Arsenal’s central midfield triangle run rings around Man City

Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor returned to the starting line-up and helped Arsenal to a comfortable win with the Gunner’s central midfield proving too good for City.
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Adebayor

‘Strongly balanced’ was Arsene Wenger’s assessment of his side’s performance against Manchester City but with a near identical line-up against Sunderland earlier this season, there was a feeling in the press conference that we could have been talking of a different optimism. Of course, things have changed since then and Wenger’s young charges displayed their improvement by easily shrugging off the challenge from Man City.

Wenger opted to start both Fabregas and Adebayor in what looked like a 4-2-3-1 but was actually closer to a 4-1-1-3-1 when Arsenal attacked. Denilson played the deepest and played probably his most expansive game in the league this season while Fabregas played at the tip close to  a Bergkamp role. Song completed the trio and went about the game with his same hustle and bustle, looking to knit up play and win the ball back in sort of a Gattuso role. (If you want more comparisons, Denilson was Pirlo and Fabregas like Kaka). The three in conjunction with Adebayor and the wide men, saw Arsenal play with intricate triangles and movement early on and also in the second-half, which City could do nothing about.

Bad marking from a Cesc Fabregas free-kick ensured Arsenal took the lead, Adebayor powering a header from a standing position. The second was all Arsenal as Fabregas dinked a fantastically weighted ball over Dunne for Adebayor to round Given and tap into an empty net. Fabio Capello talked about 9-1 regarding England but could be more suited for Arsenal; Gallas and Toure both ended up on the other side of the pitch in different occasions.

However with all the Gunners pretty early play there was a period in the first half where Arsenal could have conceded, as Gelson Fernandes was able to walk unmarked but fortunately for Arsenal, hit the wrong side of the post.

This was a small blotch for the Gunners in a good all-round performance but with a bit more accuracy could have been better. Fabregas made some good late runs that were left unnoticed while the players are still grasping the concept of interchangeability especially when Adebayor drifted out of his attacking position.

The Emirates sun shined brightly on Arsenal and maybe too brightly on Man City who offered little in the second half. The Citizens were made to endure a barrage of pressure from Arsenal with the substitutes in Eboue, Bendtner and Ramsey continuing the onslaught. Eboue was particularly dynamic with his runs but bad accuracy from outside the area and slight over-elaboration meant Arsenal could not add more.

Man of the Match: Denilson– While Fabregas and Adebayor get most of the plaudits on their return, Denilson kept Arsenal ticking with his passing from deep and also made some strong tackles to break up play.

deni-fab
The graphic shows Denilson’s more expansive play, being more adventurous and progressive in his passing while also knitting the play from deep. Wenger deployed Fabregas high up, as a ‘between the lines’ player similar to Dennis Bergkamp to provide the key balls. The tactic ensured greater balance for Arsenal and quicker interchange.

ARSENAL: Almunia 7, Sagna 7, Toure 7, Gallas 7, Clichy 7, Fabregas 8 (Ramsey 79min), Song 6, Denilson 8, Walcott 7 (Eboue 70min), Adebayor 8 (Bendtner 70min), Arshavin 6
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Silvestre, Djourou, Gibbs.
Booked: Toure.
Goals: Adebayor 8, 49.

MAN CITY: Given 7, Richards 7, Onuoha 6, Dunne 6, Bridge (Fernandes 17min, 6), Wright-Phillips 6, Zabaleta 7, De Jong 6, Kompany (Elano 38min, 6), Robinho 6 (Sturridge 76min), Bellamy 5
Subs Not Used: Hart, Bojinov, Garrido, Mwaruwari.
Booked: Dunne, Zabaleta, De Jong.

Att: 60,097
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).

Arsenal Team Statistics Manchester City
2 Goals 0
1 1st Half Goals 0
9 Shots on Target 4
9 Shots off Target 5
4 Blocked Shots 1
7 Corners 2
11 Fouls 10
5 Offsides 0
1 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
83.9 Passing Success 76.5
421 Accurate Passes 277
62 Bad Passes 29
30 Tackles 28
93.3 Tackles Success 64.3
58.1 Possession 41.9
59.4 Territorial Advantage 40.6
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9 thoughts on “Arsenal’s central midfield triangle run rings around Man City

  1. interesting, I thought it was a 4-2-3-1 formation but then I only saw about 10 minutes of the highlights and the post match comments. Tactical flexibility is good though, makes us less predictable to the opposition. Think that is our plan B, C, and D sorted.

  2. Well it was but the way Song played, he is not really a defensive midfielder as such as he runs around looking to break up play rather than sitting back and being disciplined like Denilson. Therefore I would say he plays like a central midfielder. Song has improved a lot and is a good player but the recent guest post showed people rated him over Denilson. I say it’s style of substance.

  3. Song is more versatile, although I’m less edgy when Denilson is playing. Strange but true. These formations are so flexible, some call it a 4-5-1, few others say its 4-3-3, and then you have the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-1-1-3-1. What happened to the good old 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1!!

  4. This line up was very effective and seemed to get the best out of cesc in his advanced role. We had plenty of attacking power while maintaining two primarily defensive midfielders. My only quandary with this formation is how do we fit in Van Persie. He doesn’t seem to have a place in this formation and its a shame to leave such a clearly talented player on the bench. He can play on the wing but Wenger appears loathe to play him wide, and I don’t see him having the same wing capabilities as Arshavin. Any thoughts on if this is our best lineup? and where RVP fits in if so?

    1. I sense if everybody is fit Wenger will opt for a 4-4-2 with split strikers. RVP is Wenger’s Bergkamp; he is seen to be one of the key players and will most definitely be one of the first name’s on the team sheet. The defence chooses itself while the forward positions and wide is less clear cut but allows for flexibility.
      In the centre it will be Fabregas and Denilson. Diaby is seemingly in front of Song in the pecking order at the moment.

  5. Denilson and Song impress again. Denilson seemed flexible and Song was defensive. You agree? I liked your graphs by the way, how many passes did Denilson do compared to Fabregas?

    1. Song was defensive but not in the sense that he was the defensive midfielder. He went about his job which is to regain the ball and keep play flowing.
      Denilson: 71 passes, 59 successful
      Fabregas: 45 passes, 33 successful

  6. I think the big assumption and key words are “if everyone is fit”. How many times can this realistically happen? Luckily we have a great, deep squad. And AW picking of players and formations is always wise. Great blog! Excellent and thoughful.

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