AFCB’s tactics guru Andrew Enloe underlines Blackpool’s naivety against Arsenal…
This is going to be a short one.
Honestly there was very little tactical interest from an Arsenal perspective in this game; it was a match between a title challenger and last season’s favorites for relegation from the Championship. Diagrams and chalkboards are going to be pretty pointless.
Blackpool came to The Emirates looking at what Hull City and Aston Villa had accomplished in previous seasons; come in playing a pretty attacking formation (4-4-2, 4-3-3), press aggressively, and hold a high line (which requires a lot of concentration regarding the offside rule). And on a few occasions it worked, notably when Gary Taylor-Fletcher headed Stephen Crainey’s cross wide – though it’s worth noting that the cross came from the right side of the defense while Sagna was off the pitch after receiving treatment.
In theory, Blackpool’s strategy sometimes works. But all they accomplished was the formation (4-3-3/4-5-1).
I don’t like it when teams foul Arsenal incessantly, but I have to admit that in the past it’s been a pretty damned effective tactic (though last season’s matches away to Stoke and Hull showed that the team is showing a bit more resiliency). Blackpool fouled 5 times over the course of the whole match.
And they seemed to be relying quite a bit on the offside rule without appearing to understand it. Arshavin, Chamakh, and Walcott frequently found space on the outskirts of the back four and exploited it.
And that pressing? It just didn’t happen. Blackpool lined up with a bank of four and a bank of five when defending, which allowed Rosicky to find a slightly embarrassing amount of space between the lines. Rosicky was excellent, and his directness is something Arsenal need at times, especially when the team as a whole tends to take too long to release the ball.
Ian Evatt’s sending-off made things even worse.
I know why people like Ian Holloway. He’s an honest positive character. But he killed his team when he brought off one of his three central midfielders, Ludovic Silvestre, to add a central defender. The already open midfield was made even more spacious for Wilshere and the already-rampant Rosicky. Diaby was completely shorn of his defensive duties and got to take as many touches as he wanted. Taking off one of the Blackpool wide midfielders would have been a much more prudent strategy.
There’s a difference between “having a go” and “playing into Arsenal’s hands” and Holloway did the latter.
Tactics took a back seat at The Emirates on Saturday. I seriously doubt many other teams are going to play Arsenal with the naivety Holloway’s troops did. But that’s not what this match was about; it was about boosting confidence. Job done.
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