If there ever was a time to play Arsenal, at home and on an opening day is the time to do it. The Gunners have lost four of their previous six opening day fixtures, a statistic the London club were keen to reverse. However, where others had used their first game to lay down a marker for the rest of the season, Arsenal began in sloppier fashion, struggling to beat Newcastle in a forgettable 1-0 victory at St. James Park.
This tactical analysis looks at the problems Arsenal faced when building attacks, leading to an xG of only 0.83. It also analyses the tactics deployed by new manager Steve Bruce in his attempt to get Newcastle off to a winning start.
The home side kicked off in an unfamiliar 3-5-2, a shape they didn’t use at all last season. This was a sign that Bruce is keen to implement his own ideas, and perhaps why Newcastle can be forgiven for only producing an xG of 0.83, compared to their home average of 1.37 set last season. This alteration saw a welcome return for Jonjo Shelvey, who only made 16 appearances under Benítez last season. Shelvey was deployed as the central pivot looking to link with new signing Joelinton and Almirón in offensive transition.
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