Many among us will have recognised that the teams we struggle against are those who operate a ‘high press’. By this we mean that they don’t wait for us to get into their half of the pitch before engaging us but look to regain possession as soon as the ball is lost by pressing as a team high up the pitch. They will often double or treble up on the player in possession of the ball.
We have just one player in the current available squad who instinctively plays in this way, Alexis Sanchez. How many times have we seen him chase ball across the pitch only for the opposition to frustrate him because the rest of our midfield is sitting back and enabling them to bring the ball forward virtually unchallenged. Welbeck is another player who works hard for the ball and Elneny also seems to be out of that mould – I can’t wait to see those two in the side.
I think it is fair to say that Arsene doesn’t generally favour the high press. Lately it seems that he has chosen to absorb the pressure for 70 minutes when playing against the HP sides, waiting for them to tire, and then to make his subs and become more adventurous. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If our finishing is not up to scratch, the strategy fails.
Pep Guardiola is a master at coaching teams in the HP system. Barca were brilliant at it under his management and now he has recreated it at Bayern. It’s not so difficult when you have players of that quality – but in the EPL we now see it being employed by teams whose players are not of our standard – Southampton, Liverpool and the miscreants down the road (and no doubt man city next season). All of these teams will cause us problems.
There are two questions I would ask:
- Why don’t Arsenal play a high pressing game? Is it because we don’t have the players who can operate in that system – or simply that the manager doesn’t favour it?
- Why does our passing game fall apart when we are being pressed all over the pitch? Surely our coaching routines should enable us to deal with this.
Any ‘experts’ out there who can explain this to me?