A tale of two different Arsenal teams

Arsenal drew 2-2 with West Ham United in the Premier League at the London Stadium on Sunday. With that draw, Arsenal are now leading Manchester City by only four points, with the latter having a match in hand.

More importantly, the Gunners squandered a two-goal lead for the second consecutive time after having done so against Liverpool the week before.

It has almost been a tale of two different Arsenal sides in a single match. In the first half, Arsenal were absolutely dominating and dictating terms. However, the Gunners looked rather shaky in defense in the second half.

Arsenal dominating possession initially with their fluid football

Arsenal are a beautiful team to watch when on song. They dominate ball-possession almost effortlessly with their brilliant passing. Some of their players are quite mobile and their off-the-ball positioning allows their team to keep the ball for extended periods of time.

Gabriel Jesus falls back regularly to help his side keep the ball while Martin Ødegaard and Granit Xhaka switch to the right and left flanks, respectively. Kieran Tierney or Oleksandr Zinchenko will shift to the central midfield to play as a deep-lying playmaker.

Arsenal had nearly 80% ball-possession against West Ham during the first 20 minutes and scored twice. The numbers were not as one-sided against Liverpool, but the Gunners still managed to take a two goal lead. However, the complexion of both the matches changed drastically thereafter.

Arsenal struggling to defend against long balls and through passes

As soon as their opponents started playing long balls to disrupt their rhythm, Arsenal looked a different side. They were no longer able to play their fluid game with short passes and they were lacking the counter-attacking prowess to hurt their opponents.

If Trent Alexander-Arnold nutmegged a jaded Zinchenko to play the cross for Liverpool’s equalizer, Declan Rice’s press allowed West Ham to win the ball back and score their first goal. Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka are top class players, but they typically do not excel in counter-attacking movements because of how they generally dominate possession.

Gabriel has been solid in Arsenal’s defense and Rob Holding has given his best, but even that has not been enough to bail their side out in the last couple of matches. Thus, Mikel Arteta had to introduce Jorginho in place of Thomas Partey to reinforce his defence against West Ham.

The Gunners are in a precarious position at the moment. Should they lose against Manchester City next week, Pep Guardiola’s side will have a golden opportunity to finally lead the race for the Premier League title. However, Arteta and Arsenal will look to not concede the lead, as it will be very difficult to regain it.

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