Wigan’s adventurous style gives Arsenal the freedom of the park

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
4 Goals 0
1 1st Half Goals 0
9 Shots on Target 5
10 Shots off Target 4
7 Blocked Shots 4
6 Corners 4
8 Fouls 20
2 Offsides 1
2 Yellow Cards 2
0 Red Cards 0
81.8 Passing Success 70.7
26 Tackles 31
84.6 Tackles Success 74.2
62 Possession 38
58.5 Territorial Advantage 41.5
406 (328 successful, 75 unsuccessful) Passes 228 (179 successful, 49 unsuccessful)
26 Interceptions 27

9 thoughts on “Wigan’s adventurous style gives Arsenal the freedom of the park

  1. I still feel we are not disciplined enough to play 4-3-3 as we do not pressurise and control space at all times.

    As soon as we let the pressure down we look like we can concede.

    However 4 goals against a steady wigan side is excellent.

    Now we need to go to Fulham next week and take another 3 points

    1. After seeing Barcelona crush Atletico Madrid 5-2 yesterday, I agree. We do not have the same engine in the midfield, not allowing the opposition to play. That might get better year by year, as our players are still young. But I’m even more concerned about van Persie for the time. He doesn’t seem to fit as the middle forward in a 4-3-3.

  2. Cesc was injured latter part of the game and seemed worried after that. Touch wood it’s nothing serious.

    I have to disagree with the analysis here. Wigan didn’t have an attack of note until after we scored the second goal, when they don’t really have a choice but to come out and create something. For long spells we were playing against 10 defenders. It could be that they were pressed back against their will of playing attack, but effectively, most of the football was played in their half.

    RvP was not scoring, I believe, partly because the ball went through him too often (Eduardo barely touched the ball in the first half). Most of the interplay took place between Cesc-RvP-Eboue, drawing most of the defensive pressure. RvP often got the ball when he was harried by at least 2 defenders, under pressure to release it quickly. It got into his nerve a bit, that mentality, that he rushed even when noone was around (that turn-and-shoot with the goal gaping).

    All said, you can’t but appreciate RvP’s first touch all game. He seemed to know where the runners were before everyone else and his first-time releases to them rarely missed. His service was first class for me. We know RvP is a natural goal-scorer in the first year he was here. It will take the whole team to play a bit more fluently for him to score more.

    1. Yes, I didn’t touch on RVP as much as I wanted as there should be an article on him soon regarding his role in the set-up. Granted he’s had a number of good chances this season so far, at Wigan they were in more awkward positions. Much play goes round through him and he often drops short, creating space for others and pulling defenders out therefore needs good runners off the ball.

      His touch is still hit and miss. Maybe it’s confidence but his balance also just a bit iffy but if he’s comfortable with it then I guess it’s not worth tinkering with.

      1. The ManC game – that ugly chapter of this season so far – actually witnessed an awesome RvP goal. The way he regained balance after losing it to force the ball off Lescott, it’s out of this world. All happened so quickly other players basically just stood and admired. Just watch the replay. On another game it would have been remembered as a real gem.

        Yes it’s a one-off, something we would love to see in a more consistent basis. I would still like to say that if our plays flow more fluidly down two wings, our central strikers – RvP or occasionally Bendtner – will allocate more time putting themselves into predator positions and will naturally score more.

  3. Despite the result, this has not been a very good game for Arsenal. It looked like they missed Arshavin too much (Eduardo is a striker, and he looked somewhat lost on the left side).

    Diaby is growing every day, he still does not have a nice technique, but he could develope into a really good strong player.

    Song is playing his anchor role very well.

    And Van Persie is simply wonderful on his striker role – he links so well with his partners and everytime he touches the ball it seems something could happen. I would love him to come to my Barça :-), he could be a very good substitute for Henry.

    Congrats guys, I hope Arsenal can keep up the style of play. It is a breath of fresh air and we need teams that try to play nice football.

    1. A little late uvalenti but I thought you made two important points, one of which I concur and the other I am not sure about. While we dominated, we were not as fluent as we were with Everton or Pompey, especially in the final third. RVP in particular was not able to complete the combinations with shots on target. He had at least 4 golden opportunities in the 1st half and I don’t recall the keeper ever being tested. Twice he rushed his shot and completely missed the ball. The Brain and some posters have given some possible reasons, most of which I hope and expect to be resolved on the training ground.
      The other point is the one which I have most doubt; i.e. your observation that Eduardo was lost out on the left wing; this was moreso in the 1st half but in the second he was more integerated in the play and had several touches during our raids down the left. But you lay this down to him being more of an out-and-out striker. If that is so then you are implying that he is best playing as the spearhed in the front three, better than RVP. Later you contradict yourself by expressing so much praise for RVP as central striker. I am confused. Who in your opinion is best playing where.

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