Arteta’s defensive model shows signs of long-term success / Gabriel tactically perfect for Gunners’ new system

LONDON - ENGLAND: Gabriel steps out of the back three to press. Bellerin covers to maintain the team's solid shape.

Defensive frailties

Arsenal have long suffered from a lack of defensive steel in their ranks. Mediocre signings in such a pivotal area of the pitch have cost them.

Structurally, the team were coached poorly. The latter stages of Arsene Wenger’s tenure and Unai Emery’s short reign were peppered with mistakes.

The back 4 left spaces, wing backs pushed up too high leaving space for dangerous counterattacks. Last season’s home defeat to Chelsea displays this.

LONDON - ENGLAND: Arsenal concede late goal to Chelsea to lose 2-1 in Arteta's first big test during his tenure. (Source: Wyscout)

LONDON – ENGLAND: Arsenal concede late goal to Chelsea to lose 2-1 in Arteta’s first big test during his tenure. (Source: Wyscout)

Early into Arteta’s tenure, the Spaniard was yet to iron out the persistent mistakes. Even when reinforcements arrived, players worried about themselves instead of the shape.

Players like Mustafi would dive in, become predictable and concede goals in big games at the worst times.

LONDON - ENGLAND: Arsenal concede late goal to Chelsea to lose 2-1 in Arteta's first big test during his tenure. (Source: Wyscout)

LONDON – ENGLAND: Arsenal concede late goal to Chelsea to lose 2-1 in Arteta’s first big test during his tenure. (Source: Wyscout)

Things have changed

Arteta realised the frailties in his back line were a priority. Arsenal switched from a back 4 to the back 3 we see today. This enabled much greater coverage of the pitch when under pressure and gave the wing-backs security when pushing forwards.

LONDON - ENGLAND: Arsenal hold off Liverpool with fierce defensive display. Arteta's 3-4-3 formation held off the champions. (Source: Wyscout)

LONDON – ENGLAND: Arsenal hold off Liverpool with fierce defensive display. Arteta’s 3-4-3 formation held off the champions. (Source: Wyscout)

It also enabled the midfield to press and win back possession. If when playing against a top side, such as Liverpool, who beat the press, the defensive shape stays intact.

Then the wing backs have time to chase back. Failing this, one centre-half can press the wide man with 2 centre-backs still covering centrally leaving no one isolated.

LONDON - ENGLAND: Arsenal hold off Liverpool with fierce defensive display. Arteta's 3-4-3 formation held off the champions. (Source: Wyscout)

LONDON – ENGLAND: Arsenal hold off Liverpool with fierce defensive display. Arteta’s 3-4-3 formation held off the champions. (Source: Wyscout)

The final piece

Gabriel was thrown head first into the first team after David Luiz’s neck injury. After a shaky start, the Brazilian displayed a complete understanding of his role with mere weeks of training under Arteta.

Gabriel was tasked with being the centrepiece of the 3-man back line. Stepping out to clear crosses, long-balls and corners with ease.

The Brazilian’s excellent tackling ability was on show and the defensive structure changed to suit it. When Gabriel would step out from the back the back 3 would be maintained by a full-back or centre midfielder dropping in.

In the below example when Fulham attacked, Gabriel pressed out to win the ball, Hector Bellerin drops in and reconnects the back three.

LONDON - ENGLAND: Gabriel steps out of the back three to press. Bellerin covers to maintain the team's solid shape.

LONDON – ENGLAND: Gabriel steps out of the back three to press. Bellerin covers to maintain the team’s solid shape.

Arsenal have finally invested significantly in a quality defender. In combination with Arteta’s system, Gabriel’s quality could have a dramatic effect on the Gunner’s fortunes this season.

See also: The latest on Chelsea’s defensive pecking order following Thiago Silva arrival

Jadon Sancho speaks out over transfer ‘noise’ amid Man United links


This article was edited by Josh Barker.

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