Arsenal vs. Manchester City: Film Focus on Community Shield Tactics

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Arsenal vs. Manchester City: Film Focus on Community Shield Tactics
David Rogers/Getty Images

Arsenal bested Manchester City, 3-0, in the traditional curtain-raiser for the new season on Sunday, seeing Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud all find the net.

The Gunners dominated the opening 60 minutes and capitalised on their good play, with City appearing lacklustre and lethargic throughout.

Let's take a tactical look at the game and identify how Arsenal achieved victory.

 

Starting XIs and Formations

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Arsenal went with a flatter, more 4-3-3-esque look than usual with Jack Wilshere and Ramsey interchanging in midfield. Calum Chambers played centre-back in place of Per Mertesacker, and Alexis Sanchez started.

City started with Gael Clichy at right-back, Dedryck Boyata partnering Matija Nastasic in defence and Stevan Jovetic up front in a 4-4-2.

 

Midfield Rotations

Arsenal's 4-3-3 outnumbered City's 4-4-2 in central midfield, and the Gunners used the man advantage by moving the ball quickly and passing in neat, yet penetrative, triangles.

Manuel Pellegrini's men failed to keep up, and with Yaya Toure looking rather leggy, it was no surprise to see Arsenal put together 25-plus minutes of solid, possession-based dominance.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

In particular, the runs of Wilshere and Ramsey were untrackable at times, with both slipping into space and dribbling with positivity.

The key was how the midfield three rotated and shifted; they were Oscar-led Chelsea-like at times. Space began appearing in front of the defence and behind Fernando, who struggled under the pressure of doing two or three mens' jobs.

 

Runners In Behind

Alexis Sanchez started the match, and what we saw from him was promising. His final ball was awful, and he looked reluctant to shoot, but structurally, his importance was huge.

Not since Theo Walcott donned an Arsenal kit have we seen a Gunner who can run in behind the defence and stretch play vertically. Mathieu Debuchy steamed forward and picked out Sanchez several times on the right, working City's flank and torturing Aleksandar Kolarov.

BT Sport
Alexis ghosts in behind Kolarov and crosses from the byline.

What it means, long term, is that an open, expansive game will not live and die solely by Walcott; Alexis can provide the running to stretch teams too. Mesut Ozil, once plugged back into the side, will prosper now the right peripherals are in place.

Alexis was removed at half-time, and what he brought to the game only became more obvious in the second period.

 

That Flank

We looked at Kolarov's flank as a potential deciding area ahead of the game, and true to form, it played a major factor in swinging the play.

Debuchy, adventurous early on, pinned Kolarov back and had a big hand in Arsenal's territorial and possession-based dominance. After nine minutes, the Gunners had racked up 71 percent of the play, per WhoScored.com, and the Frenchman's aggressive positioning helped them stay on top.

His finding of Alexis' runs pushed Kolarov even further back, and the Chilean continued to drop into space on the right throughout the first half.

BT Sport
Debuchy sat high on Kolarov and forced Nasri back too.

Arsenal scored while they were on top and while Debuchy was on top; City looked close to starting a comeback as soon as they recalibrated and freed Kolarov up.

David Silva, far more reliable in possession, came on for the second half and began finding Kolarov's runs to spring him in behind. All of a sudden, the low cross became a threat, and Debuchy, going the other way, looked far less certain.

Just as Silva was turning the tide of the game, Giroud's golazo ended the contest.

 

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