Tactical tweak needed if Saliba and Zinchenko absent again

Against West Ham, Mikel Arteta stuck with the tactics that saw him lead his team to top of the table.

At 2-0 up, no one would have had complaints over how we lined up. And had Bukayo Saka not gave Arsenal a sliding doors moment, I probably would not be writing the blog.

But against Southampton, Arteta should make some tactical tweaks if William Saliba and Olexsandr Zinchenko are still missing.

Arsenal a certainly a team that is greater than the some of its parts, and that is primarily down to the way Arteta sets them up. But with Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney, the change in personal has an affect with how we play.

Zinchenko famously plays as an inverted full back, tucking inside and joining the midfield to create an overload.

In doing so, Gabriel’s starting position is a little more over to the left side than a normal left sided central defender would be. This gives him a better starting position when we lose the ball and need to quickly transition from defence into attack.

Gabriel is able to play a little less centrally because to his right he has William Saliba.

The Frenchman has the pace, power and one on one ability to man mark any striker.

With most teams playing one up top these days, it often leaves Saliba man marking their front man, with Gabriel covering Zinchenko. Against West Ham, Gabriel was unable to play that little bit wider.

Holding’s lack of pace means it is dangerous to leave him one on one with an attacker, so Gabriel has to take a few steps right to cover his teammate.

Michail Antonio pinned himself to Holding and, having got the better of the Englishman west in, Gabriel had to move his starting position right a few yards to help out.

With Tierney trying to replicate Zinchenko, that left far too much space on our left hand side, space that West Ham then flooded.

The lunge by Gabriel on Lucas Paqueta was due to Gabriel being a little too far over to his right, trying to cover Holding. That left him out of position and having to make a last ditch challenge.

Had Saliba been playing, I am certain Gabriel’s position would have been more over to the left, and in turn he would have been closer to Paqueta, and not needing to make the lunge.

Arsenal can not afford to have Gabriel pushing wide left when Holding plays.

Tierney is also no Holding. He does not have what it takes to play that little bit more inside.

The Scotsman is at his best bombing down the wing, putting in dangerous crosses. He simply does not have the technique or speed of thought to replicate Zinchenko. No one does.

So against Southampton, we should probably line up how we should’ve done against West Ham. If Saliba and Zinchenko are out.

You can not expect Gabriel to cover Holding to the right of him and Tierney to the left at the same time.

Play a traditional back four instead of the hybrid one. Have Tierney as a traditional left back, getting chalk on his boots.

Tierney’s presence a bit deeper and wider will then allow Gabriel to play more centrally, covering Holding.

It might only be a small change but it should help cut out the space on our left hand side, and free up Gabriel to assist Holding. A little bit more defensive, with a tighter back four will make us more secure.

I would not make any more drastic changes other than this tweak. A draw away to West Ham doesn’t make a table topping team poor overnight. There is a reason we are leading the way.

Win tonight and we are 7 points clear of Man City going into the trip to the Eithad. But the focus needs to be on tonight.




4 thoughts on “Tactical tweak needed if Saliba and Zinchenko absent again

  1. Tikpo

    I wish I had your kind of confidence. Am all nerves. Can’t begin to imagine how the lads cope with the pressure of expectations.
    Here is wishing us all best of luck tonight.COYGs.


  2. Tikpo

    I did say yesterday, that I was all nerves for the game and I was proved right 9 seconds into the match.
    The boys made their luck by not giving up. Despite the disappointment, I see a team that refused to be beaten.
    Even if we don’t win the trophy, I am mighty proud of them.


    1. Johnno

      Well said mate. One thing you could never question about this team is it`s spirit, they just keep going. Whatever happens from here, this is a group of players who`ve done us proud. And I wouldn`t right us off just yet, if we go to City and get something out the game then we`re still right in it.
      Up The Arse.



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