Arsenal managed to score a late goal to pick up a 2-2 draw against Palace on Monday and it was two different sets of performances from the Gunners in that match.
Mikel Arteta’s side started the match in fine fashion, picking up an early goal and controlling the tempo perfectly. But as the clock ticked on, the Eagles came back into the match and became the dominant side.
The manager had to opt for a change in personnel and formation due to the injury to Bukayo Saka and he’s admitted that the right system will be key to beating Aston Villa, their next opponents on Friday.
The manager said in his press conference: “If we play 4-3-3 the way we played the first 20 minutes [against Crystal Palace], we win the games, but if we start to play the way we played the following 20 minutes, it doesn’t work, because again, that is a transition game and we don’t have the players to do that when we play in that formation.
“The play in the last 20 minutes is something that we haven’t done a lot as well, but it worked because we generated what we wanted. We have to be flexible and we have to play players in their strengths and when they are not playing.
“It is a test [against Villa] and they have shown how difficult they can be against us, because we haven’t got the results that we wanted against them recently. So we know they have improved their squad, the way they have played a lot in the last few seasons they are showing a lot of ambition the way they are recruiting as well, and it will be a difficult game for sure.”
Arsenal to see a change in formation vs Aston Villa?
Arsenal started the Palace game with a 4-1-4-1 system wherein Thomas Partey was the only defensive midfielder. But that plan went out of the window as soon as Saka was taken off.
Mikel Arteta had to bring in Lokonga as a replacement meaning the Gunners had to go back to a 4-2-3-1 formation. And since Saka is a doubt for Friday’s game as well, the manager might have to use this basic formation once again.
Villa have brought in some fresh attacking players during the summer and at the same time, Ben White and Gabriel have wobbled under pressure. So it will be sensible on Arteta’s part to use a double pivot in defensive midfield.
Dean Smith’s side have scored 12 goals in the league so far this season meaning they have an eye for goal. And if Arsenal were to use only Thomas Partey as the defensive screen, he could very well be played around by the likes of Buendia and Ollie Watkins.
Finally, Aston Villa use a two-man front line so one of them is always coming back to link up with the midfield which is why it makes even more sense to use a 4-2-3-1 system with Partey and Lokonga in the middle.