Arteta embodies energetic Arsenal
If the way in which Arsenal won the ball for the winner typified their vibrant performance, the way in which the goal came perhaps didn’t. While there were few players closing Mikel Arteta down, it was from roughly 25 yards out and wasn’t exactly a clear-cut chance. On the other hand, the chances that the home side had created were all good opportunities – Robin van Persie’s header which was cleared off the line by Thomas Vermaelen (shades of Fabregas denied by Bendtner vs Liverpool in the Champions League), his other header which hit the post, Theo Walcott’s effort which was tipped onto the woodwork by compatriot Joe Hart, and then the chances that subsequently fell to Vermaelen and then Yossi Benayoun, who both contrived to miss. And then, of course, the miss by Aaron Ramsey in the dying embers of the game.
Samir Nasri lined up on the opposing side, and it’s been said by some that Arsenal lack the technical quality they benefitted from last season after the sales of Nasri and Fabregas. This may be somewhat true, but Arsene Wenger has adjusted the game plan for Arsenal to suit his new-look squad – the new style has been of great help to the midfield trio of Alex Song, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta in particular.
Emphasis remains on possession, but there’s more of a directness to Arsenal which explains the quality of the chances they created. Some teams do set up to prevent them from carving out those chances, which sees them revert to the intricate passing moves at times.
Manchester City managed to frustrate them at times, which saw an increased emphasis on crosses. Arsenal seem to have improved this as the plan B though – instead of hitting high, hopeful balls into the box, the likes of Bacary Sagna and Theo Walcott fire low balls into the box for Robin van Persie and co. to predate on.
Speaking of Sagna, it was interesting to note the space he had down the right hand side, in the second half in particular. City had quite a narrow line-up with no truly natural wide player – Mario Balotelli was on the left for them, and either drifted inside or refused to track back. This gave Sagna room to roam, and the pace of Theo Walcott meant that Gael Clichy was pinned back in order to stop Walcott getting in behind him – even if the England winger didn’t manage to get past the full-back a whole lot.
As many have already said, the battle was mainly won in midfield though. The trio of Gareth Barry, James Milner and David Pizarro were overrun by Song, Arteta and Rosicky – the former’s ball-shielding talents came to the fore in particular, even if the Cameroonian frustrated by giving the ball away cheaply a few times. Rosicky didn’t have the best game creativity wise – although he did make one “key pass”, he still didn’t quite seem to be on his game, although perhaps recent performances have raised standards.
Mikel Arteta completed a magnificent 94% of his passes, which is pretty usual for the Spaniard in fairness. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the way he won the ball by snapping at Pizarro was typical of his performance and him as a player for Arsenal – a midfield dynamo, who presses intensely and is excellent at winning the ball back.
Going back to Arsenal on the whole, it was a typical home performance, full of intensity and fast passing. There was a lot of patient switching of the ball from left to right and vice versa, which was Arsenal’s way of stretching the opposition defence and waiting for space to open up. The selection of Yossi Benayoun was important, and gave Arsene Wenger’s side variety and more of the energy which helped them to all three points.