A Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brace helped Arsenal to a 4-0 thumping of Norwich City on Wednesday evening, with the Gabonese striker’s two goals making him the fastest player in Arsenal’s history to reach 50 league goals for the club during the Premier League era.
The 31-year-old managed the record in 79 games, four fewer than previous record holder Thierry Henry. It is remarkable that Aubameyang has managed this achievement in arguably Arsenal’s worst spell in the Premier League, playing in dysfunctional systems with a general lack of quality around him.
However, under the guidance of new manager Mikel Arteta, Arsenal are developing a structure, and an entertaining style of football again. Whilst it will take time for Arteta’s ideas to be fully implemented, the Gunners showed signs of the young manager’s philosophy coming into practice in their home match against Norwich, which should be seen as strong signs of encouragement to Arsenal fans. Here are some of the best examples where Arsenal caused the Norwich defence havoc.
Throughout the game, especially down Arsenal’s right hand side, Arsenal were able to break down the Norwich back line with a simple pass. Midfielder Dani Ceballos, pictured with the ball below, would play a pass in between the left back and centre back to the onrushing Hector Bellerin, the number two pictured running below.
This is something Arsenal utilised repeatedly during the game, exploiting the huge space between Norwich left back Jamal Lewis and stand-in centre back Alexander Tettey, who usually plays in midfield.
Ceballos’ clever body shape, something Arteta is known to have worked on with players during his time at Manchester City, makes the left back Lewis believe the ball is going short to Bellerin’s feet instead of in behind the defence. This results in Lewis’ body facing Bellerin, so when Ceballos plays the disguised pass between him and Tettey, it becomes much harder for the left back to intercept the pass as he’s facing away from the ball.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, their right wing-back on the day was unable to take advantage of the situations he found himself in, delaying a number of crosses to his fellow Arsenal team mates. However, with new signing Cedric Soares’ promising first appearance, which he topped off with a goal, Arteta will be hoping this pattern of play will prove more successful in their coming games.
The deep-dropping striker
Sometimes referred to as a ‘false 9’, this is a role used where strikers come closer to the ball in order to drag players out of position and leave room in behind for players to run into. Alexandre Lacazette may not have scored, but one simple movement helped create a very good attacking chance for the Gunners, which led to their second goal of the night.
In the above picture, you can see striker Lacazette, pictured middle on the right, dropping deep into goalscorer Granit Xhaka’s position and dragging the Norwich defensive midfielders towards him. Xhaka, pictured furthest right, has spotted the space the striker left and decides to start his run. The below picture is the scenario Arsenal found themselves in once David Luiz, pictured with the ball above, plays an excellent pass to left wing-back Kieran Tierney, pictured running onto the ball below.
As you can see, Lacazette’s simple movement deep has left the Arsenal attack with a huge amount of space to work with. In this move, Xhaka, now pictured far left, essentially takes up a striker’s role as he continues his run into the box and scores from an Aubameyang pass after the forward ran in between defenders Max Aarons and Ben Godfrey, the two pictured closest to him.
A problem that Arteta has faced this season is a lack of goals from midfield, so this is certainly something that was worked on in the training ground. It was a very well executed move and a good sign of things to come for Arsenal fans.
Overall, this performance was certainly one of the most promising since Arteta took over. The players looked like they had a clear idea of what to do on the pitch, showing good in-game intelligence on multiple occasions, and they controlled the play for large periods of the game. Whilst Arteta will want this quality of performance for as close to the whole 90 minutes as possible, with Arsenal starting the second half poorly, it was a very encouraging game on the whole.
The team’s next test is to carry over this type of performance into games against better opposition, with Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham and Liverpool their next four fixtures before facing Manchester City in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. These are a huge couple of weeks for Mikel Arteta’s men that could decide if they play European football next season or not.