Santi Cazorla recovered from an ankle injury to slot into the Arsenal starting XI for their clash against Norwich on the weekend. Bacary Sagna replaced Carl Jenkinson, after picking up a knock and star man Mesut Özil also recovered from a minor knock to feature against the Canaries. Olivier Giroud continued to lead the line.
The only change for Norwich came in the form of £5m summer signing Gary Hooper, making his first full start for Norwich, replacing Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, who was out with a toe injury.
Tettey, Özil and man marking
Like most who watch him on a regular basis, Chris Hughton identified Mesut Özil as Arsenal’s key man in the game, and so deployed Alex Tettey in order to hopefully man mark Özil out of the game. For the first half of the game, Tettey did a very good job in stifling Özil, not allowing him a single shot on goal, and allowing the German to create only one chance, which came from the Olsson’s left hand side. Özil’s main area’s in the first half were towards Wilshere’s right hand side, exchanging passes with him in order to shake off Tettey and create chances, but to no avail, as we can see from the picture below, the German didn’t work his usual magic in the first 45.
However, after a marvellously worked goal by Arsenal in the first half, Norwich knew they had to press on in the second. Even though Tettey is more defensive minded, he was allowed more freedom as Norwich searched for an equaliser, in doing so, he left acres of space behind him which Özil was able to exploit, by either running at the Norwich back line, passing through them, or shooting.
As the picture shows, for Özil’s first goal, Tettey has stayed with Aaron Ramsey, as opposed to the man he should be marking, Özil, and as a result, Özil scores his first.
As we can see, Özil flourished in the second half, due to Tettey’s lax defensive work in search of an equaliser, creating 2 chances and completing 15 of his 16 passes in the attacking third, combining brilliantly with Wilshere and Cazorla throughout, the archetype of the attacking and passing philosophy Arsene Wenger has tried to implement at Arsenal.
Arteta providing balance
For all the attacking panache of Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere and of late, Aaron Ramsey, the balance that Mikel Arteta brings to this Arsenal side cannot be understated. Technically gifted, capable of going forward but not afraid to do the dirty work defensively, the Spaniard is a key part of this Arsenal side in this current 4-2-3-1. Arteta retained a pass completion rate of 95% in the game against Norwich, recycling possession into forward position and playing the ball forward to the wingers in the form of Wilshere and Cazorla, whilst limited the forward runs of Fer and Howson alongside fellow defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini, the duo worked well to nullify the Norwich attack. Indeed, Arteta is the gel of the team, keeping the ball moving whilst working with Flamini to be defensively responsible.
Arsenal’s lack of width
A notable point of Arsenal midfield in recent games has been Arsene Wenger’s deployment of inverted “wingers” in the form of Santi Cazorla on the right hand side, and Jack Wilshere on the left, this deployment allows both to cut in on their stronger foot, either in Cazorla’s case, and create chances or score. However, for some parts of the game this tactic was found to be leaving something to be desired as Arsenal’s play became very narrow and the front of the 18 yard box became a very congested area. This is because Wilshere and Cazorla are of course both naturally central attacking midfielders, though Cazorla has the flexibility to be able to play out wide as well.
Mesut Özil can of course play out wide, but as the Norwich match showed, the German’s qualities down the centre of the park are surely too good to use elsewhere. Arsene Wenger will be eager for Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain to return to provide some natural width to what is, at the moment, a very narrow side indeed, that could possibly be found out by a deep, compact defence in the future.
What do you think? Are Arsenal too narrow? Was Arsenal’s incredible first the goal of the season already? And can Arsenal compete for the title, for the first time in years?