Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Jamie Carragher praised Mikel Arteta’s adaptability after his “brilliant” tactical adjustment helped rescue a point for Arsenal in their 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Arsenal looked to be heading to their first Premier League defeat of the season after Cole Palmer put Chelsea in front from the penalty spot and Mykhailo Mudryk’s cross-shot outfoxed David Raya.

But Declan Rice pulled a goal back with an instinctive long-range effort following Robert Sanchez’s mistake before Leandro Trossard converted Bukayo Saka’s cross to salvage a point for the Gunners.

Speaking on Monday Night Football, Carragher talked up Chelsea’s “fantastic” performance, saying he was “massively impressed” by Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to use a box midfield to nullify the Gunners. He then explained how a late switch to a direct approach led to Arsenal’s equaliser.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights Chelsea and Arsenal’s 2-2 draw

How Chelsea’s box midfield nullified Gunners

“It was a fantastic performance by Chelsea and they should have won the game,” said Carragher. “But what I loved from this game was that both managers were adaptable.

“Mauricio Pochettino almost won the game, and Mikel Arteta got himself back in the game with a tactical change.”

Carragher started by looking at Pochettino’s decision to line up without a natural No 9, instead using a four-man box midfield to cause Arsenal problems both defensively and offensively.

“Chelsea didn’t go in with a striker, they went in with a box midfield and it helped them get the penalty for the first goal,” he explained.

“You’ve got a situation where you’ve got two No 10s, Cole Palmer and Conor Gallagher, and the Arsenal centre-backs aren’t quite sure whether to go in there (and mark them).

Conor Gallagher and Cole Palmer are highlighted as twin No 10s, with Raheem Sterling and Mykhailo Mudryk asked to provide the penetration from wide positions

“What Chelsea tried to do was get penetration from the wide players in Raheem Sterling and Mykhailo Mudryk.”

Looking at the build-up to the penalty, which was awarded when William Saliba was adjudged to have handled Mudryk’s header, Carragher said: “They get out and get in behind the Arsenal midfield.

Chelsea charge forward in the build-up to the penalty having got in behind Arsenal’s midfield

“Before you know it, they are playing through them. The ball goes wide and we know what happened. They got the penalty from it. That was one of the times they hurt them with the ball.

“That’s what that system did in terms of going forward, but, in the main, that system was there to nullify Arsenal.

“We know (Oleksandr) Zinchenko likes to go into midfield. He got brought off at half-time because he struggled with Raheem Sterling but also, he wasn’t really having an effect in that midfield position.

Chelsea’s box midfield was made up of Moises Caicedo, Enzo Fernandez, Cole Palmer and Conor Gallagher

“Very rarely, if ever, can I remember (Martin) Odegaard getting the ball between the lines, or one of the wide players coming in to one of the pockets, because they couldn’t go central, because Chelsea stopped it, they nullified it.

“They forced Arsenal to go back and wide, where they got lots of men around the ball. We very rarely saw the Arsenal No 8s get any joy. I was massively impressed with Chelsea’s tactical set-up.”

Carragher was surprised, however, when Pochettino changed shape with the introduction of Nicolas Jackson for Mudryk midway through the second half. “I naturally thought Jackson would go to a wide position and they would keep that box midfield.

“It unnerved me, from a Chelsea point of view, that he went 4-2-3-1, but they actually improved in terms of going forward.

“So, I was watching the game thinking, ‘how has this happened?’”

How Arteta used Havertz to go direct

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Jamie Carragher looks at how Mikel Arteta’s tactical decisions late on against Chelsea changed the game in the Gunners’ favour

Carragher resolved that the change in momentum in fact stemmed from Arteta’s decision to take substitute Kai Havertz out of midfield and put him up front, instructing his team to go direct.

“We know the Declan Rice goal was a bit of a freak,” said Carragher. “That didn’t bring Arsenal back into the ascendancy. Chelsea continued to dominate.

“But then, watching the game last night with the cameras Sky provided for me, I saw something that Mikel Arteta did from the side of the pitch.

“Emile Smith Rowe, Declan Rice and Kai Havertz were that midfield three that you normally associate with Arsenal. That’s the system that they play.

Arsenal’s midfield three was made up of Emile Smith Rowe, Declan Rice and Kai Havertz before Mikel Arteta changed his shape

“The game has stopped and Arteta is trying to get instructions onto the pitch. He’s waving his arms about and Havertz then comes over to Smith Rowe to have a chat.

“I thought, ‘OK, maybe they’re changing sides.’ But no, it was a big difference, in that Havertz was going up front and Smith Rowe was going deeper, alongside Rice.

“Then, when the game starts, it’s 4-2-4. So, Arteta is now saying, ‘We can’t play through this team. I’ve made changes of personnel and we’ve had no joy. I’ve got to do something different.’

Emile Smith Rowe has moved to the right of Declan Rice, with Kai Havertz now part of a front four

“So, what do they do? They go direct.”

Carragher then analysed how Havertz immediately played a key role in the equalising goal.

“One of Havertz’s big strengths is that he’s really good in the air. He chests it down and keeps the ball alive, and the pass from Ben White is fantastic.

“How many times did we see Arsenal get between the lines when they were trying to play through Chelsea? Never. But they get it through winning a second ball, then they are in business.

Having kept a long pass alive, Kai Havertz picks up Ben White’s pass between the lines in the lead-up to the equaliser

“Saka is one-vs-one and it’s a brilliant goal from Trossard at the back post.”

Carragher then noted how Arteta instructed his team to continue to go direct, using one free kick, taken by Raya just inside the Arsenal half, to again launch a long pass forward.

“You never see top teams play long from this sort of position. Normally it’s, ‘put it down and let’s play.’ But Arteta is telling Trossard to get over there.

Mikel Arteta instructs Leandro Trossard to stop holding the width on Arsenal’s left flank and instead join the fray centrally as the Gunners go direct again

“Late on in the game, Arsenal, a team we know for playing great football and getting between the lines, they are just going direct. They are trying to get it to Havertz.

David Raya’s passing stats show how Arsenal went direct in the final stages of the game

“We’re in 2023 and that’s like watching football from 1993, in some ways. But I’ve got no problem with it. What I admire about it is that it shows the different ways to win.

All 20 outfield players were positioned in one small section of the pitch as Arsenal went direct again in the closing stages of the game

“You can’t always win the same way. At times, you’ve got to adapt and that was brilliant from Arteta. Late on in the game go up front, we’re going to go long.

“That for me is great management and adapting to a situation that you find yourself in.”

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