Arsenal aren’t pressing teams high up the field as much as they did in the early part of the season, according to data from Football Whispers.
Twitter user Ashwin Raman posted statistics on pressing from before and after 4th December 2018, in an attempt to show the impact Ralph Hasenhuttl is having at Southampton. However, the graphs ended up showing something just as revealing about Unai Emery’s Arsenal.
Still early days into his spell as Southampton's head coach, but it looks like Ralph Hasenhüttl has already implemented his high-pressing style well at St Mary's. Even though these charts are skewed by two (interestingly) different outliers, look at Southampton's jump. pic.twitter.com/fwQmKAT3aO
— Ashwin Raman (@AshwinRaman_) February 1, 2019
As you can see, Arsenal have dropped from an average of 4.5 possession regains in the final third per game, to an average of under 3.0, the lowest figure of any team in the league. To go from the second-highest figure of all 20 teams to the lowest is a pretty huge dip.
What it means is that Emery’s side aren’t winning the ball back high up the pitch nearly as much anymore. This is likely in part thanks to the change in formation.
Before, playing with a number 10 and two wide players (usually Iwobi/Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan), the four attackers covered a wide area and could press together.
Recently, Emery has used a three in midfield, removing one man from the equation, and he’s also used his front three much more centrally. It’s no surprise they aren’t pressing from the front as well, as it’s become pretty easy to play around them.
With Mkhitaryan returning from injury and Denis Suarez joining as a wide option, perhaps we’ll see Emery reverting to a 4-2-3-1. The problem is that it means playing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out wide, or dropping either him or Alexandre Lacazette.
We’ll see how the head coach decides to move forward, but he needs to look into any and all reasons the team have been so unsuccessful at pressing recently. It’s meant to be a key part of his game, so Arsenal will have trouble without it.