Cazorla talks tactics, how Arsenal get their width

Kieran Gibbs

The controlled Spaniard talks-up the importance of Arsenal's full backs.

The positional awareness of Arsene Wenger's full backs at Arsenal has been cited by technical midfielder Santi Cazorla as a fundamental aspect of the Gunners' attack.

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Against Borussia Dortmund, for instance, Bacary Sagna contributed a key pass… his position? Right by the touchline, about 35 yards from the opponent's goal-line. The ball was sent in as if it was delivered by a winger. Sagna's passes as a whole were scattered along the touchline, near enough equal in number between those made in his own half and those made in the opponents.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to Sagna and the right berth as Kieran Gibbs, too, mirrors this play, albeit on the left flank. While he did not attempt as many passes as Sagna, he too was found in the opponent's half making a pass as often as he was in his own.

'I believe that full backs have a pivotal role in our team,' said Cazorla to Arsenal Player recently.

He elaborated: 'We don’t have pure wingers. Perhaps Theo Walcott is the most natural winger in the squad. He likes to be on the wing to make use of his speed, but apart from him we don’t have natural wingers.

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'Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky or myself are not sticking strictly to the touchline. Therefore we open up spaces so our full backs have a corridor where they can go up and down. Our ball possessions are long but they can break through by surprise. That’s why full backs are really important for our team. You can see that every game.'

Following the 1994 World Cup, Jack Charlton claimed that the most important attack-minded players on the pitch were the left and right backs. Renowned tactical football writer Jonathan Wilson followed this up in 2009, highlighting that successful World Cup sides contained iconic players playing these roles.

For Arsenal, though, the responsibility of their attacking impetus is, this season, often shouldered by Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud.

But, if they are marked out of the game, Sagna and Gibbs would need to work on skills such as crossing (both only have a 10% success rate in the Premier League this season) and pass completion rate in the opponent's half (Sagna = 77%, Gibbs = 74%) if they are to be mentioned in the same paragraphs as the players Wilson notes… Gianluca Zambrotta and Fabio Grosso of Italy, Cafu and Roberto Carlos of Brazil, Lilian Thuram and Bixente Lizarazu of France et al.

image: © Ronnie Macdonal

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