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Havertz and Odegaard: The unconventional Arsenal strike duo

By on February 7, 2024

With Kai Havertz and Martin Odegaard, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta may have just introduced the ideal strike system that would catch top teams off guard as they attempt to contain Arsenal.

It’s been widely noted that Arsenal have struggled in front of goal at times this season. They headed to the mid-season break doing everything else correctly except for scoring, which caused them to drop points in games they should have won vs West Ham and Fulham.

Signing a top striker over the winter was viewed as the solution to the Gunners’ problems. However, we may never know if that was the right solution because a move for a striker in the winter never happened. With no striker signing, Arteta has been forced to devise a new tactical strategy that will see his team be efficient in front of goal.

Notably, in the clash with Liverpool, Gabriel Jesus was ruled out of the game due to injury. A decision had to be made about who would replace the Brazilian; Arsenal’s manager chose Kai Havertz.

Havertz and Odegaard, Arsenal’s No. 10s

The Gunners outwitted the Reds thanks to their tactical approach of not playing Havertz as a traditional striker as expected. Not many noticed it, but in the 3-1 triumph over Liverpool, Havertz and Martin Odegaard played as double 10s at times, with Arsenal wingers Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli out wide, in a 4-2-2-2 formation.

The Liverpool centre backs had a tough time on Sunday night. Playing a team with an obvious striker is simple; you can mark him out of the game, but it is more difficult to face a team that does not have a clear striker. Havertz and Odegaard’s movements dragged Liverpool’s defenders out of position to create space for their wingers, and their movements contributed to Saka’s goal. Konate’s dismissal was also due to Havertz dragging him into places where he didn’t want to be, resulting in the two yellow cards he picked up.

Interestingly, the aggressive approach that was successful against Liverpool on Sunday had already caused problems for the Reds earlier this year in an FA Cup game. Liverpool won 2-0 but Arsenal were by far the better team for large parts of the game and were unlucky not to win comfortably. .

“It’s difficult to prepare for what Arsenal did tonight,” Klopp said, as quoted by Football London after the FA Cup win back in January.

“In the first half, it was a different set-up, with Havertz and Odegaard more or less as double No. 10s,  4-2-2-2 with wingers wide. [A] massive threat.”

It will be fascinating to see if Arteta continues to use this approach, but it has the potential to be a game changer, similar to the influence the inverted full-back role had.

If Arteta can get his attack firing on all cylinders again, this new tactical set-up could propel Arsenal to the title this season.

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