Yesterday marked the 188th clash between London’s two powerhouses Arsenal and Chelsea. In his first altercation with the blues, Arsenal’s 20 year old starlet Alex Iwobi stole the show. Now a bona fide starter, Iwobi has become a hit among the Arsenal faithful in the 8 months he’s been featuring in the 1st team. Iwobi conjoins guile and technique with productivity; rare for a player so young.
Arguably his forte, is his capacity to find the ball in dangerous areas. Not your archetypal winger, Iwobi has a propensity to roam inside and act as a vertical link between lines so Arsenal can progress through the thirds quicker. This manifested by Walcott’s goal in the 14th minute.
Furthermore, interestingly in this goal, the three Chelsea midfielders; Fabregas, Kante and Matic all seem transfixed onto the ball & Özil as Özil is traditionally Arsenal’s staple creator. Iwobi’s goes under the radar and roams beyond the three Chelsea midfielders, demonstrating that ‘unknown factor’ the youngster brings. This capacity to find gaps and create adds an element of unpredictablity to Arsenal’s game as they aren’t solely relient on Özil to find those pockets and create; taking the workload of his German counterpart.
Positional impact on the FB’s game
With this influx of players coming inside to the halfspaces it liberates our FB’s to stay high and wide using them as our staple outballs (Bellerin as the right winger for Walcott’s goal) a healthy equilibrium. With Iwobi coming into the halfspaces, it perplexes the opposition’s RB whether to stay or track. In this instance, Ivanovic comes inside, vacating space for Monreal. The images below exhibit how high Monreal and Bellerin are positioned with our wingers tucking in.
Amid all the offensive praise & contribution, Iwobi’s defnensive contribution has been according to many, his main ruination in the past weeks. Yesterday, this was improved. Arsenal’s defensive structure for the majority was a taut 4-4-2 with Alexis & Özil as our staple outballs if possession is regained. Chelsea operated with a three in midfield giving them a numerical superiority to our two – Xhaka & Cazorla. For all their guile and potential on the ball, the midfield dyad of Arsenal could be caught out by Chelsea’s robust trio of Kante, Matic & Fabregas as they aren’t particularly mobile. Astutely, Iwobi would often come inside acting as an ancillary central midfielder, bringing horizontal compactness. This shutoff those passing lanes to Fabregas in the right halfspace. The images below show Iwobi’s defensive positioning alongside Xhaka & Cazorla.
With this horizontal compactness, it liberates Özil & Alexis to break fastly and utilise their talents more offensively than defensively. This tactic also curtailed Fabregas’ impact on the game as he had to roam into less threatening areas.