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3 tactical observations from Arsenal's draw against Burnley | Premier League 2019-20

Modified 03 Feb 2020, 18:30 IST

Burnley FC and Arsenal FC played out a goalless draw at Turf Moor
Burnley FC and Arsenal FC played out a goalless draw at Turf Moor

Arsenal played to a 0-0 draw with Burnley in the Premier League. The shared points meant that it was a 13th draw for the visitors, equalling their most ever in a single league campaign. Mikel Arteta's side struggled to break down a resolute Burnley and weren't clinical with the few chances they had. They continue to languish in tenth place, ahead of their opponents Burnley only on goal difference. Arsenal have also won just six games the entire season, the same as 18th placed West Ham. On that note, here are three tactical observations from the game from Arsenal's perspective.

#1 The best side on paper is not the best side in reality

Arsenal's best starting eleven is a contentious issue

Arsenal's best starting eleven is a contentious issue. There is a constant debate about how to accommodate all of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Nicolas Pepe into one team. However, this is the wrong conversation to be having. To accommodate Lacazette, Aubameyang is being shifted to the wings, therefore wasting his prodigious goal-scoring talent. Lacazette himself is without an away goal in more than a year. His recent form also do not justify a place in the starting eleven.

Similarly, with Özil. The German has not registered an assist away from home in over two years and to play him purely on talent is not justified. Arteta needs to play the most balanced side rather than just try to fit in all the marquee players into the starting eleven. More importantly, nothing can justify shifting club captain Aubameyang into the wide role which wastes his talent.

#2 Arsenal lack runners in the midfield

Arsenal has to solve out its midfield to move up in the Premier League
Arsenal has to solve out its midfield to move up in the Premier League

Arsenal have struggled against sides playing low-blocks because of the lack of runners they have in midfield. This is where they greatly miss Aaron Ramsey. Granit Xhaka is quite static while Lucas Torreira is better suited for a defensive role. This leaves Arsenal needing someone to burst into the box unnoticed and get into goalscoring positions. At the moment, the most appropriate player for such a role would be Joe Willock. Özil, unfortunately, barely takes shots at the goal and his influence against defensive sides is limited when he does not have options for him to find.

The end result is that Arsenal are easy to defend against. More often than not, Aubameyang is the only goal threat and the opposition can commit numbers to crowding him out of the game. Therefore Arteta needs to look at how he can instil more movement and penetration from his midfield. In away games, Özil ought to be sacrificed for a runner like Willock.

#3 Granit Xhaka and David Luiz are vital to the side

Granit Xhaka and David Luiz are often criticised unfairly
Granit Xhaka and David Luiz are often criticised unfairly

Granit Xhaka and David Luiz are two players who are frequently scapegoated for their side's failings. While this is justified in some situations, the duo have stepped up since Arteta's appointment to become integral to the side. Their importance to the side is due to their attacking contributions rather than defensive ones.


Head coach Arteta values playing out from the back and quick passing moves. Xhaka and Luiz facilitate this with their passing range and the ability to break the lines efficiently. The duo have also formed a solid partnership in acting as a foundation for playing out of the defence. With Luiz playing on the left side of the defence and Xhaka dropping deep more often, they are pivotal in moving the ball forward.

Arteta is facing the conundrum of how to get the best from a talented attacking line-up. However, at the moment, playing them all together does not seem to be the solution.

Also read: 3 reasons why Arsenal face an uphill battle for a return to the top 6

Published 03 Feb 2020, 17:54 IST
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