Dom Howson column: How Owls tactically outsmarted Gunners

Lucas Joao
Lucas Joao

It must be a wonderful feeling for a manager/head coach when something you have worked dilligently on in training pays off on a match-day.

It can take time for players to buy into the manager’s philosophy. There is no magic formula. It is hard work plain and simple.

What the media and fans don’t see are the hours and hours teams spend every week perfecting their shape and tactics. Certain drills are repeated over and over again until the penny drops. It can be quite a mundane process but necessary for a team to lay a solid platform.

There are bound to have been times during Carlos Carvalhal’s four-month reign when the Portuguese will have got frustrated by his side’s inability to execute a part of their game plan. As he underlined last year by writing a coaching manual and manifesto, Carvalhal is one of the sport’s deep thinkers.

You will often hear managers say that matches boil down to fine margins. It is a well-trodden football cliché but so true.

Attention to detail is everything to Carvalhal. He didn’t head to the capital for a weekend jolly last week. He went on a spying mission, looking to locate flaws in Arsenal’s performance.

Having watched the Gunners in action against Everton and Manchester United earlier this month, Carvalhal and his coaching staff hatched a plan of how they could hurt one of the best sides in the land. Through their thorough and extensive research, the Owls spotted a weakness in Arsenal’s armoury.

Wednesday identified the Gunners vulnerability at set plays. The short corner routine in the build up to Lucas Joao’s goal was a deliberate ploy to catch the visitors out.

“We worked on that in training for sometime on Monday,” right-back Jack Hunt told me. “It didn’t work in training as well as it did the other night!”

The Owls sat deep, inviting Arsenal on to them and hit Arsene Wenger’s men hard on the counter attack through the pace and energy of Ross Wallace, Jeremy Helan and Joao.

For all of Wednesday’s entertaining, attacking football - and there was plenty of it - two of their goals came from set pieces.

“We watched videos of Arsenal when they lost to Olympiakos in the Champions League and we tried to replicate that and it worked,” added Hunt.

It is this level of planning and preparation for each individual match which could result in the Owls having a very successful season.

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