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Arsenal vs Brentford: Key tactical change

One key change for Arsenal that helped them get the win against Brentford.

Brentford FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Arsenal were being held scoreless by Brentford deep into the game, but Arsenal were able to get the win to go top of the table. With Kai Havertz scoring his first goal from open play, the result was due to a key substitution, but there was another change from Arsenal that enabled the Gunners to get the win.

Arsenal started the match with Trossard in central midfield. It looked as if Arsenal were looking to do what they did at Everton: control possession away at an intense, physical side, with Trossard taking the role of Vieira. Yet, Arsenal’s biggest threat came from crosses, and it was this route that led to the best chances of the match for Arsenal: Jesus’ header in the first half that was saved and then turned in by an offside Trossard, and the goal.

Yet there was a change in the second half. Let’s take a look.

The left image is the second half; the right image is the first half. Excluding corners, you can see where Arsenal were targeting Brentford in the second half: into the penalty box, looking at the far post. In the first half, the crosses were shorter, reminiscent of Xhaka’s ball for Jesus last season, looking for space on the side of the outside centre back.

This is almost counter-intuitive when you think about the physical profile of the teams, but it speaks to two things: firstly, Arsenal had pushed Brentford back, thus the space was only with late man runs to the far post. Secondly, in Nketiah and Havertz, Arsenal brought on two attacking players who were going to target the 6 yard box.

Look at this series of crosses.

Martinelli is looking for the far post, but no one is attacking it. Ødegaard belatedly makes a late run, and Tomiyasu is the furthest forward.

Nketiah is on now and Saka has possession. Nketiah has made a dart to the far post, but Saka can’t quite work the space to deliver the ball. Arsenal keep possession and work the ball out to the left.

Both Nketiah and Ødegaard are targetting the far post, overloading the Brentford centre back, Ben Mee. Trossard has to keep the central defender occupied. Mee wins the aerial duel but has to concede a corner, and Arsenal can keep the pressure up.

Once Havertz was on, Arsenal looked for the far post run, a move that they have been working on with Havertz. Finally, it paid off, and Kai Havertz scored again.