Three Clean Sheets in a Row. Not by Coincidence.


Few days ago I wrote an article highlighting our Liverpool away game. Arsenal dominated the game tactically (not in possession) by inviting Liverpool to enter our own half and killed them by fast counter attacks. Podolski’s goal was the demonstration how deadly this tactic was. From Vermaelen intercepting Liverpool pass, the ball moved to Podolski who passed it to Cazorla. He then dribbled the ball and passed it back to Podolski who had sprinted from our half to Liverpool box in nanoseconds and then shot and scored. Three passes led to a goal. A trademark of Invincible days.

Now let’s talk more about our defensive shape. I highlighted it as the first impressive change in this new Arsenal. Three clean sheets in a row especially after the difficult games at Stoke and Liverpool away were not by coincidence. We’re really working on our defensive shape, and it started from the pre-season game at Cologne.

I found this excellent video (courtesy of IX Gooner) highlighting the change of our defensive shape compared to last season.

The video shows that we maintained our defensive line very well to deal with opponent’s counter attack. Last season we conceded a lot of goals from very few shots on goal. This is because the chances the opponents had mostly came from counter attack with their forwards outnumbered our defenders, a high quality chance. Clueless defending shape were shown in the Norwich game where our two defenders had to face three attackers. This video shows that even at Cologne game, we had 3-4 defenders at the back and they kept a narrow horizontal line to limit space for opponents penetration during their counter attack. The same shape was also present at those three Premier League games. Arteta will always move back to help the back four when we’re counter attacked. He always tries to pressure the opponent from behind and sometimes manages to nick the ball away.

Some players have mentioned about Bould’s contribution to the defensive shape. This video shows we have planned and executed it since pre-season. We have inserted some variations into our corner kick, our back four one time raised their hand in unison for offside trap call at Liverpool game. They are evidences that Steve Bould and Neil Banfield really have contributions in these three clean sheets. It’s not just about the players anymore, it’s about the coordination, the team work.

This brings a new stability to our defence and would serve as a very good foundation to our attacking game. With a responsible defence like this, we can avoid throwing away games to lesser opponents like what we did last season. We can also use it as a very good base for our counter attack against attacking teams. This month we’ll see it at the games against Manchester City and Chelsea who have conceded a few goals unconvincingly. I’m quite optimistic looking forward to these two games. How about you?

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