MARTIN KEOWN: Here’s How Mikel Arteta Hanged Kieran Tierney To Dry Against Chelsea…and Why He MUST Play Back-Five Against Manchester City
- Kieran Tierney had to walk ridiculous distances during 2-0 defeat to Chelsea
- Arsenal’s 6-0 win over West Brom in midweek proves there is quality in the squad
- The Gunners have lost 10 of their last 11 encounters with Manchester City
- Arsenal beat City on their way to winning the FA Cup in 2020 with a back five
Mikel Arteta says he feels like he has his back against the wall and criticism comes from all sides. Unfortunately, this is part of running a big club.
When you lose, the pressure is high. If you make tactical mistakes, that will be highlighted.
Wednesday’s 6-0 Carabao Cup win in West Brom showed – albeit against inferior opponents – that there is quality in the squad. Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng looked pure class, despite recent reports claiming Arsenal were ready to sell him.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is under massive scrutiny after a poor start to the season
But last weekend against Chelsea, Arteta tried a complex hybrid system that didn’t work. Arsenal hovered between a back-four and a back-five, with Granit Xhaka sometimes a midfielder and sometimes a defender.
Kieran Tierney was asked to run ridiculous distances on the left.
He raced down the wing to become the extra wide man, with Xhaka covering him at left back, but once the ball was lost Tierney had to bomb all the way back.
When Xhaka covered the left back, only Albert Sambi Lokonga was left in midfield. Single-handedly, it was impossible for Arsenal to build a protective screen to prevent balls from entering Romelu Lukaku.
The Gunners struggled to control Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku (center) last weekend
With Arsenal out of possession in the middle third, it was difficult for Tierney to read whether Xhaka would stay in midfield or fall back.
For Chelsea’s opener, as Xhaka decides to stay in midfield rather than drop in defence, Tierney has to step in to look after central Mason Mount. That leaves Reece James roaming free on the wing.
Then when James gains possession, Tierney can’t get there fast enough and seconds later the ball is in the back of the net.
It was a recurring theme. For the second goal, Tierney was left in a two-on-one situation – not knowing whether to go in or stay wide.
Arsenal should have kept it simple and started with a back five – the system so successfully used in winning the FA Cup in 2020.
Kieran Tierney (right) had to tuck in to wipe out the threat from Chelsea’s Mason Mount (left)
Arteta said he had knocked out nine players – due to Covid and injuries – but this could have been an interim solution until they feel comfortable enough to return to a back four.
It will be interesting to see which way Arteta goes against Manchester City on Saturday.
Arsenal have lost 10 of their last 11 encounters with City, but the only game they won was at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final in 2020 – and they did so with a back-five. This may be a system that could interfere with City.
Pep Guardiola and Arteta enjoyed an extremely successful partnership as manager and assistant. They exchange ideas about how the game should be played.
City looked full steam ahead in the 5-0 win over Norwich last weekend. It was one-touch, two-touch football, all played at top speed. They finished with 730 passes – the most of any Premier League team in a game this season.
Manchester City were at their best again during their 5-0 relegation from Norwich last weekend
Guardiola loves what I like to call “game controllers.” Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva fit that description and Jack Grealish is the heir apparent.
City may have missed Harry Kane, but Guardiola’s priority will always be to have creative players on his team.
City challenged to a Quadruple last season, largely using a false nine with Gundogan their top scorer, as Sergio Aguero made just 12 league appearances.
After missing out on Kane, City will have a newfound determination to show they can keep scoring for fun.