Arsenal under Mikel Arteta has seen many varying opinions on where they are at now as a team, compared to where they were when he took over in December of 2019. However, what cannot be questioned is their evidently concise plans to press teams, which seems to vary from opponent to opponent.
They managed to score three goals in forty-five minutes against Leeds, partly because Leeds were not able to control the game from midfield, and in term put together their fluid transitions we’ve been accustomed to seeing.
The first goal kick for Leeds set the tone, Aubameyang, Odegaard, Smith-Rowe and Saka take a man each, using a stand-offish approach which gives them control over the men and space that require necessary attention. Saka is a good example of this he is responsible for Cooper, while maintaining a reachable distance to the left centre back. Bellerin also has licence to press the left back should it go to him, with Luiz covering the right channel.
The focus from Arteta’s men is to overload the right-hand side, forcing Leeds to the left. Alioski (Leeds no.10) ends up being the spare man with this system. The evident focus on the right can be put down to a couple of factors, to nullify the threat Raphinha (Leeds’ right winger) poses. But also because of Bellerin’s tactical nous, an underrated aspect of his game.
Press emphasis on the right forces Meslier to play a pass, to the left back, Alioski. Aubameyang’s pressure on the keeper forces him to play the pass with greater loft, giving Bellerin more time to make up the ground. We also see Ceballos’ marking on the LCM, Shackleton, purposefully done to leave Alioski the spare man. From this pass, Alisoki cannot keep the ball in play and heads out for a throw, leading to Arsenal regaining possession.
The turnover of possession which led to Arsenal’s first goal was as a result of a very similar scenario, Meslier, with his left foot, tries to pass out to Alisoki. The pass is inaccurate and Bellerin on the front foot intercepts, Arsenal recycle the ball and Aubameyang ends up scoring thirty seconds later.
Saka’s willingness to press makes him a joy to work with for any coach, but what must be even more satisfying for coaches, is how good he is at it. These images demonstrate the way he manipulates his run to stop the out-ball to Cooper (the LCB) then going on to close down Meslier enough to force a foul and give away a penalty, leading to Arsenal’s second goal. At face value, it may look simple, but if he’d of pressed in any other way, he doesn’t win the penalty.
There were numerous other examples of Arsenal utilising their drilled pressing routine to force a turnover, but these two examples led to their first two goals, giving them a comfortable platform to build upon. Mikel Arteta has the small task of nullifying Manchester City in a weeks time, it will be intruging to see how he sets his team up to press.