Monday, March 20, 2023

Pressing updates from Singapore

An overview of Arsenal’s Singapore tour by Hatta Aziz of</a>

“Press” has been the operative word here for Arsenal since they have arrived in Singapore. We were given exclusive access to watch Arsenal train for 20 minutes at the Singapore American School under ominous dark clouds and once again during a session for selected fans.

Pressing as a team in training

The mood on the pitch was anything but dark as the players seem to enjoy themselves training with Unai Emery and coach Juan Carlos Carcedo.

Warm up sessions also seem to vary from what we used to see under Arsene Wenger. We saw some focus on agility for 1-v-1 jockeying and quick stop-start movement that could prove useful for defending and launching counter attacks respectively.

A training routine that caught the eye was a massive game of Rondo where all the players would surround 3 players in the middle who have interlocked hands. This obviously makes movement more challenging for the 3 men who are tasked to win back the ball but could force them to harmonize their movements for when they press for the ball in the game.

There were exercises which saw a game of keep ball which had 4 players in the middle in a tight square formation looking to press the player in possession and keep their shape to prevent passes through the lines. No doubt trying to work on pressing coordination too.

A practice match of 7 v 7 caught the eye as well with Aubameyang and Leno being the major highlights. We constantly saw Aubameyang lurking on that inside left channel to good effect against Mustafi who played on the right side of defence.

We’ve already seen the Gabon forward play on the left last season and in this season’s friendlies and he might be a regular feature there if the manager wants to use Lacazette in the team as well. It was good training as well for Mustafi who had to sharpen his focus against a striker who excels in ghosting past defences.

The first impressions of Bernd Leno were also positive, striking diagonals with ease to help his team with a breakaway. Expect sharper counter attacking play if we play to this strength.

A case for the defence

Holding, Mustafi and Bellerin had many separate sessions led by coach Juan Carlos Carcedo, assisted by Steve Bould. Much of the focus was on playing out from the back with Mustafi stepping out to make diagonals with Hector Bellerin further up the field. Bould worked very closely with Holding on practicing his technique and movement to play his way out of an opposition forward closing down on him.

Bellerin also trained on a very specific move in the opposition third – he was practicing a quick cut and dribble towards the space between the opposition full back and centre back. This might be a tactic that minimizes his issues with his crosses as this move will get him closer to the box as opposed to whipping crosses from close to the touchline. His speed might also prove to be an advantage as the move might antagonize the opposition in taking him down for a foul in and around the box.

Mavropanos, Sokratis and Chambers also had separate training sessions together to practice playing as a back three which saw Sokratis stepping out often to make passes and intercept the forward.

It was no wonder that these 2 formations were seen in the Atletico game in the first and second half respectively. The PSG game had Mustafi and Sokratis starting and despite being the most experienced defenders within the team, their partnership looked porous at times – allowing PSG’s faster paced players to get in behind them. Chambers and Holding seemed to be the better pair in the second half of that game.

I would not be surprised if Holding, Mustafi and Bellerin started the game against City in a back 4 with Emery yet to decide on his preferred left back. The back 3 could be a possible plan B as well for cup games and the Europa League.

Keeping that line high

Both matches against Atletico and PSG showed hints of Emery’s plan. However, the best execution for it has been in the first half against Atletico in a 4-3-3 formation. The defenders took a collective effort to remind each other to move up as a team and quite often, they managed to keep the line steady.

The full backs were also more defensively switched on than before with both of them often tucked in next to the centre backs. We saw very little of both full backs bombing forward recklessly without covering back. If one moved up, the other full back stayed back with the extra security of Guendouzi cutting any opposition passing lanes.

There was a moment against Atletico where Arsenal won a throw in close to the right corner flag. It was quite a sight to see the whole team condense the space to within that quarter of the pitch with Kolasinac positioned in the centre circle.

“Protagonists” for the high press

Arsenal did not press the ball incessantly through the games. Quite often, they dropped back if they didn’t manage to win the ball in the opponent’s third. They had one leader who would signal to his teammates nearby to press for the ball. In both matches, we had Ramsey and Elneny who would instigate the press when the opportunity was right.
However, Ramsey was more successful in doing so than Elneny.

It was also not a coincidence that the team played better as a pressing unit when Ramsey was on the pitch in the first half of the Atletico match and the second half of the PSG game where they put PSG to the sword.

A player who does seem a little out of place in this style was Mesut Ozil. In the first half against PSG, he did seem to continue his role of free floating player and wasn’t pressing the opponents heavily. With him on the pitch, the team did look to revert to the same possession-based style that featured under Arsene Wenger. Emery did acknowledge this in the press conference as a positive but the upturn in performance in the second half might give him food for thought.

Touchline tactician

A very welcoming sight down the touchline was Emery who was ever present in cajoling his team to move well. Not limited to just asking the defensive line to press higher, he gestured heavily to the midfield to get them in the right positions to anticipate counter attacks.

A tactic that he seems to favour is to get the wingers to temporarily switch position for about 10 minutes at the 55-minute mark. Expect this to be the Emery era’s choreographed tactic akin to Wenger’s 70-minute substitution. Emery was also an ever-present figure in training, moving from group to group to fine tune their progress in his training methods.

Matteo Guendouzi – Midfield Metronome

Despite all the star names that appeared on pitch, the name that was on everyone’s lips after each match was Guendouzi. He showed exemplary positioning to support his team with and without the ball. The young Frenchman was always a passing option between the defence and midfield and was constantly calling for the ball which was quite brave for a young player who just joined the team. He slipped in between centre backs seamlessly when either full back bombed forward and showed a keen awareness to be placed at the right place to cut passing lanes by the opposition midfield.

He wasn’t too bad on the ball either with the ability to receive on the half turn, shield the ball and make accurate “moderate value” passes to keep the game moving. There’s something Michael Carrick-ish about his game which bodes well if he gets to grow more into this position.

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That was a good read, particularly intrigued about how the style of Ozil influences the team. I would love to get an analysis of that in more detail.


I think Ozil’s vision and calmness on the ball comes to play right after the press. You need someone who can make the right pass to hurt the opponent while they’re disorganized.


I’m pessimistic about that. For footballing reasons.
I think he will look “out of place” more often in this new system.


Ozil won’t necessarily press but his positional improvements will mean he’s still going to contribute more.

We don’t need 10 pressing outfield players.

We celebrate him as the king of assists, able to pick out passes that noone else spots. So we have to let him play that position.


Great read. Thanks.

Darren Spencer

I’m really getting excited for the season to start. A selfish wish is that we played friendlies every two days until the league begins, just so I could see more Arsenal.


Guendouzi has impressed me more in 2 games than Elneny has since he has been at Arsenal… Hopefully he gets a real good run out at Europa


whatever elneny can do guendouzi can do it and better. it might because two similar players were playing together but elneny was invisible unlike the guendouzi for most of the game


Wenger is bright, I wonder why he didn’t work more on this?


Wenger – as indeed most fans – is a romantic. He wants the players to find roles according to their skilss and what the team needs themselves.

This could of course create a very loyal and strong group. But it also requires time, which the PL does not offer. You must cut corners through issuing orders, unfortunately.


He had all the time in the world.

Sànde Class

THIS! I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, Le(gend) Prof is waaay too bright and erudite to ‘just’ be a football manager. Get my drift?

Donald's Trump

I don’t have time to watch the friendlies as have some stuff going on BUT I haven’t been this excited for the start of a season for years.

Faisal Narrage

Interesting about Ozil.
It’s what many of us feared but always got shut down because with Ozil you’re binary; hate or love him.

Some of us had fair and valid concerns. Still do.


I certainly don’t hate Ozil, He’s likely our most gifted footballer, and can be a real joy to watch, I just think we suffer collectively from his inclusion at times.
Apparently this makes me a hater… rather than someone on a Arsenal forum with an opinion that differs….


I am of the same opinion and get nothing but down votes-around here – not that I care.
Ozil is very talented but also restricted to quite a few tactical implementations.
Mostly a number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 or in either flanks to a much less benefit.
Many Arsenal fans choose to ignore his very apparent flaws.

Thierry bergkamp

Not saying I agreed or disagreed with you, I down voted you because you don’t care.


Put your down votes in the air, wave em like you just don’t care…


Really interesting read, thank you. I wouldn’t be too worried about Mesut and Mo at his stage as they only just joined up with the team and missed all the previous training, I’m sure they’ll be up to speed soon. The new coach and his team deserve huge credit for freshening things up and it’s clear to see that the players are really enjoying it, also that Unai isn’t afraid to discuss tactical things in his interviews, a breath of fresh air.

Ya gooner

Also gives us an opportunity to see how Steve bould changes or grows in his style of coaching. Good stuff


Hey it’s Hatta here and I wrote the article. You’re probably right as the World Cup contingent are quite behind the main bulk of the squad. That said, I was surprised how much Ozil’s presence set the tempo and style of the game despite Emery trying to get the team to do otherwise. Ozil will play a big part as a “technical leader” and Emery might have to make a decision on Ozil if he doesn’t play to the right tune. It’s still early days and I hope Ozil can be a functioning member of this new setup.

No Longer Laughing Stock

Great article, cheers fella


Best arsenal blog!all the other so called ‘blogs’ are just there for click baits for fake news!keep up the good work!


Ozil won’t press very often, it’s not his style. I don’t expect a soon to be 30 year old to change his game. He tended to disappear in games against the big teams who didnt give us any time to settle. Game management will be key to success this season and he may need to be taken out of the team against opposition who have an intense press too. Same with Xhaka, who also doesn’t like being pressed. We should focus on midfield organisation as well because I don’t think we are strong enough defensively. The back four need protection… Read more »

Faisal Narrage

For the life of me, can’t understand why you’re so heavily downvoted.

You’re not saying anything outlandish, just reasonable stuff really. Not even attacking Ozil.


So many options for Emery in different parts of the pitch; but the midfield is the most interesting for me. All of sudden Guendouzi looks to be a genuine candidate for first team football and we could end up having him, Torreira, El neny, Ramsey, AMN and Xhaka fighting it out for 3 spots.

A good headache for Mr Emery to have


The repeated claims that Ozil goes missing in big games are incorrect.

He goes missing in big games *away from home.*

A Different George

In fact, last season, the entire team went missing in away games, big and small (12th best away record in the Prem). Nothing could be further from the truth at home where our record would have challenged for the title.


I know that squad harmony isn’t the end all be all, but from all the training videos Arsenal has put out, and the joyous goal celebrations so far in preseason, it does seem like this team really enjoy each other. I think any side with title aspirations it helps to have that chemistry. Of course, many players will be competing for places, but it seems that hasn’t created any bad blood. Also great to see Auba and Laca really getting along. You get the sense they’re eager to play with each other. And although Auba down the left might not… Read more »


This is all an illusion. No offense. 1) Pressing – Wenger and company also adopt high press. The issue is sustaining it. We were able to press high and effectively for short spells before losing shape and frankly losing steam. High press is nothing new despite what media would like to manufacture with Klopp’s supposedly innovative Gherkin pressing. It started with Barca ad Pep. How a team presses in unison over large spells is key. BUT as we have seen at the world cup, teams who surrender possession and drop deep have had success particularly if they have the assets… Read more »


Really enjoyed this article, thank you.

Thierry bergkamp

I always thought Carrick was highly over-rated


I for one am shocked – SHOCKED – that Auba did well against Mustafi on the wing.

In all seriousness great piece. Really appreciated it.

Naija Gunner

Lovely piece, had a good read. Very comprehensive. Thumbs up ?


Very good info, thanks

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