Saturday, June 15, 2024

Tactics column: How Jorginho and Havertz were key to unlocking Liverpool

This article was first published in The Fresh Arsenal Digest – a free weekly newsletter. Sign up here. 

Sky Sports Monday Night Football did a good job of covering our defensive shape in the Liverpool game, and in turn, stole my idea for the week’s newsletter. So instead, I decided to shift to, how did Arsenal produce so much xG with a more ‘defensive’ line up compared to our usual setup. 

Gabriel Jesus out, why no Nketiah? Jorginho instead of Smith Rowe? On paper these were perceived by Arteta sceptics as more negative selections, but really the tactic this selection of players allowed for us to play meant Arsenal were more dangerous than ever. 

  • Havertz, very much the ‘false’ 9 – 

Havertz regularly dropped deep into the midfield, deeper than Odegaard in order to connect the play and free up space for Odegaard between the lines – with Arsenal very much aware that the Norweigan is our killer final ball player.  

  • Jorginho forming a pivot, taking up Xhaka-esque position – 

Jorginho’s deeper presence alongside Rice for much of the game, Arsenal created more of a 4-2-2-2 shape – The Italian’s punchy through balls connecting Odegaard in more dangerous central areas, a bit like Xhaka was doing last season. 

  • On the ball, Havertz played in similar zones to when he plays as a left eight, to create a 4-2-2-2 box midfield – 

Here we see that more of a 4-2-2-2 box midfield shape, created by Havertz vacating a similar zone to when he plays as the left eight. 

Again below we see a similar example of the box midfield shape as we build up. Havertz dropping slightly deeper and being the receiver to then create a huge amount of space for Odegaard between the lines. 

  • Jorginho, line breaking passer – 

Jorginho is a great line breaking passer and this midfield structure gives Odegaard that space between the lines and Jorginho’s progressive passing gets him into the game. 

Below, in the second half, a similar example of Odegaard sitting between the defence and midfield of Liverpool and being found by Jorginho. 

It’s a brave pass to take on and other more conservative passers may just go sideways here, but Jorginho takes on the brave ball and finds Odegaard to create a really dangerous chance. 

Saka is now high and 1v1 with Gomez and a similar quality pass from Odegaard could have created a clear chance in this scenario. 

We know Declan Rice is a fantastic player and he was brilliant again in this game, bur he doesn’t have the incisive punchy passing of Jorginho. That is illustrated in the graphic below. 

  • Havertz deep link up creates new problems for opposition defence – 

Havertz dropping deeper can frustrate some in this scenario, but it’s clearly a plan, again creating that box, it gives Odegaard support between the lines, which subsequently allows for Arsenal’s biggest goal threats in Martinelli and Saka to play higher and in more space. 

This move then progresses to playing Martinelli through, and Saka being free at the back post. The pace of pass in this instance meant no clear chance was created but it very nearly was and this is how Arsenal scored many goals last season. It’s understandable why some (including Gary Neville on commentary) shout in this scenario, ‘where’s the striker’, but the play to this stage is what gets Arsenal here, and now their two biggest goal threats are in the box in some space. 

In the below instance, that leads to the goal, van Dijk and Trent have been dragged into the midfield to track the space Havertz and Odegaard have created, quick passing and movement from Havertz creates the space. 

Again, because Martinelli and Saka are high and wide, Konate and Gomez are wide as they are aware of their presence, allowing Havertz to spin into the space and in this instance, he does make that traditionally ‘centre forward run’ because the space is there, and whilst his finish is underwhelming, ultimately his movement and Arteta’s tactics is what leads to the opening goal. 

Explore more