It’s fair to say the Premier League can struggle with some tactics.
Over the past few years, Mauricio Pochettino’s sides (Southampton and Spurs) have been the best at pressing in the country, followed by Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers and, now, Jürgen Klopp. Nobody else really bothers with the tactic.
Sure, there’s pressure on the ball, but teams struggle to stay compact and hunt the ball down together. It just isn’t coached. Southampton, now under Ronald Koeman, do still manage to press well on occasion and the tactic blew Arsenal away on Boxing Day. A 4-0 defeat on the south coast was a huge blow, but Theo Walcott knows we need to deal with the press better on Tuesday night.
“We need to be aware of their threat going forward,” the England man told Arsenal Player as he looked ahead to Tuesday night’s game. “How they press from the front is very good and as soon as we get past that first press, I’m sure we can cause all sorts of problems with the attacking threat we have.”
Pressing (and I’m in danger of falling into a rant) isn’t just about application and desire, but intelligence and organisation. Saints do it better more than most in England, and Arsenal are yet to really get to grips with it.
What we can do, however, is get at them on the occasions we do beat the first wave of pressure. Alexis Sánchez can be vital in that regard, as can Walcott himself as he looks to exploit the space in behind.
The Boxing Day defeat was followed by two wins, but Arsenal are without a win in their last three Premier League matches and it’s time to stop the rot.
“We need to put this right. We haven’t won for a couple of games in the league so we need to get back to winning and make things right.
“It’s going to be a tough game, as every game is, but there’s a lot on this one.”
We have more big games coming up soon, but to get back to winning ways is crucial. Walcott could be huge on Tuesday night, but avoiding that first press – if Southampton decide to press us rather than sitting back – is what it’s all about.