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Arsenal have secret weapon for beating Liverpool, Tottenham and Man City in title race 

 Arsenal have secret weapon for beating Liverpool, Tottenham and Man City in title race 

Disregard all preconceived notions about high-level soccer characterized by techniques like tiki-taka and precise passing, as elite teams are now reverting to older strategies. Specifically, both Arsenal and Manchester City are spearheading a shift in the style of play among top-tier teams.

In previous years, the typical line-up at Emirates Stadium or Etihad Stadium would have comprised smaller yet skillful players. However, changes in recruitment have led both clubs to favor stars who are still highly talented but place a greater emphasis on size and physicality.

These teams aim to manage every aspect possible, both on and off the ball, demonstrating their proficiency. A quick look at the two anticipated title contenders reveals more frequent long passes and often a lineup with several center-backs or players strategically positioned to receive knockdowns for a follow-up play—an approach reminiscent of Sam Allardyce’s Bolton team from years past.

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It’s an interesting sight that brings alterations to the teams’ style of play and introduces new critical priorities for winning games. 

Mikel Arteta’s current Arsenal squad might not offer the same level of enjoyment and excitement as the previous season, yet they exhibit a stronger defensive performance as a result of their strategic choices in pursuing a title.

Their undefeated start in the Premier League underscores this, and their diverse player pool with varying skill sets provides solutions. 

However, the top teams’ shift toward a more strategic approach is also leading to a resurgence in the importance of set-pieces.

Corners, free-kicks, and even throw-ins hold significant sway over a team’s performance, particularly in critical game situations, as demonstrated by Arsenal’s experiences. 

Set-pieces have emerged as their secret weapon, displaying impressive statistics in both defensive and offensive aspects across their initial ten games.

Examining their defensive strategy, based on OptaAnalyst data, the Gunners have yielded the lowest xG (Expected Goals) from set-pieces this season, with only 1.47 xG from 16 shots faced—a figure that also stands as the lowest in the league. 

This performance puts them five units ahead of their closest competitors, Manchester City. Conceding just one goal from set-pieces significantly validates these statistics, highlighting their proficiency in this area.

Shifting focus to the offensive aspect, Arsenal’s performance is even more noteworthy, considering they appear to surpass their own predicted metrics. Although they rank seventh for xG generated from set-pieces with a figure of 3.21, they trail behind teams like Brentford, West Ham, Everton, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, and Newcastle. Nevertheless, they are outshining all of these teams.

Mikel Arteta’s squad currently leads the league by scoring six goals from set-pieces, which is three times more than some of the teams ranking higher in xG for set-pieces. This equates to registering two goals for every single xG accrued from scoring opportunities, significantly tilting the odds in their favor.

In the recent win over Manchester United, the late goal by Declan Rice from a corner likely made a crucial difference, even though Gabriel Jesus later scored when the game was once again wide open. This success prompts inevitable inquiries about how Arsenal consistently manages to achieve this level of performance from set-pieces.

One effective method is to eliminate the goalkeeper from influencing set-pieces, given their capability to rush out and catch the ball with their hands. The use of blockers has gained significant attention, akin to tactics often witnessed in the NBA, where a player is strategically positioned to impede an opponent or create a path.

In Arsenal’s case, Ben White has frequently been assigned to block the opposition goalkeeper, thereby creating opportunities for the team to capitalize on during set-piece plays. A notable instance occurred in the tight 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace, where Thomas Partey’s positioning created space for Eddie Nketiah following a rapid free-kick by obstructing defenders.

Although the striker didn’t directly convert that opportunity into a goal, he did manage to earn a penalty, ultimately resulting in the winning goal during a tense early-season match. This strategy is an area where Arsenal has notably excelled compared to their title rivals such as Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottenham up to this point. The team aims to maintain this advantage throughout the entire season.

 Arsenal have secret weapon for beating Liverpool, Tottenham and Man City in title race 

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