Opposition Analysis — Arsenal vs Molde FK — Europa League
#AFC welcome 4-time Norwegian champions Molde to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday for Europa League matchday 3. Molde dropped into the #UEL after losing on away goals to Ferencváros in the #UCL play-offs. Molde are coached by former Solskjaer assistant Erling Moe.
In this thread I will analyse their possession play, defensive shape, set-piece performance and their strengths and weaknesses. I have also worked alongside the great @RastafariMoore4 who has provided some brilliant video analysis to further showcase these points. Go follow Marc!
Molde line-up in a 2–3–5 in possession, with one of the full-backs joining the front line and the other staying deep to form a midfield 3. Molde’s right-side (usually Hestad + Knudtzon) rotate a lot, making it difficult for defenders to track them and opening up space in behind.
Usually the ball-side full-back will drop to form a 3, as shown here as Wingo drops in and Haugen pushes forward. This opens up the chance of a quick switch to the advancing full-back coming from deep who can be hard to mark. Here Eikrem and Hussain have switched, opening space.
This commitment to pushing a full-back forward stretches the pitch and forces a defence to either spread wide or leave a man free. Molde’s right-wing rotation is in full view here, with Hestad unmarked as Knudtzon draws the full-back inside.
Another feature of Molde’s build-up play is the CM’s dropping in to the defensive line to aid progression. Etzaz Hussain is especially adept at this and his long-range of passing can be very effective when Molde struggle to get through a press.
Molde’s forward line push on when Hussain drops in and he can deliver a raking pass across to the right-wing, hitting the defenders blind-side which makes it difficult to stop. This can immediately put Molde on the front-foot and is a frequent tool in their arsenal.
Here Hussain again uses a long driven pass to the right-side, this time to Wingo who has been freed up as the defence commits to Knudtzon and Aursnes. Hussain, Aursnes and Eikrem are all capable of these passes and they add good variety to Molde’s possession play.
Here Gregersen attempts to do the same, but the passing angle is not as good and thus his pass ends up going out of play. Molde will attempt this frequently against a high-line, with their striking options James and Omoijuanfo both capable of running the channels effectively.
Molde will look to isolate defenders in the wide-channels by committing players inside to drag away cover defenders. Here Hestad and Knudtzon draw defenders away from Wingo, who uses his speed and dribbling ability to glide past the defender and cross in to the box.
Here is another example of Molde’s wide space overloads. Here the confusion caused by the overload leads to Pedersen getting space in behind, which Aursnes finds with a through-ball and Molde nearly score.
When Molde cannot instantly progress the ball through their defenders, they can tend to vacate the centre of the pitch to attempt to progress the ball through the wide channels which can lead to players getting in each others way and dangerous counters if possession is lost.
Out of possession Molde sit in a 4–4–2 which can be used to both press the opposition high up the pitch or to sit in and form a compact deep-block.
This 4–4–2 allows Molde to push the opposition into wide-spaces where the touchline acts as an extra defender. Molde look to force the opposition into a mistake by pushing them to play risky passes inside to compact spaces.
Molde struggle massively with forwards dropping off in build-up as they can get between the 4–4–2 block and open up spaces in behind. Deep full-back runs can also get in behind the 4–4–2 well as Molde full-backs will attempt to stay narrow.
Another problem with Molde’s 4–4–2 block occurs when they press. Often the first and second line of their press get stretched with large gaps appearing between the lines to be exploited as shown 3 times against Dundalk. Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson should be able to exploit this.
Molde struggle with this if the press doesn’t win the ball back as shown by @RastafariMoore4
This can lead to easy passing chances in behind. The Molde midfield sometimes struggle with closing spaces in front of their defence when dropping as happens here.
This is shown further by @RastafariMoore4
In Magnus Wolff Eikrem, Molde possess a world-class set-piece taker. They couple Eikrem’s delivery with intelligent routines and dominant aerial presences to pose a large threat from dead-ball scenarios. They do leave themselves open to counters by playing very high.
Molde use a variety of routines to exploit both man and zonal marking schemes and will pose a big threat to Arsenal from corners. However they themselves are vulnerable with intelligent routines and quick corners their weakness.