decisions when it mattered most, which isn’t suprising as he is a specialist in winning, and a tactical genius.

Once again I must mention how sciltillating Ozil is when he is on his game. He is the heartbeat of our final third and never looks lost for answers or stressed. The best example of this was during the second half when he received the ball of the outskirts of the Palace box on the left side. Instead of trying to dribble through a crowded area, or turn and play the ball back, he simply waited. A run was made to the left of him, opening up space for a little lofted pass to Ramsey right in the gap between the right back and center half which Ramsey narrowly put over. The presence of mind for Ozil to do that is what makes him so fantastic.

Next: 5 Things Learned from Arsenal beating Crystal Palace

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