Arsenal need to get their left flank firing again with Gabriel Martinelli subdued

Sportem
Sportem
6 Min Read

Arsenal need to get their left flank firing again with Gabriel Martinelli subdued – Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Seven of Arsenal’s first nine games of this Premier League season featured a goal contribution from Granit Xhaka or Garbiel Martinelli. During a run in which Arsenal have dropped points in three of their last five Premier League matches, the pair have provided just one goal contribution.

Mikel Arteta’s team are enduring their first frustrating period of the campaign, and the lack of attacking threat from their left flank has been noted. In Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Brentford, Martinelli was Arsenal’s first player substituted, replaced by goalscorer Leandro Trossard. That goal was created by a combination involving Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka down the right.

Martinelli’s slight dip can be partly explained by Gabriel Jesus’ absence. While Eddie Nketiah has deputised admirably, he is less comfortable drifting into wide positions and allowing Martinelli to switch into the centre. When Nketiah does show wide, he tends to favour linking with Saka on the right. Martinelli and Jesus played with wonderful synergy in the season’s early months, and Arsenal’s left-winger is missing his compatriot.

In the defeat at Goodison Park, Martinelli was isolated from his team-mates. It is important to stress that a player being isolated is not necessarily a bad thing. One of Arsenal’s key tactical principles, much like Manchester City, is to leave Saka and Martinelli high and wide to stretch opponents and create one-on-one opportunities against full-backs. Rather than overlapping and allowing the winger to move inside, Arsenal’s left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko underpins Martinelli to offer control and protection against the counter-attack.

Against Brentford, Martinelli was encouraged to move inside earlier, as shown by his more narrow average position compared with Everton away. Despite this tweak, things still did not come off for him.

Arsenal’s average positions vs Brentford: Did Arsenal need Xhaka (34) and Zinchenko (35)

Arsenal's average positions vs Brentford - Arsenal need to get their left flank firing again with Gabriel Martinelli subdued - Opta

Arsenal’s average positions vs Brentford – Arsenal need to get their left flank firing again with Gabriel Martinelli subdued – Opta

Interestingly, Martinelli is enjoying more touches in the penalty area post-World Cup without Jesus than he did before. He is taking more shots, creating more chances and his expected goals per 90 minutes are virtually identical. One statistic where there has been a notable downturn though, is the rate at which Martinelli is beating players. Martinelli is still attempting around four dribbles per 90 minutes according to Opta definitions, but his dribble success rate has decreased from 54.7 per cent to 26.9 per cent.

This could be a reflection of the way teams such as Brentford, Everton and Newcastle United have doubled-up on him. Arsenal want to zig-zag their attacks from one side to the other, moving into areas where they have numerical superiority against the opponent. At the moment, Martinelli is attracting players but not quite escaping into areas that offer Arsenal an advantage.

When opponents smother Arsenal’s wingers, it puts pressure on those inside them. Xhaka was one of Arsenal’s best performers in the first period of the season, but his technical and creative limitations are more evident against deep-lying defences. Against Everton, he completed just four passes to Martinelli and one to Nketiah while against Brentford it was just three passes to Martinelli. Arsenal are enjoying such dominance of matches against compact defences, it is forcing Xhaka to manipulate the ball in tight spaces and he is no Ilkay Gundogan or Bernardo Silva. Arsenal may well lose some solidity, but replacing Xhaka with a more potent attacking player could be the team’s next evolution, particularly against more defensive opponents.

Christian Norgaard clears the ball from the patch Granit Xhaka - Arsenal need to get their left flank firing again with Gabriel Martinelli subdued - AFP

Christian Norgaard clears the ball from the patch Granit Xhaka – Arsenal need to get their left flank firing again with Gabriel Martinelli subdued – AFP

Arteta has also been reluctant to use Kieran Tierney from the bench in Arsenal’s last two games, a move which could have changed Arsenal’s left-sided dynamic. An overlapping full-back could have pushed Trossard or Martinelli into the spaces Xhaka occupied with Zinchenko deeper, or Xhaka could have dropped into the Zinchenko role. When Arsenal are chasing a goal, it could be argued that Xhaka and Zinchenko duplicate too many of the same responsibilities.

Inverting their left-back, pushing Xhaka up and keeping Martinelli wide is a structure that helped Arsenal reach 50 points in 19 games. It is understandable that Arteta is reluctant to depart from the plan, and he is of the school of coaches who neglect Plan B in favour of doing Plan A better. In any case, it could be unwise to allow games against Everton and Brentford to shape the approach against Manchester City on Wednesday, who will offer Arsenal and Martinelli far more space. For the first time this season though, the balance of Arteta’s team looks open to question.

Source link

Find Us on Socials

Share this Article
Leave a comment