West Ham United – Arsenal: If Only Arsenal Had An Elite Playmaker… (1-0)
After a shaky start, West Ham succeeded in making this an even match that could have gone either way. The home team scored the game’s only goal from a set piece and defended that minimal lead until the final whistle. Arsenal seemed to lack what they deliberately kept outside of their squad: a creative playmaker to feed their prolific attackers.
Tactical analysis and match report by Erik Elias.
Mesut Özil is still one of the best attacking midfielders on the planet. For various reasons - mainly injuries - he has only played 1122 minutes out of a possible 2880 so far this season. Since he is Arsenal’s best-paid player, one would expect that when the German number ten is fit, he is a nominal starter. Right?
Not for manager Unai Emery, who has omitted Özil from several match squads now, for ‘tactical reasons’. More details, or perhaps the true reasons for this exile, have not yet been made public. Against West Ham United, Arsenal had to try and beat their opponent without – arguably - their best player.
Emery has tried all sorts of formations this season, ranging from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3 to 4-4-2 diamond. The last couple of weeks, the nominal shape of the team in the Premier League has been 3-4-2-1, and Emery decided to stick with it away at West Ham. The most interesting aspect of this formation involves the . . .