Hi, and Welcome Back to Football Made Simple.
In the 2003/04 season, Arsenal made history by becoming the first, and so far only team
to go through the season unbeaten. They started 04/05 as strong as ever with 8 wins and a
draw. Until they faced united on match day 10 and wenger face his eternal rival. Sir
Alex ended the invincibles, with a 2-0 win thanks to Rooney and van nistelrooy in a fiery
match. but how did the match play out tactically? In this video we take a look.
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below. A quick reminder of the formations used by
both managers. United, the home team lined up in the following 4-4-2. Arsenal on the
other hand lined up in a 4-4-2 of their own. We’ll start with how arsenal looked to attack.
When arsenal had the ball deep, United rarely looked to press them high up. Instead the
forwards looked to stay deeper, Rooney in particular looked to stay closer to Viera
to look to prevent balls into him. The fullbacks were relatively conservative in the first
phase, and the centre backs didn’t necessarily use them as a build up option. As a result,
the long pass was a common option. But often it wasn’t just a hopeful punt up the pitch.
With the midfield still relatively deep, there would be space between midfield and defence
and henry and bergkamp would often look to grow this space through opposing moments.
One of them would go long, whilst the other dropped deep behind the midfield. Usually
henry was the one going long but these roles could be reversed. It gave the defence limited
option, if they went with henry, it grew the space for the chipped or driven ball into
bergkamp who could then turn and be dangerous. But if they looked to compact the space henry’s
pace was deadly and he could look to get in behind.
The other way they went long was when the united midfield dropped deeper and they couldn’t
advance down the centre. Henry would pull out to the left hand side whilst Reyes moved
more centrally to drag the fullback in, meaning that henry would be in space on the wing,
allowing him to receive the ball on the flanks. From here, Arsenal began their preferred attacks
down the left hand side. Whether it was Henry or Reyes wide, Ashley call was always quick
to both over and underlap and generally, they looked to overload the left hand side to try
and work a way for Cole to cross, or a ball into bergkamp here. This was particularly
effective as initially, Ronaldo had the work rate to track back as the match wore on he
let Cole go. This was useful on the counter as united were quick to play out to him to
take advantage of the space left by Cole. However, in the first half particularly, Henry
drifted away from the box and bergkamp isn’t one to pin centre backs back, so the box was
often unoccupied. But, By playing into midfield and quickly out to Ljungberg, they could isolate
him 1v1 against Heinze for the cross and they did create a change in this manner.
One thing to note is that in the first half, Edu played in advance of Viera whose main
role was to distribute the play. As a result, he wasn’t able to make his trade mark forward
runs. In addition, it important to note in the first half, due to Ljungberg’s width,
Lauren often didn’t advance high. In the second half we saw some tactical changes.
When they had the ball, Viera was now freed from his defensive role as he essentially
switched roles with Edu. Meant he could now position himself just outside the box when
on the ball, allowing bergkamp to push higher up into the box as Viera now Occupied zone
14, and henry was still drifting in similar areas. To increase the numbers in comparison
to the first half, Freddie Ljungberg was now effectively deployed as a forward in this
half when attacking. This again was to give henry the freedom to look for space knowing
the forward role was taken care of. At the same time, Lauren was not given the freedom
to advance high up the pitch to make up for Ljungberg and provide the crosses into the
box. However, The change in Viera’s role was
most visible when arsenal were deep in their half. Viera could not carry the ball on quick
transitions due to the increased freedom. A combination of his dribbling ability and
his pace meant he could easily progress the ball up the pitch.
Now, Let’s have a look at how United looked to attack.
When United has the ball deep, Arsenal’s front 2 often used their cover shadows fairly
effectively to prevent the ball into the midfield area. This meant united also often opted to
go long from deep. Rooney, as the secondary striker tended to drop into the space while
van nistelrooy pinned back the centre backs. How ever, often Scholes and Neville remained
deep meaning that the two could become isolated if Rooney didn’t instantly trap the ball.
The other way united looked to go long why by first utilising the fullbacks in Heinze
and Gary Neville to draw out Reyes and Ljungberg. Heinze and Neville generally didn’t look
to When the winger was drawn, Rooney often dropped into this region to draw the fullbacks
attention, and give him two options of who to cover. Depending on the opposition fullback’s
movement, the fullback could then look to roll the ball into Rooney or pass it down
the wings. But it is important to note that united had
more success building up through midfield on the left and this was due to the roles
of gigs and henry. Henry when defending, would often push out wide to the left to sit on
the right back, Neville, meaning the left was where united often chose to build up.
Scholes would then often drop deeper into the space and in this match giggs’ rarely
hugged the touchline, instead choosing to tuck in to form a third midfielder to create
a 3v2 against arsenal’s midfield. As a result they were able to keep the ball in the middle
third more effectively. But the relationship between Rooney, Giggs
and Heinze was United’s main attacking avenue. When gigs tucked in Rooney would move higher
and wider to drag in the fullback towards the centre and thus create space for Heinze
to overlap into the vacated region. Once the ball went wide, united looked to overload
the box with bodies for the cross, however for the mot part, Heinze was wasteful with
his deliveries during the game. But when united were on the attack, arsenal
were lethal on the counter. When Lehman had the ball he would role it out into the midfield
and Viera, now freed from his defensive duties could flood forward. But more commonly, with
Heinze having joined the attack, Ljungberg made arrowing runs between the centre back
looking to get in on goal. They generated a potential big chance this way, with Ferdinand
looking to bring Ljungberg down as he bared down on goal, but nothing was given.
United’s first goal was also controversial as Rooney looked to go over without contact,
although minutes later, Ronaldo was also denied a stonewall penalty. Rooney’s goal came
as arsenal were shading the equaliser, and the disorganised backline was ripped apart
for the tap in. It was a controversial and fiercely contested
battle and the bad blood continued into the dressing rooms with the famous pizza gate
incident. IT is notable how far tactics have progressed since this time period, but I would
love to know what your thoughts or memories on this match are? Drop them down below. But
that’s all for today and remember, keep it simple.