MARTIN KEOWN: How Arteta hung Tierney out to dry against Chelsea
MARTIN KEOWN: Here’s how Mikel Arteta hung Kieran Tierney out to dry against Chelsea last weekend… and why he MUST play a back five against Manchester City
- Kieran Tierney had to cover ridiculous distances during the 2-0 loss to Chelsea
- Arsenal’s 6-0 win over West Brom in midweek proves there’s quality in the squad
- The Gunners have lost 10 of their last 11 meetings with Manchester City
- Arsenal beat City on their way to winning the FA Cup in 2020 using a back five
Mikel Arteta says he feels as if his back is pinned against the wall and that criticism is coming in from all angles. Unfortunately this comes with the territory of being in charge of a big club.
If you lose, the pressure is on. If you make mistakes tactically, then it will be highlighted.
Wednesday’s 6-0 Carabao Cup win at West Brom showed — albeit against inferior opponents — that there is quality in the squad. Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng looked pure class, despite recent reports which claimed Arsenal were ready to sell him.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has been under immense scrutiny after a poor start to the season
But against Chelsea last weekend, Arteta tried a complex, hybrid system which didn’t work. Arsenal were floating between a back four and a back five, with Granit Xhaka sometimes a midfielder and sometimes a defender.
Kieran Tierney was being asked to cover ridiculous distances down the left-hand side.
He was racing down the wing to become the additional wide man, with Xhaka covering him at left back, but then as soon as the ball was lost Tierney was having to bomb all the way back.
When Xhaka was covering at left back, that left only Albert Sambi Lokonga in midfield. All on his own it was impossible for Arsenal to build a protective screen to stop balls from getting into Romelu Lukaku.
The Gunners struggled to contain Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku (centre) last weekend
When Arsenal were out of possession in the middle third, it was difficult for Tierney to read whether Xhaka would remain in midfield or drop back.
For Chelsea’s opener, because Xhaka decides to stay in midfield instead of dropping into defence, Tierney has to tuck in to take care of the central Mason Mount. That leaves Reece James roaming free on the wing.
When James then receives possession, Tierney is unable to get there quick enough and seconds later, the ball is in the back of the net.
It was a recurring theme. For the second goal, Tierney was left in a two-v-one situation — not knowing whether to step inside or stay out wide.
Arsenal would have been better off keeping it simple and starting with a back five — the system which was used so successfully in winning the FA Cup in 2020.
Kieran Tierney (right) had to tuck in to nullify the threat of Chelsea’s Mason Mount (left)
Arteta said he had nine players out — due to Covid and injuries — but this could have been an interim solution until they feel comfortable enough to return to a back four.
It will be interesting to see which way Arteta goes against Manchester City on Saturday.
Arsenal have lost 10 of their last 11 meetings with City, but the one game they won was at Wembley in the FA Cup semi in 2020 — and they did so using a back five. This is potentially a system which can trouble City.
Pep Guardiola and Arteta enjoyed an extremely successful partnership together as manager and assistant. They share ideas about the way the game should be played.
Last weekend, City looked in full flow in the 5-0 win over Norwich. It was one-touch, two-touch football, all played at top speed. They finished with 730 passes — the most of any Premier League team in a match this season.
Manchester City were back to their best during their 5-0 demolition of Norwich last weekend
Guardiola loves what I like to call ‘game controllers’. Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva fit that description, and Jack Grealish is the heir to the throne.
City may have missed out on Harry Kane, but Guardiola’s priority will always be to have creative players in his team.
City challenged for a Quadruple last season largely using a false nine with Gundogan their top scorer, as Sergio Aguero only made 12 league appearances.
After missing out on Kane, City will have a renewed determination to show they can continue to score for fun.
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