Arsenal won the battle of the 4-3-3 as Wigan Athletic afforded the Gunners too much space in the centre of midfield to play their game.
Roberto Martínez would been have growing up in Catalonia around the same time Johan Cruyff was instilling his model of play at Barcelona and what was to become the very DNA of the football club. And while his playing career didn’t quite hit the same lofty heights as the current Barca manager, both embodied Cruyff’s vision as players, orchestrating, constructing and constantly moving the ball around.
Therefore it was anything but likely that Roberto Martínez as manager would try and incorporate the same ideals but even before the product of La Masia, Cesc Fabregas stroked in the fourth he would have realised the gulf in execution.
The Arsenal skipper didn’t have the best of games as he was hassled and harried to the point of anonymity in parts of the middle periods of the match but high intensity pressure is only half of the job in such a set-up. One of the key ideologies in the system is to “let the ball do the running, not the players” and with Arsenal’s superior technique could make the combinations going forward to play triangles around the opposition. Wigan needed a Cesc Fabregas, someone to keep the ball rolling and without such a player afforded Arsenal much too much space. The gap between defence and attack was simply too large and the Gunners duly took advantage, in the end completing a solid victory.
Thomas Vermaelen powerfully headed the first and then became Arsenal’s top scorer when he was given the room to forage forward and delightfully loop a shot over Kirkland which Robin van Persie would have been proud of. The Dutchman had a industrious game as he constantly dropped into space but was found wanting in front of goal. It seems to be a matter of confidence and decision making which has so far seen him yield one goal this season but there may also be a point of examining his balance and body co-ordination which may at times see him take an extra and/or heavy touch. Emmanuel Eboue deflected Eduardo’s shot for the third before the Fabregas completed the rout.
Wigan did have their chances however and the post-match analysis is likely to see some questions asked about Arsenal’s defence. But it is important to realise the subtleties and mannerisms required the play the 4-3-3 of both Arsenal and Wigan. It’s about not giving the opposition space to play which means pressuring high and squeezing the space to allow oneself to continue circulating the ball. But with Wigan outclassed technically, they played a more direct style, stationing their three forwards high up the pitch to pressure the Arsenal defenders. It meant the Gunners would have to be on their toes and keep their work-rate at a high level because Wigan would always be a threat from transitions. Vito Mannone made one fantastic save to deny Thomas from a corner kick and the Italian seems every bit an Arsenal keeper at the moment.
Despite a comfortable victory it was not quite vintage Arsenal because Wigan’s tactics were suicidal but promisingly there is a ruthless streak which is developing against the ‘smaller’ sides. And Arsene Wenger side will gain much confidence from having kept a clean sheet, their first of the season putting the Gunners back on track.
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||Wigan Athletic|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|9||Shots on Target||5|
|10||Shots off Target||4|
|406 (328 successful, 75 unsuccessful)||Passes||228 (179 successful, 49 unsuccessful)|