ARSENAL have made an extremely impressive start to the season, after backing manager Mikel Arteta in the transfer market.
He signed Portuguese midfielder Fabio Vieira from FC Porto for £35m and made a double raid on former club Manchester City to snap up Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus for £45m, and the Ukrainian star Oleksandr Zinchenko for £31m.
Add in the return from a loan spell in France for the French central defender William Saliba, and Arsenal have added depth and quality to their squad.
Wins so far away to Crystal Palace (2-0) and at home to Leicester (4-2) have only really been part of the story.
More impressive than the results have been the performances as Arsenal have impressed on a tactical level.
Even more than that, Arteta seems to be getting a tune out of Granit Xhaka.
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In particular Xhaka has been working well with new signing Zinchenko and an intriguing partnership is developing.
Zinchenko as the inverted fullback
The term inverted fullback is all but inescapable now within the world of football.
It started with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich when he decided to ask Phillip Lahm to move inside when Bayern were in possession and essentially create an extra midfielder.
We have seen Manchester City and Liverpool, the two most successful teams in the modern Premier League era, use their fullbacks in this way to create more control in matches.
Now, with the signing of Zinchenko we can see that Arsenal are starting to look to play in the same way.
When Zinchenko signed for Arsenal there were some questions around which position he would play, perhaps as an attacking midfielder.
So far this season we have seen Zinchenko play as a left-back for Arsenal but his movement and rotations have very much seen him move into central positions when Arsenal are in possession.
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In both league games this season Zinchenko moved centrally in order to create overloads and allow Arsenal to play from the back and through the thirds.
One of the keys in Arsenal’s strong start to the season, however, has been the interchanging of positions between Zinchenko and Xhaka.
As Arsenal look to build their attack, Xhaka will move deeper or wider and look to pull an opposition midfield player out with him.
This is the sign for Zinchenko to dive inside into the unoccupied space from where he can receive the ball and play.
The same goes for more advanced areas with Zinchenko looking to combine and move centrally in the final third.
The movement of Xhaka, who moves intelligently, creates space that can be occupied not only by Zinchenko but even by Martinelli or Jesus.
Granit Xhaka’s key role
In football, nothing works in isolation.
Signing Zinchenko and asking him to play as an inverted fullback would not be effective if you did not have central midfielders who were willing to move to create space for the Ukrainian to move into.
This is where Xhaka comes in.
The Swiss international midfielder has always been versatile in terms of his role for Arsenal.
When they started to try to play out from the back properly, first under Unai Emery and then under Arteta, it would often be Xhaka who would take responsibility for dropping back into the defensive line to create a passing angle for his goalkeeper or defenders.
Now, the versatility and mobility of Xhaka is even more evident.
Such has been the impact that the new signings have had at Arsenal though we can see that Xhaka is having even more of an impact on matches and getting on the ball more than ever before.
It is just that he is not necessarily getting possession in positions that we would traditionally expect for a central midfielder.
Now, he is more likely to get on the ball in the central third of the pitch either in the channel on his side or even in the wide areas.
From these positions his passing ability and ability to find creative passing angles have helped Arsenal to unpick deeper defences.
Xhaka has the ability to make teammates better through his movement and willingness to sacrifice himself by moving out and away from the space that the ball will be played through.
He is also very good when it comes to counterpressing when Arsenal lose possession of the ball and as such his positioning wide or high and in the channel has been useful for Arsenal in quickly regaining possession of the ball.
For such a short period of time we have already seen Zinchenko and Xhaka form a strong relationship and understanding.
We have to be clear though that even though their partnership and rotations are amongst the strongest and most obvious, the movement ahead of them of Martinelli and Jesus has also been extremely impressive.
The fact that there are so many rotations throughout the Arsenal side when they are in the attacking phase has played a significant role in their early season success.
What does this mean?
Honestly, at this stage, it is nothing more than an interesting observation. As we know, the Premier League is a marathon and form comes and goes.
Tactically, Arsenal look interesting – but it takes more than interesting tactical ploys to mount another campaign for a Champions League qualifying spot.
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But, the early signs are a lot better than they were last season that’s for sure.
If Arteta can keep Xhaka on the pitch for long periods this season and keep him playing like this, it creates plenty of opportunity for Arsenal to attack.
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