Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

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Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

Post by Jay29 on Mon May 11, 2015 11:24 pm

That defeat to Swansea has brought to my attention something that has been overlooked this season. Take a look at our results against the other teams in the top 10:

Chelsea (A) - 2-0 (L)
Chelsea (H) - 0-0

Manchester City (A) - 2-0 (W)
Manchester City (H) - 2-2

Manchester United (A) - N/A
Manchester United (H) - 2-1 (L)

Spurs (A) - 2-1 (L)
Spurs (H) - 1-1

Liverpool (A) - 2-2
Liverpool (H) - 4-1 (W)

Southampton (A) - 2-0 (L)
Southampton (H) - 1-0 (W)

Swansea (A) - 2-1 (L)
Swansea (H) - 1-0 (L)

Stoke (A) - 3-2 (L)
Stoke (H) - 3-0 (W)

West Ham (A) - 2-1 (W)
West Ham (H) - 3-0 (W)

So out of 17 games, we've only won 6, drawn 4 and lost 7 - that's 22 out 54 possible points.

Comparatively, we've taken 48 points out of a possible 51 from the teams in the bottom half of the table.

I find this really interesting and somewhat concerning, since recently the feeling has been that we're not far off challenging the title. This record, though, suggest that that's actually not the case; that we've just been flat-track bullies this season and have faltered against the better teams in the league.

Any ideas why this is the case?
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Re: Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

Post by Artilleristen on Tue May 12, 2015 12:04 am

Lack of quality in the final third, and Per being a little slow in defense, making it difficult for either one of the keepers to look good. Lack of a top quality dm, or even someone to compete with Francis to combat complacency, this is more of a future worry but still if he were to be injured there is no good plan b.
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Re: Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

Post by The Franchise on Tue May 12, 2015 11:34 am

I wouldnt make big blanket statements like there is a lack of quality, because if that is the case how was it possible to beat City and Liverpool the games you did? We see the flashes of quality Arsenal have in most games.

I think it would be better to look through all the games individually to see where it went wrong. Then perhaps you can find some true trends which show themselves.
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Re: Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

Post by Jay29 on Tue May 12, 2015 2:26 pm

I re-watched the first half of the Swansea game, and have some observations:

Spoiler:

Obviously, Swansea came with the plan to put defence first and offence second. They were set-up to not lose the game, and anything they could get from counter attacks and set-pieces would be a bonus.

The way they went about this was by force Arsenal's possession into an area where it wouldn't hurt them. That meant conceding to us 60-70% of the ball, but a lot of that possession was in front of their two defensive banks.

It looked like Swansea were instructed to let Mertesacker and Koscielny have the ball and not press into Arsenal's half. When an Arsenal midfield player dropped deep to receive the ball and had their back to the play, Swansea's midfield five stuck tight to them and made it very difficult for them to turn and face the play.

What that did was force our passes backwards and sideways and create what Pepe Guardiola called "the u shape", where the ball goes from centre back to full back, back to centre back, to central midfielder, back to centre back, to the other full back, and so on. Swansea felt comfortable doing this because Mertesacker and Koscielny weren't going to hurt them with vertical passes; they simply don't have that ability to play passes through the opposition midfield on a consistent basis. Often, Ozil or Ramsey came short to retrieve the ball from the centre backs in an effort to get more vertical passes in our play.

Arsenal didn't help matters with their narrow shape. With Alexis, Ozil and Ramsey all dropping into the same, central space, it made it easier for Swansea's midfield to stick tight and narrow the space, making it even harder to play through them.

It wasn't until around the 25 minute mark that Arsenal increased the tempo of their passing and got more players on the ball facing the play. When an Arsenal player escaped Swansea's marking, they retreated into a deep block, and it then became the age-old problem of struggling to break down a parked bus. Typically, we lacked width, and in general our passing in the final third was very wayward.

Some screenshots:

Swansea Defending

http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif

Ozil has back to goal, two Swansea midfielders get tight to him and force him back.

http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif

Ozil comes deep to get ball, vacates AM space that could have been filled in by Alexis or Ramsey. Swansea's midfield line attempts to guard that space.

Arsenal Attacking

http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif

Mertesacker plays a vertical pass into Ramsey, bypassing Swansea's midfield.

http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif

In behind Swansea's midfield, Arsenal can construct an attack. Bellerin comes up in support down the right, while Ramsey and Giroud cross-over so a 2v1 is created against Taylor. Ramsey crosses to Giroud, who heads over.

http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif

Ozil comes deep and attempts a vertical pass into Cazorla.

http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif

Shelvey is attracted to Alexis' movement in behind, and creates too wide a gap between him and Ki. Ozil exploits it with a vertical pass into Giroud's feet. Giroud is then able to link up with Alexis, and the ball is almost played in behind for Ramsey down the right.

http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif

Swansea allow Ozil to dribble into their half, and give him too much time and room to play a pass over the top to find Alexis' good run.

I'll watch the games against Southampton, Spurs and Chelsea at home and see if I can spot any similar issues, such as slow passing out the back, and a lack of vertical play through the midfield.
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Re: Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

Post by Raptorgunner on Wed May 13, 2015 3:22 am

Jay that was really great work man. I really dont know why we struggle against mid-table teams. We pack the midfield and we can be very poor in front of goal. Nothing really changes, same shit every season and luck has nothing to do with it. We dont have a plan B, and also Wenger never learns teams that come to defend at Emirates.

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Re: Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

Post by Eman on Thu May 14, 2015 2:24 am

@Artilleristen wrote:Lack of quality in the final third, and Per being a little slow in defense, making it difficult for either one of the keepers to look good.  Lack of a top quality dm, or even someone to compete with Francis to combat complacency, this is more of a future worry but still if he were to be injured there is no good plan b.
Per's lack of pace has not been the cause of our defensive issues. It never has been - English pundits have just latched onto the idea that he's a weak link when he's absolutely not. It is true that he had a poor start to the season but he has been great since Koscielny came back and he was excellent last year too. Anyway, I've defended Merts in 50% of my comments in this section over the past few months so I'll stop beating a dead horse.

To the issue at hand: the numbers might be misleading since a number of those games took place while we had a defensive injury crisis. That said, I think the obvious answer is more quality is needed in key positions to break down teams that have setup to stop our team play. A truly world class striker who can score those half-chances in tight games would be fantastic. Tactics play a huge part as well and Arsene is not exactly well-known for changing the team's approach for a given opponent, but we tend to create chances against everybody regardless of how effective they are at stifling us so the first step is more quality.

You know it's funny, coming into the Swansea game, all the punditry was about how we had named an unnamed XI for so many games. Perhaps this is what shot us in the foot; that Garry Monk knew exactly who we would field and had so much recent tape to study leading up to the fixture hmm

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Re: Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

Post by 6unner on Sat May 16, 2015 8:13 pm

@Artilleristen wrote:Lack of quality in the final third, and Per being a little slow in defense, making it difficult for either one of the keepers to look good. Lack of a top quality dm, or even someone to compete with Francis to combat complacency, this is more of a future worry but still if he were to be injured there is no good plan b.


I would say that it has less to do with defenders or Gk than anything else. When we concede goals to teams like Swansea it has more to do with our possession without a plan that ends with us pushing so many people forward that it leaves our defense barren.

Swansea game in short: And I am surprised more people do not follow their game plan.

Knowing that Arsenal never have a plan B. Swansea choose to sit back in defense allowing possession. Waiting for us to become complacent and over confident. All the time knowing that when it got towards the end of the game Wenger would push everyone forward looking for our 1-0 victory. This happened, Swansea made a sub, allowed us additional possession and waited for the entire midfield to push forward then went trough the center of the pitch to knock us out.

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Re: Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

Post by RealGunner on Sun May 17, 2015 8:54 pm

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Re: Arsenal's poor record against team's in the top half

Post by urbaNRoots on Mon May 18, 2015 4:16 pm

This season our bigger problems were against the Southamptons, Tottenhams and Swanseas. We only won once against these teams (Southampton @ Emirates) and even that was a very late goal IIRC after a frustrating 80 mins or so.

So it appears we haven't improved that much at all, only replaced dropped points from the top 4 teams to top 6-10.
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