Beesotted contributors The Gowler and Paul Kowalczyk (@BeesBreakdown) give us the tactical and statistical lowdown of Brentford’s loss to Arsenal.
Thomas Frank switched to a 3-5-2 as Ajer, coming back from injury, was reintroduced to the starting XI. Janelt got the start again, filling in for an injured Nørgaard. Keane Lewis-Potter was absent from the matchday squad as he picked up a knock. Arsenal lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Gabriel Jesus leading the line.
Brentford started the match with a tactical gameplan consisting of long balls towards Toney, Mbeumo and Rico Henry. Brentford let Arsenal control the ball while Brentford set up their compact defence. Brentford initially had some success getting into dangerous positions, threatening from crosses and winning freekicks in the final third. Throughout the match, Raya continued to play long balls forward, which Arsenal typically ended up winning. A slight tactical adjustment towards the end of the first half, provided some limited chances for Brentford, but in the end the Bees were outmatched.
At the half
xG: Brentford 0.09 – 0.74 Arsenal
Possession: Brentford 36% – 64% Arsenal
xG: Brentford 0.53 – 1.52 Arsenal
xG Set Play: Brentford 0.14 – 0.16 Arsenal
Big Chances: Brentford 1 – 2 Arsenal
Other Brentford stats:
Total Shots: 5
Aerial duels won: 21 (72%)
A skillful Arsenal squad took advantage of one of Brentford’s worst performances in recent memory. Thomas Frank switched to a defensive 3-5-2 formation, although this usually looked like a 5-3-2 throughout the match. Brentford played conservatively and rarely sent Hickey forward, although he put in a good performance on defence. Nørgaard’s absence was felt, as Brentford lacked pressure to close down opposing players in the middle of the pitch.
A consistent tactic utilized throughout the season for Brentford has been creating chances from long balls, but against Arsenal Brentford primarily used Raya to play those long balls. In the past, Brentford used Ben Mee and Jensen to play dangerous balls in behind. Brentford looked most threatening when playing out of the back, letting Arsenal press, and quickly beating the press. Brentford rarely created chances going forward when Raya played long balls, yet this did not change for much of the match. Raya’s first short pass was 44 minutes into the match. It’s obvious Thomas Frank saw his gameplan not working, but Brentford still struggled to adjust in the second half.
Brentford’s high press did not give Arsenal much of a problem. Arsenal looked comfortable on the ball and 509 accurate passes (86%) demonstrate the quality of this squad. Sometimes Brentford was able to win back possession when pressing on throw-ins or goal kicks, but would quickly give the ball back to the gunners.
Brentford did well winning 21 aerial duels (72%) and completing 31 accurate long balls (53%), but these stats are misleading when only completing 238 passes (74%). Brentford would win aerial duels, yet not win possession. Even worse, when Brentford would win possession, simple mistakes or more long passes would end with Arsenal counter attacking.
Brentford was happy to let Arsenal control possession. Arsenal completed more passes in Brentford’s half (335) than Brentford completed passes the entire match (321). Unfortunately, Brentford continued to struggle defending corners and closing down players shooting outside the box. Hopefully Thomas Frank can work to sort out some of these issues going forward.
Follow @BeesBreakdown on Twitter for highlight breakdowns, tactical analyses, pre-match info and more.