The first real test for this Arsenal side is going to come this Sunday against a team which has revolutionalized the art of the 3 man defense and a competent and fully functional midfield.
When Conte got thrashed 3-0 at the Emirates last season, it might have seemed that he would not have an instantaneous answer to what the premier league had thrown at him. A three man defense may have worked for Juventus in Seria, but getting it right and effective in the premier league given the league’s pace and quality of football seemed out of reach.
But what he did in response to that Arsenal defeat was astounding and he deserves all the credit because his tweak from the 3-5-2 to a 3-4-3 formation made Chelsea win the premier league.
The man understood that attacking and defending are two sides of the same coin and one without the other is a dangerously short-lived team (one perfect example is Barcelona under Vilanova)
With new signings such as Morata and Bakayoko, Antonio Conte seems to be very serious in continuing his formation style of 3-4-3.
Make no mistake, this formation will stay and what makes the formation even more full-proof is the presence of players like Kante – something the world of football was missing since Makalele.
Arsenal line up for Chelsea game and the tactics to be adopted.
The golden rule against teams like Chelsea, Manchester United or any other counter-attacking side is this :
DO NOT LOSE THE BALL. IF YOU DO, EVERYBODY GET BACK & GET THE BALL BACK!
Sir Alex Ferguson made a very astute observation regarding Wenger. I am going to paraphrase a bit from his book in which he spoke about the tactics he used against Wenger.
He said the best way to play against Arsenal is through patience and awareness. Patience is for waiting and not getting frustrated because if you are facing a team like Arsenal, it’s less likely that you will have more possession of the ball. Awareness is to make sure you “intercept” the ball and quickly break for the counter – the key to beating Arsenal is counter-attacking football. This is true. 100%.
Arsenal without the ball against a good counter-attacking side is as good as a group of headless chickens because when it comes to defending we may still be average (I am being biased since we are below average). But when it comes to “defending against counter-attacks” we don’t have any answer. It’s the only tangible weakness of this Arsenal side.
My guess is Conte will be ready for this. Not only will he tell his team to take the game to us (being a home game) but as a PLAN B, he will make sure his team is setup to counter – effectively.
The thing with games like these is that they have to be contested as a team and your marquee players performance will only help your team. Arsenal has to perform as one unit and if Ozil or Sanchez or Lacazette step up that’s a re-enforcement. The game vs Bournemouth was a feel good factor for Arsenal fans. It was like getting prize money at the casino worth 100$ after losing 500$ till then – the 100$ makes you feel good, but don’t get your hopes up, yet.
Tactically, I believe that Arsenal needs to keep possession (and will be allowed to some extent) and attack with 2-3 game plans. This includes crossing to Lacazette and others if needed, playing quick passes – long and short in order to get balls into the box and thus attempting to break down a resilient Chelsea defense. Simultaneously, however, Cech must be protected.
The key, however, will be to defend strongly when Chelsea attack – be it counter-attack or normally. Kante will be hungry to nick the ball of any of our midfielders to start countering so nullifying him will help us immensely. Ozil needs to step up and maybe draw Kante out of his natural position in order to allow Ramsey & co better passage. Xhaka needs to be more aware and another lack luster performance by him can actually see him benched in the future. Players need to maintain their shape, even if they lose the ball. The Barcelona pressing system is something which won’t work very well against Chelsea becuase they prefer to distribute the ball and attack in numbers, so it’s better if we preserve our energy till it’s needed and not run the risk of losing our basic formational structure. We should play a 4-3-3 and this shape should not be compromised under any conditions. This is my opinion, but Wenger may opt for the “defensive suicidal formation” 3-4-3.
I have my doubts about this structure and the only reason I do so is that it takes more than 2-3 months for a team to get used to this formation completely. We have had pre-season and 4 games to do the same. I am going to do some research on this and publish another article regarding the loop-holes in the 3-4-3 or the 3-5-2 and why some teams are better off without it, so I shall come back to this later.
Overall, this is going to be one tough game for Arsenal. If they win, their confidence will sky-rocket because beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is nothing close to easy.
Get the tactics right, get the mentality of the players set and keep the shape and discipline (even if you want to play the 3-4-3) – we can do this if these 3 things are addressed and win.
If not, expect another cricket scoreline this week