Tactical Analysis: Arsenal 6 Southampton 1

Tactical Analysis: Arsenal 6 Southampton 1

Arsenal produced a fluid and dominant display as they dispatched a hapless, newly promoted, Southampton. The game ended 6-1 but was over when Podolski smashed home a 30th minute free-kick to make it 2-0.


Arsenal set out a somewhat experimental front three, with Gervinho chosen to lead the line in the middle ahead of new signing Olivier Giroud. He was flanked by Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsenal played a 4-2-3-1 and had a wealth of attacking talent, with Cazorla supporting the forwards.

Conversely, Southampton set out in a rather negative fashion, lining up with a 4-5-1. They sat deep and narrow and looked to frustrate Arsenal.

The game was won for Arsenal (and lost for Southampton) in the first half, with the Gunners going ahead 4-0 before Southampton grabbing a consolation goal right before half-time.

Key Area

Southampton played a narrow formation and attempted to sit deep and not concede. It is safe to say this failed badly; they conceded 6 goals. The reason for this was how they lined up in midfield. Arsenal was ruthless in how they exposed the spaces either side of Southampton’s deepest midfielder, Schneiderlin. This was done through runners (most frequently Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain) dropping into this space which distorted Southampton’s shape and allowed the fullbacks to advance unopposed (and run amuck), as shown below:

This was evident after three minutes when five players (Cazorla, Podolski, Gervinho, Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain) got in and around Schneiderlin. Supporting defenders dropped and this allowed Jenkinson to join in the attack (whilst Gibbs positioning was already the teams most advanced)

The Arsenal fullback maintained extremely advanced positions all throughout the match, with Gibbs and Jenkinson both completing over 50% of their passes in Southampton’s half of the pitch (KG=55%, CJ=53%), with Gibbs being slightly more penetrative in the final third (playing 25% of his passes in the final third compared to 18% for Jenkinson).

Next Page: Arsenal Goal analysis, second half thoughts & conclusion

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Arsenal Goals

Three of Arsenal’s four first half goals were as a direct result of this inside movement from forwards, whilst the fullbacks overlapped with width.

The first, an own goal after 12mins was as a result of Lukas Podolski coming inside and Gibbs moving into the space he had evacuated. Gibbs burst into the box and was played in by Podolski (who had evaded a few challenges) to drill in a cross which was eventually bundled in by the unsighted Hooiveld.

The third goal for Arsenal similarly involved this fluid movement. Oxlade-Chamberlain (AOC) moved inside, with Lallana drifting infield (small circle). Coquelin (FC) pushed forward (resulting in Davis dropping leaving the midfield trio too square). Finally, the space left by Lallana coming inside was exploited by both Jenkinson (out of shot but run shown by CJ) and Gervinho. Gervinho’s run (large circle) towards the ball and back out left new substitute Maya badly exposed and he finished strongly.

Finally, Arsenal’s fourth goal also resulted from moving into the space around the deep midfielder, with Gibbs again the player to give the assist to another own goal.

The midfield five of Southampton (highlighted in red) was again exposed by inside runners – Coquelin (FC), Podolski (LP) and Gervinho (Ger) – and it was Gervinho who fed the run of Gibbs (circled).

An error by Szczesny allowed Southampton to pull one back before the break but the result was already beyond doubt.

Next Page: Second Half Thoughts and Conclusion

Second Half

At half-time Southampton introduced Gaston Ramirez (on for Steven Davis) and this resulted in a tweak to their system. Ramirez isn’t as disciplined in defending as Davis so he was often much further forward than the other two central midfielders (Ward-Prowse and Schneiderlin). This is shown by the fact that 77% of his passes were in the attacking half versus the teams average of 51% making him second only behind Jason Puncheon on 79%.

This attacking substitution also slightly solidified Southampton defensively, as there was less distortion of their defensive shape when the forwards came inside, shown below:

But as Arsenal had so much quality, this change by Southampton strengthened one area but weakened another. This left Santi Cazorla with more space to drift around in front of the two ‘shielding midfielders’ for Southampton – and he had two ‘second goal assists’ for Arsenal’s 5th and 6th (pass to Ramsey and pass to Vermaelen).


It was a dominate performance by Arsenal and they showed their superiority over a luckless Southampton, who scored two own goals. It has been a difficult start for the Saints, facing Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal in their first four fixtures and they now sit at the foot of the table without a point.