After this result from the last game week, Arsenal were the biggest losers. While most other major Premier League teams have found their spots in the top 4, Arsenal are struggling at the 14th position in the table.
To win a game, a team must score more goals than the opponent, and to score many goals game after game, a team must create more chances. Though Arsenal were not bad during the game against Wolves, they weren’t good either. It wasn’t a game where the winner was convincing, while the losing team was bad. It was a game where Arsenal struggled in the final third and Wolves took their chances to score two goals.
All the goals were scored in the first half after the horrific clash of heads between Raul Jimenez and ex-Chelsea player David Luiz. The first goal Wolves scored resulted from a good move started by nice combination play in the midfield. The second goal was all about Adama Traore’s strength, skill, and direct approach to the counter-attack. He took out two Arsenal players with his sublime skills. The Arsenal goal came from a well-worked short corner that seemed to have been part of the tactics against Wolves.
While Wolves enjoyed more possession in the first half, Arsenal dominated Wolves in the second half. Arsenal created more chances but failed to convert them into goals. It was a frustrating game, and you could sense that in the players during the last 20 minutes of the game.
Arsenal made two changes to the side that started against Leeds United. They welcomed David Luiz back into defence in the place of Rob Holding while Bukayo Saka started on left since Nicolas Pepe was not available for selection due to the red card.
Wolves made three changes to the team that started against Southampton. They welcomed back their captain Coady, as well as Marcal and Neto, back in the team. Their talented midfielder, Neves was on the bench for this game.
In this tactical analysis of the game between Arsenal and Wolves, we will take a look at Arsenal’s attacking tactics and Wolves’ tactical gameplan for this game. In this analysis, we will also review Arsenal’s failure to take risks in the game.
Arsenal play safe
Anyone who watches Arsenal play under Mikel Arteta knows that they like to attack from wide areas. There is a pattern to their play where the ball is played wide from the middle third of the pitch, and then the players attack in the final third from the wide areas. Now, this system is so rigid and predictable that even when a pass is available to a player in a central position, it is ignored for a safer option in the wide areas.
It is understandable that attacking from the wide areas makes a team less vulnerable on the counter-attacks, but to do that all the time makes it easy for the opponents to defend.
A pass made to a player positioned centrally in the final third regularly increases the chances of getting closer to the goal. And the closer you are to the goal, the higher the chances of scoring are. This way, the opponent is second-guessing the next move instead of knowing what to expect. Arsenal always passed wide despite options being available centrally.
Arsenal not only plays the ball wide every time, but their first instinct is to move wide with the ball. Here, Saka receives the ball perfectly in between the lines and is ready to turn, but instead of turning towards the goal, he turns away from the goal. If he would have turned toward the goal, then more options would have opened for him to attack, and with his ability, he can play the ball behind the Wolves defence from that position.
Moving the ball wide only made it easy for Wolves to defend. Does anyone miss Ozil in these moments?
Wolves – switch in the play
Every time Wolves found themselves pressed in numbers, they passed backwards and passed the ball to the other side of the pitch. Here, Moutinho finds himself covered by Arsenal players blocking his forward and short passes. Instead of going long, he passed the ball back to Coady, who immediately changed the direction of the play from the right side to the left side.
The Arsenal players were good at pressing the channels, but they got sucked towards the play way too much in this game. Once the switch in the play happened, they weren’t in a position to press on the other side of the pitch.
Adama Traore & Pedro Neto
Adama Traore and Pedro Neto are my main contenders for man of the match for this game. Wolves’ game plan was built around the ability of these two skilful players. Their ability to carry the ball forward from midfield into the attack and energy all throughout the game was the highlight of the game from Wolves’ point of view.
Adam Traore played a crucial role in both the goals and whenever he plays, he is a threat against any opponent. Diogo Jota’s departure to Liverpool gave Pedro Neto the opportunity to show his talent and he has not disappointed so far. Both these players had more successful dribbles than the entire Arsenal team.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang isolated
Goals have dried up for Aubameyang, and that is not entirely due to him. He lacks the support from the team needed to score goals, and even more importantly, he is having way fewer touches in the game than he used to. We see here Aubameyang dropping close to the midfield, calling for the ball. But Xhaka ignores that option and passes wide to Willock.
Aubameyang doesn’t seem to be enjoying his time on the pitch and it was evident from his body language as well as his expressions. He not only needs players to support him in the final third but also needs to see more of the ball during the game.
Arsenal showed no urgency in playing the ball forward during transition moments, effectively creating no counter-attacking opportunities. Even when the goalkeeper Leno releases the ball forward after a set-piece, Arsenal plays the ball back in the defence. This summed up the way Arsenal attacked – always very safe.
The most important thing for Wolves is the wellbeing of Jimenez, but this result would have boosted their confidence for this season. They got 3 points despite not being at their best.