Arsenal 2-1 Man United: Tactical View

Arsenal produced a potentially season defining win against Manchester United to silence the critics who had written off The Gunners in recent weeks. It was a game of quality football but one where Arsenal rode their luck at times.

As predicted before the game, the midfield was always going to be key but whoever made the most of a transition of play or set piece will win. The first Arsenal goal came from a corner kick while the second after the restart. Manchester United played with speed and width and looked to take advantage of The Gunners’ when they lost possession by pressuring high up, while Arsenal (as also predicted if they were to win) played in triangles. It was an enthralling game no doubt assisted by the slick surface and the circumstances surrounding Arsenal and their line up. The Red Devils went into the game with more pressure even though it should have been Arsenal as most would argue it was a must win game for the season.


So how did Arsenal win? Luck played a huge part but as Arsenal weathered the early storm (and towards the end) they started to pass in triangles; players playing closer to each other and generally working harder to provide options in attacking positions. The second goal was a big example of the triangles being played, options either side of the man in possession making it harder to mark and hold one’s position in defense.

Diaby has the ball during the build up for the goal as options surround him in the form of triangles
Diaby has the ball during the build up for the goal as options surround him in the form of triangles
As Fabregas has the ball he again has options to either side. Walcott makes a great run to make space for the goal.
As Fabregas has the ball he again has options to either side. Walcott makes a great run to make space for the goal.

Options in crossing positions was also improved upon as not only Bendtner was there to demand for the ball in the box; Diaby, Nasri, Walcott and Fabregas also tried to make up ground. Against ‘smaller’ clubs this is not always the case and even the main striker would leave the box. Space was provided by United than against these other clubs but the same mentality should remain.

It was one area that was recommended by Arsenal Column that must be improved upon and with injured personnel coming back will be further improved though the big match atmosphere fueled the players up and should be displayed further against ‘smaller’ clubs.

Gallas and Bendtner


The skipper was an injury doubt but put in an assured performance at the back reading the game brilliantly and producing some great tackles and blocks. Many had criticised Gallas for a lack of leadership and professionalism but leadership lies throughout and there was enough on show today from the whole team that single leadership is old fashioned.

Bendtner is another player with a recent history of professionalism come into question and the Dane’s recent performances warranting his worth to the side. Criticisms were leveled at the youngster but those that did concentrated on his missed chances. Maybe he could have done better but his all round play was very good; leading the line high and looking to bring people into play. He may have dallied a bit too much on the ball and his awareness still lacking but he worked hard up front and had Vidic and Ferdinand on their toes all game.

Arsenal: Championship Material?

Had United made more of their early pressure the story may well have been different. Arsenal have very capable players and some still to return as they are technically strong, skillful and intelligent but lack that impenetrability and resistance to attacks without the ball, and also have a bit of naivety due to lesser experience. Yesterday Manchester United could have took their chances better and gaps where open to take advantage as not many teams even last year, have the majority of the possession at the Emirates (54%, territorial advantage = 52%).

The ball was given away countless of times as Arsenal tried to play their way out and in the centre of midfield work still needs to be done. Manchester United also played some lovely football but the the organisation and shape was lacking as was the tactical awareness or in some cases desire to come back. Fabregas is leaving a bit too much for Denilson to do and even Wenger has come out and said the Spaniard is trying too hard, another suggestion made by Arsenal Column.

The distance which Denilson is away from the space he should be is far too great. Leading up to this the Brazilain was ball watching while the three central midfielders (Fabregas, Diaby and Denilson were too high up).

A quick nor on Berbatov who was singled as the main threat. Most of United’s best attacking play came from the wings coupled that to the running to the centre from Carrick, Anderson and Park which took away most of his space.

A great win for Arsenal but one where the Gunners were slightly lucky however showed great spirit and passing football though improvements can be made and built upon from this game.


6 thoughts on “Arsenal 2-1 Man United: Tactical View

  1. Good analysis as ever.

    I’ve never thought Denilson works well as a defensive midfielder, but yesterday, he was very good.

    Uncharacteristically, I feel Arsenal started off with quite a deep defensive line. As highlighted by your article on the average touch positions, Berbatov likes to come deep. The idea behind this is that it will pull the defensive line forward, and provide more room for Rooney and Ronaldo to attack in behind the defence.
    I think the 3 in midfield helped to prevent this as one – usually Denilson – could help occupy this space and keep tabs on the Bulgarian, whilst the other 2 would challenge United’s two central midfielders.
    This relied heavily upon Bendtner’s ability to lead the line single-handedly, which is why I believe he has not been given enough credit by most – many seem to forget there is more to being a forward than goals – just to clarify, I do realise you gave credit where credit was due.

    However, when the game became more stretched, as you pointed out, there seemed to be too much for Denilson to do. He is a good tackler, but he has lapses in concentration that allow for players to get into the gap between midfield and defence. Subsequently, Song was brought into play, and I believe we looked far more comfortable defensively.

    I still think our team struggles greatly when it comes to tracking midfield runners.

  2. Interesting Da Stu Dawg. I’m a big fan of Berbatov and in fact the formation used by United, Barcelona, Roma etc. What you say is true about the three midfielders not allowing space for Berbatov therefore the ball was switched out wide instead of him.
    However still aren’t too sure about Denilson yesterday, he has received mixed reviews like Bendtner. The tracking runners is the whole point of United’s attacks and really it could have been worse on that front.
    The deep line- Arsenal have been more cautious this season as fabregas stated before.
    You’re a good and clever writer mate- ever thought about writing an article for this site? I want to make a few changes to the site (an article on this later) so maybe a chance for you to have your own ‘column’ maybe?

  3. Thanks mate 🙂

    I’d be more than happy to write some articles if needed. I’m not always able to watch matches live as I don’t have Sky Sports – although I have Setanta and Arsenal TV so can always watch the replay – so I may be late in highlighting points I feel could be made, but if you ever need any help or pieces written, I’ll do my best.

  4. Well I don’t have SkySports either but watch any way possible (T.v, live or PC). Anyway I thought maybe just any interesting articles about Arsenal, i.e tactics, analyse, finance or something you noticed about Arsenal or footy in general etc.

    If you have any articles don’t hesitate to e-mail me using the email on my About page. No problem if you don’t want to do it just thought it may be something you may be interested in or can offer to.

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