Arsenal are in the midst of a rebuild, and since Mikel Arteta’s appointment in December 2019 a transformation of the Gunners playing style has taken place. Perhaps influenced by his shadowing of Pep Guardiola whilst at Manchester City, Arteta’s philosophy has turned the North London side into one of the most attractive and aesthetically pleasing teams in the Premier League, producing both an identity and improvement in results.
Guardiola’s image in the football world is complex to describe. While polarizing, everyone seems at least to agree that he is an unique innovator. Funnily enough, he is polarizing exactly because of this mutual agreement of critics and fans. The public discourse about his Barcelona team mainly revolved about the positional style of play and – even contrasted with Aragones’ successful EURO campaign with the Spanish national team – was highly focused on his idea of playing football and how it differed from most teams. Building up from the back with passes on the ground and involvement of the goalkeeper even under pressure, overload in the center while maintaining high width and depth, or even their extreme pressure with an extraordinarily high line to enable early regain of possession have conquered football back then (with two Champions League titles in four heavily favored campaigns) and since taken over the ideas of others teams more and more – some of them, Guardiola had started already in his first year as head coach back at Barcelona B.
With Tottenham unbeaten in the last six games in all competitions against their North London rivals, Mikel Arteta came into the match on Sunday having to show how exactly he has improved Arsenal in the last year and a half or so.
Chelsea set up in their usual 3–4–2–1 but with a range of changes in personnel, after a rotated side drew 1–1 away at Southampton and a game midweek against Atletico Madrid. Despite their European heroics, it was time for them to still try to address their lack of potency in front of goal, in the hunt to finish for Champions League football next season. Unfortunately for them, Manchester United haven’t been the easiest opponents, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer somehow being competent enough to be second in the league.
Arsenal have had a terrible time against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side in the Premier League. Since Pep took charge of the Citizens, the Gunners have failed to beat them in the league, while conceding 22 goals in 9 games spanning since the start of the 2016/2017 season. This Sunday was no different as Raheem Sterling scored after two minutes from a header (no, I don’t know either).
Leicester City have made constant progress since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in February 2019, from securing Leicester’s position in the top six in his first full season to now contesting for the Premier League’s top spot half-way into the 2020-21 season. The improvements are evident and though claims that Leicester are not title contenders are played down by Rodgers himself, their performances this season suggest otherwise. In fact, it would be of much surprise if Leicester were not in the running for a top four finish if not more come the end of the season.
With only two wins in their last five, Liverpool’s recent form has seen them slip so far down the top of the table that both Chelsea and West Ham started the day with only one point behind their fourth place rivals. Only a win against Leicester would lift them into a better position.
However, despite Brendan Rodgers’ problems against the Big Six in the past, he has become more confident registering wins against Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea this season.
Manchester United have suffered a turbulent start to the 2020-21 season, despite surprising victories against PSG & RB Leipzig that leave them on the verge of qualification from a challenging Champions League group, Ole’s team have stumbled against too many an opposition.
Two teams seeking to disrupt the status-quo of the ‘big six’ in the Premier League met on Sunday afternoon at the King Power Stadium. Both sides have seemingly aimed to control more possession this season as the next stage in their evolution.
Following on from the first of this two part series where the predominant offensive structures Manchester City used were outlined, this part will examine the methods used to create chances within the aforementioned structures.