In a match which ended in a stalemate, Aston Villa put in a very good performance, to get the point which moved them out of the relegation zone. The Arsenal display generated severe disapproval and disappointment from the fans at the ground, after a sub-par performance from the team.
Arsenal lined up in their usual formation, 4-2-3-1, but Arsene Wenger decided to rest some usual starting players, in Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere. Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs and Aaron Ramsey came into the starting team. Gibbs was returning from injury and was a welcome addition in the starting team.
Aston Villa kept a similar team from last week, with El Ahmadi coming into the team, in place of Stephen Ireland. Andreas Weimann started on right side of the front 3, with Agbonlahor on the left, as both were positioned in last week’s match vs Man City. However, about 5 minutes into the game, they switched sides so Agbonlahor could deal better with Gibbs, due to his speed.
It was an obvious tactic by Aston Villa to press Arsenal high up the pitch from the very outset of the match. This was to cut down the time that the Arsenal defenders and defensive midfielders had to play the passes around, in an attempt to bypass the midfield of Aston Villa.
The below image shows an attempt by Aston Villa, less than a minute into the match, to press very high on the Arsenal defenders. In this instance, Arsenal were able to get past the initial press by the Aston Villa forward players, but showed signs of what was going to happen, in some situations, when Aston Villa were in defence.
A different example of Aston Villa and their defensive structure was a solid 4-4-1-1/4-5-1 formation employed. The structure is clear to see, with Weimann coming out to try and shut down the Arsenal attack. This was used more and more during the match, due to Arsenal playing more in their attacking half.
It was an effective tactic from Aston Villa, as they decided to have men back in their defensive half but in their attacking half, Aston Villa decided to press high onto the Arsenal defence. This was to try and stay compact and reduce the impact of Arsenal’s overlapping fullbacks and the likes of Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla playing balls into the forward trio of Arsenal.
Giroud’s movement was very different from other matches in which he has played in this season. Because of Arsenal’s lack of ability to get the ball up to him, up against the Aston Villa central defenders, Giroud was dropping into the middle of the pitch to receive the ball, and trying to turn and create play himself.
In this instance, Giroud has dropped into his own half and turned on the ball and went on a 20 metre run and was able to play a pass to Jenkinson. Jenkinson was able to venture down the right touch line on an attacking foray after he received the pass. However, nothing came of this action as Stevens was able to come across and complete a tackle before anything eventuated for Arsenal.
Only a matter of minutes later, Olivier Giroud dropped into the Arsenal midfield zone again. In this instance, he went for an attacking run once again and attempted to play a ball to Lukas Podolski but the ball was cut out by Gabriel Abgbonlahor, who was retreating into his defensive position for Aston Villa.
It was clear to see that the tactics by Arsene Wenger were altered as it was plain to see that Giroud wasn’t getting much success in his striker position so was dropping deep on the pitch. As he was doing this, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski were coming more centrally and the fullbacks, Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs were often the players offering the width for the team.
Olivier Giroud’s passing stats also back up the notion that he was far more involved in this match than previous matches. In this match, he attempted 33 passes with his season average being 17.8 passes per match. That means that he attempted close to double his average number of passes from this season in this particular match.
Whilst Arsenal dominated possession, with 63% to Aston Villa’s 37%, Arsenal weren’t able to break the Villa defensive unit. This was because they offered little to break down the defensive unit of Aston Villa, with Paul Lambert’s Villa side putting in a very good defensive display.
Credit has to be given to Aston Villa for coming into the match with an effective game plan which paid dividends for them. With these types of displays, Aston Villa showed they shouldn’t be in the relegation zone, and rightly moved out after gaining a point in this match.
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