Arsenal’s full-back playing in a hybrid role is hurting them

Arsenal suffered their first defeat of the season on the weekend, losing 1-0 to Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. Mikel Arteta’s men are now third in Premier League with 24 points from 11 matches.

That was the Gunners’ second successive loss after their 3-1 reversal against West Ham United in the EFL Cup just days prior. The defeat on Saturday did not come without controversy, but that is not going to change the outcome of the match.

The Magpies, meanwhile, rose to the sixth place with 20 points from 11 matches. Their performance against big clubs remain consistent and they are one of the most dangerous clubs in England. However, the Gunners would have wanted to sneak out at least a point from the match against Newcastle.

Takehiro Tomiyasu being in a hybrid role hurt Arsenal’s defense against Newcastle United

Arsenal has been following Manchester City’s 3-2-2-3 formation for quite some time now. In this formation, Oleksandr Zinchenko or Takehiro Tomiyasu, who started against Newcastle, playing in a hybrid role by moving in to central areas as a defensive midfielder while his team are in possession.

However, that often meant that the Gunners had to defend with a back-three. It was quite a dangerous ploy against Newcastle, who boast speedy wingers in their line-up. The likes of Miguel Almirón, Anthony Gordon and Joe Willock ran riot as a result, making good use of long passes played from the deep.

Other teams might have taken note of it and a team like Liverpool, for example, can hurt them in a similar way. Hence, the Arsenal manager will have to think and take a call in this regard.

Arsenal’s resources and playing style not quite similar to that of Manchester City

Manchester City usually play Rodri and John Stones as their two holding midfielders, with the latter being in a hybrid role. However, there are some difference with Arsenal in terms of the players and also the playing style.

Rodri is one of the best defensive midfielder in the world and his ability to play long crosses into the opposition penalty box is rivaled by almost no other player in the same position.

Neither Zinchenko nor Tomiyasu are able to play aerial balls into the box in a similar manner. Rodri can and does play as a deep-lying playmaker – something that neither Zinchenko nor Tomiyasu can be called.

In addition to that, Martin Ødegaard’s absence against Newcastle meant that they had no player in the final third capable of spreading the ball around to the flanks from the center in a quick manner.

Moreover, Arsenal also does not dominate possession as strongly as the Cityzens does, which means that their opponents see more of the ball and can hurt them with long passes more frequently.

Next three matches are crucial for the Gunners

Arsenal’s next three opponents in the Premier League are Burnley, Brentford and Wolverhampton Wanderers. All those teams are capable of causing an upset, with Brentford having already done so against Chelsea in October.

Hence, Arteta will have to make sure that his team does not suffer a similar fate against any of those three oppositions. It is very important for the Gunners to obtain as many points as possible from those three matches if they are to keep the pressure on Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. It remains to be seen whether they are able to do that.

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