Tactical Review: Arsenal Win Against Cautious Stoke City

Arsenal secured a much needed home victory against Stoke City at Emirates to gain back some momentum in the race for the Champions league spot. Stoke City left the Capital city empty handed. Let’s analyze the game tactically.

Early Minutes: Arsenal’s right side dominates

In the first 15-20 mins of the game, most of the Arsenal’s attack came from the right side where Walcott and Sagna combined well in the final third. It looked very much intentional as they want Walcott to take on Wilkinson with his blistering pace. Another reason for this may the debut of Arsenal left back Monreal. May be the Arsenal players don’t want to put lot of pressure on the debutant who is just two days old at the London club. He just got his first real touch after 10 mins of the game. Look at the picture below, it shows the action areas of Arsenal players in first 15 mins of the game. Most of the action took place in Arsenal’s right side while Monreal’s action areas are almost zero.

Ride and Left side Action Areas
Ride and Left side Action Areas

Cautious game by Stoke

It is a well known fact that Stoke play a cautious counter attacking game away from the game. But when you play Arsenal, it is always better to attack them, take lead and then defend deep. But Stoke never really tried to gear up in attack. Peter Crouch is the only player who tried his best to provide some threat to Arsenal defense. But I will put the blame on Stoke wingers Etherington and Walters for Stoke’s bluntness in attack. At least Etherington’s case is understandable because he need to help Wilkinson dealing with Walcott’s pace. Walters was very poor and offered almost zero width to Stoke’s gameplay. Stoke payed the price for giving the hosts too much respect at Emirates.

performance graph
Unimpressive Performance graph of Walters
Heat map
Heat map shows that Etherington spent half of time in defending

Monreal debut analysis

Very good start for Monreal’s Arsenal career. As mentioned above, Arsenal players avoided passing to him at the early stages of the game but when he grew into the game, he got lot more distributions from his team mates. He was in a cautious mode all the time during the game. It’s very rare to see an Arsenal left back maintaining defensive position more and also providing less support to left side wingers. But when required, Monreal made some overlapping runs and also provided some good crosses too. He may not be as adventurous as Gibbs, but will certainly add much needed stability in Arsenal defense. Looks promising!

Second Half Story

Second half was much more similar to the first half where Arsenal dominated the possession. This Arsenal is bit weird. They don’t do tika taka anymore. They are not as beautiful as Arsenal few years back when Cesc Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb played an immense brand of football that only present Barcelona can match. This Arsenal is more direct, they dribble more, they take some touches before passing but at the same time they still try to retain possession on every possible occasion. This team is not present mini-Barcelona. This team is more like Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona of 1988 to 1995.

Completed passes show Arsenal's ability to retain possession without tika taka
Completed passes show Arsenal’s ability to retain possession without tika taka

Coming back to the game, Arsenal finally took the lead when the substitute Lukas Podolski scored from a deflected free kick. After conceding the goal, Stoke finally decided to attack with some intent. They preferred an ultra-direct style of play as waves of long balls were cannoned from the back. Arsenal center backs neutralized the long-ball threat well enough in the end. Arsenal comfortably held the possession and finished the game well to secure three crucial points for the North Londoners.

Verdict: Cautious Stoke City…Impressive Arsenal!!!

As usual I will leave you guys with some match stats,

Arsenal vs Stoke City Stats
Arsenal vs Stoke City Stats


Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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