In the build-up phase, Arsenal tries to generate numerical advantage from the back and find the player with advantage to progress. They do not have a fix structure, as they build-up using two or three center backs depending on how the opponent is pressing, always respecting the team principle of ensuring numerical superiority in the first line.
In the midfield, Arteta forms a square in the center of the field with two midfielders at the base and two midfielders in the pockets, as seen recently with other managers such as Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona) or Pep Guardiola (Manchester City). This ensures that the team has always four inner players, allowing them to have numerical advantage in the middle as we could see in our recent webinar ‘How to Play a 4-3-3 System with 4 Midfielders‘.
We can note that the square in the center of the field is used by teams that seek to control the ball and dominate in the center of the field having a large number of options for developing an attack through the center. At Arsenal, this square in the center of the field is not always formed by the same player players, and it is sometimes left full back and other times the left winger who plays inside as the fourth midfielder.
In the first case, when Zinchenko is playing as a left full back, he performs the function of an inverted fullback, playing at the base of the square next to Partey or Jorginho. It is then Xhaka, who moves up to the pockets to complete the square with Odegaard. This allows Xhaka to play closer to someone else’s penalty area and actively participate in the completion of attacks in the final third of the field.
In the second scenario, it is usually Tierney who plays as a left back. One of the holding midfielders, Thomas or Jorginho, plays in the support zone, and Xhaka descends to the base. It is then the left winger, Martinelli, who completes the square. In this case, Tierney supports the attack by gaining depth on the flank, and providing the width to the team.