Fulham vs Arsenal: A tactical, positional and psychological analysis
Written by Hunter on May 25, 2011 14:30
As a former coach, player and student of the beautiful game I am constantly fascinated with the tactical, positional and psychological aspects of football. In the upcoming season I will be breaking down each match with my thoughts and tactical analysis of the players and the action on the field. The following are my thoughts on the final game of the season at Craven Cottage against a very efficient and hard working Fulham side.
The team set out in a 4-3-3 with Chamakh at the point, van Persie on the left and Nasri on the right. In the midfield we had Wilshere in the middle flanked by Ramsey and Diaby with e back 4 of Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen and Gibbs.
Defence - The center backs were spread too far apart leaving gaps for the Fulham strikers to exploit. Almost all of Fulham’s chances came from our left side or down the middle with Djourou often too tight to his man. Zamora appeared to have the physical ability to take Djourou one on one and also win most physical battles for the ball in and around the 18 yard box.
Gibbs was often caught out of position and was often drawn inside when what was needed was for him to maintain his position on the outside and allow the midfield to get back and help in the center of the pitch. When playing a narrow formation like a 4-3-3 there is no natural defensive help for the outside backs, therefore positioning and discipline are extremely important.
When getting forward the defense was actually very efficient in helping create chance with Sagna in particular setting up an excellent chance for Gibbs early in the match. Had it not been for and excellent save from Schwarzer, Arsenal would have been up 1-0.
Midfield - The midfield was (as always these days) extremely narrow and unable to create many clear chances. What was needed was for the outside backs to get forward to provide width but with the midfield not tracking back as often as needed the fullbacks are effectively nullified because of the danger on the outside flanks when left exposed.
The ball moved much too slowly from midfield to forward and around the midfield in general. In order to play narrow the team has to move the ball quickly and make much more effort off the ball to open the defense up. In this game the midfield was lethargic and slow and obviously playing out what they saw as a meaningless game.
Wilshere provided a few excellent passes with one in particular setting up a chance for Nasri that was saved by Schwarzer. In other parts of the match he appeared very slow and clearly feeling the effects of playing so many matches without much rest.
Diaby was excellent for the first 20-25 minutes and then proceeded to switch off and provide little help to the team, especially in defense. Ramsey clearly needs matches to get back to the form he was in before his long injury lay off. As a whole the midfield was excellent in the beginning and end of the match but was off the boil in the middle period when Fulham had their best chances.
Forwards - The forward line did not receive the needed supply form the midfield often enough. While the movement off the ball was excellent some of the positions taken up were not helpful to the team. While I commend Chamakh for working very hard for the team, he at times tends to drop too deep.
This seems to be a combination of instruction from the manager as well as no balls being played early into the box allowing him to duel with the opposition defender for headers, etc. Nasri had an up and down match. Was creative at times and sometimes way too slow on the ball causing missed opportunities to put the opposing defenders under pressure.
First Fulham goal: The ball was given away in midfield by Ramsey to start the move for Fulham. Gibbs sucked inside and out of position doubling on Dempsey and leaving his flank so that Zamora was free once the ball was played through. Wilshere, Ramsey and Diaby were all jogging as Sidwell and Dempsey sprinted freely into the box.
Zamora has his pick of either of the two and finds Sidwell who then finished well. Once again the offside line was staggered and we were unable to track the late runners coming from midfield. No one took charge in the back to get the line up and level.
The outside backs need to change their body shape and face inside so that they can look across the field and know when to step up.
First Arsenal goal: Diaby picks up the ball from Sagna’s defensive header and beats 2 men before playing a 1-2 with Chamakh. Upon receiving the ball be plays a first time ball into the feet of van Persie who shows excellent control with his first touch and finishes with his second. This is the best of Diaby and of Arsenal.
The ball moved quickly through the midfield and then into the forward allowing us the move the defenders away from goal as they had to come out to cut off the run from Diaby and to pick up Chamakh as he dropped deeper. This opened up the middle for RVP who was clear on goal and just needed the excellent pass to set up the chance.
Second Fulham goal: Dempsey switches play to the opposite side to Greening. Greening hangs a nice ball up at the near post and Zamora finds the space between the defenders and heads home.
Both center backs were at fault here but the goalkeeper is the main culprit. This ball should have been claimed by the goalkeeper to keep from putting his defenders under pressure.
Second Arsenal Goal: All that we have come to love about Arsenal in attack. A quick long pass from Vermaelen out to Walcott who controls excellently. Theo then beats his man inside with an excellent finish to the far post. Simple, direct play at pace. This is what Theo is excellent in doing and what he should be used for, not as a winger.
Overall the match had its ups and downs but a draw was a fair result. In the off season we need to sort out our midfield and decide if we are going to bring in the players who can add some discipline and steel to our side or if we will continue on the same path we have been on. We missed Song and Clichy most in this match as it seems that we gave ground way too easily outside and didn’t have a midfield player discipline enough to cover. We also missed Cesc but that is for another day …
So long fellow Gooners until next season!