Now that the game is played, let’s observe what happened.  The game was a strong win for Stiles and as mentioned during the tactical preparation, the two-striker-setup is instrumental and it delivered big time.

The game stats show that Arsenal didn’t dominate in only two areas: passing in midfield and in attack. The difference is subtle in midfield but in attack (i.e. the last third), it is quite remarkable.  Since the possession is pretty evenly split, one thing could explain this: the efforts put in the last third to “try and find a hole” from Spurs.  Remember that it was said that they usually play possession so; this means a lot of lateral passes.  The sheer number of passes also demonstrates this fact: they played possession and tried to find holes.

The heat map of the game shows, as talked about during the pre-game analysis and tactical preparation, that Spurs mainly played in the right half space in the AM position on offence.  This is because of the positioning of the AMC with the interior forward and wingback on the right flank.  This comment was made in the pre-game Analysis post. Arsenal on the other hand, controlled the space laterally better in midfield. 

We intended to go out there and dominate midfield and we did it thoroughly and convincingly. While Spurs tried to get in behind our central midfielders and occupy the space between our defensive and midfield line, we anticipated such a move and set up accordingly to counteract this dastardly Spurs ploy.

As you can see, the average positions of the players tell two interesting things.  First, you can see that the defensive line of Arsenal clearly is higher than Spurs’.  If you also look at the position of the two Gunners’ midfielders, you can see how the space is compressed.  This is what was wanted in the tactical preparation. By pushing our defensive line further forward, we restricted the space Spurs had between our defensive and midfield lines. We were able to maintain defensive cohesion by compacting these crucial central areas and limiting the space.

The other point that was made was the covering of Spurs’ box-to-box midfielder.  In the preparation, it was said that the Roaming Playmaker was on the right side.  On the left side, it was a basic central midfielder on defensive duties.  Since the space between the defensive line and the midfielders was so compressed, the CM on the left side was; indeed, lower, as expected and desired, but not by a lot.

When you look at the passes from both teams in their respective final third, multiple things can be noticed.

As you can see in the first half, Tottenham probed a bit everywhere to try and find space.  You can also see that they didn’t favor the right side very strongly but did stay a bit more in their right half space.  As for the Gunners, you can see the control of the midfield that is more systematic.  They did favor the left side a bit more to enter the last third but they managed to get a bit deeper in the right half space.  Another element to point out would be the capacity to penetrate inside the box without using crosses that is significantly better for Arsenal than for Spurs.

In the second half, the incapacity for Tottenham to enter the box is even more demonstrated: they come inside the box only at the top edge of it, on the left.  As for Arsenal, we can see that they had more problems themselves but, as the score line already told us, they didn’t score in the second half, except from a penalty.

One element that was talked about in the match preparation was the space that would be created by Tottenham either on the left of midfield, when the box-to-box would go deep and on the left flank, when the wingback would push.  You can see both of those in each half.  During the first half, we can presume that the right wingback pushed a bit more since a lot of incursion in Tottenham territory came from that side.  For the second half though, you can see that most of the incursion came from the left half space and, once the midfield line was passed, they often moved to the right half space with a diagonal pass.  This would be the direct result of the box-to-box going deep on attack and the left inverted wingback moving up to cover the empty space.  When they were forced to go in defensive transitions, the inverted wingback would try to back track to its original position but the box-to-box was, by default, a bit late.  Therefore, space was created.  You can also see that those pushes in the right half space were more successful than those on the left, coming more often close to the box than on the other side.  Those are the consequence of that shifting in position.

What is also interesting to note from those four screen captures is the mobility of the roaming playmaker against the more static position of the AMC.  By looking at the passes, you can see that those coming from the number 8 of Arsenal are present, in regular fashion, on the entire width of the pitch.  It’s Diego Pearce, the RPM.  On the other hand, the number 17, Josh Potts the AP of Tottenham, almost never go beyond the half space, on both side of the pitch.  This can also be explained by the presence of the two interior forward that would come closer to him while for Arsenal, being in a 4-2-4 with wingers, they tend to stay wider, even if they don’t have specific instructions to stay wide.

During the tactical preparation, Arsenal called for a high press (one striker and both wingers on maximum press) combined with a low block.  If the former doesn’t produce something easy to see on the analysis tool, a low block is something very easy to figure out and to see if it worked or not: the crosses.  What a low block tries to do is to forbid access to the box in a defensive situation.  What PIs are needed for a low block to be implemented in the game?  The way Arsenal did it was by playing a little narrower on defensive stances, asked all the defenders to tackle harder and to never press.  For the fullbacks, there is a supplemental PI on defence: tuck inside so they are closer to the central defenders.  In general, no special attributes are needed for the defensive line with one important exception:  one of the central defenders must be an excellent jumper.  This is imperative since you need to intercept crosses.  This is even more so in the tactical system Arsenal used.  Why?  Because the way they compressed the space in front of the box, they were pushing the plays on the flanks by trying to overload the front of their box. 

As you can see on the following picture, this is exactly what happened.  The Spurs’ crosses were from outside the box or from the inner edge of it; never closer than that.  If you look at the other end of the pitch, about one third of the crosses were from far inside the box, some even from the edge of the six yard box.  Coming with a 4-2-4, with AMR/AML means that there usually are a lot of crosses made by default but since the wingers didn’t have PIs telling them to stay wide, you can see that there are a fair number of crosses coming from inside the box itself from them.

Finally, the shot mapping.  Arsenal’s RPM/CMD combo used by Arsenal created the space to take long shots on their right side since on the pitchsince the combo was set: CMR-RPM/CML-CMD.  Stiles talked about this in the Tactical preparation and put the CMD on the left side because she was told during the pre-game analysis that they would probably play an AP in an AMC position and also because the box-to-box midfielder was on the right side of Spurs’ midfield.  Since the wingback was thought to be on attack and that they also played an Interior forward, this meant that the main triangle was on the right side, sandwiched between the AMC and WBR position: their right side half space.  For Arsenal, the space was more constrained because the CMD was lower on the pitch on that side.  At the same time, her CMR-RPM was, by definition, always a bit higher on the pitch because of its role.  This was giving a little more space on the right side.  What is not showing was that the shots taken were mainly made during counter-attacks and they were made because of that available space left by the RPM being higher up the pitch.  The other shots were made in longer possession situations but, since the RPM still stays a bit higher, there is more space to use…

I hope you will have found this little story and the analysis interesting.

You can follow my stories here: https://community.sigames.com/forum/23-fm-stories/.  I use the same name over there: Rien102.  New material will come with FM20!


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