Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Aston Villa

Earlier in the day I’d published a guest post with analysis of the fixtures in the run-in for Arsenal and other top 4 competitors like Chelsea and Spurs performed by Mick from Brisbane. Do check it out in case you missed it.

In his analysis Mick put Villa down as a relegation battler and noted this as one of the easier games for the Gunners. Paul Lambert’s side are definitely fighting at the wrong end of the table, there’s no argument about that. But I’m not sure this is going to be one of the more straightforward games for Arsenal. In fairness to our Aussie mate, he did say this was a subjective classification. And in theory, at least, a home game against a team sitting one place and one point above the relegation zone after 26 games should be a banker.

This season, given the unpredictable nature of Arsenal’s performances, it’s virtually impossible to predict what the Gunners will produce on the pitch. Villa have caused them some problems at the Emirates in recent years. As Arsenal.com informs us,

History must also be muffled on Saturday. Only Chelsea have picked up more Premier League points at Emirates Stadium than Villa. They nearly grabbed a victory in the opening League game at the ground back in 2006 and their recent record is a creditable W2 D2 L2.

The patterns of play should be quite predictable. Wenger’s side will go out to play the only way they know how. Villa have had a couple of weeks to prepare for this game. I’d expect them to be energetic in the midfield and press all the passes played out by the defenders with an attempt to slowly push the ball back and converge on the central defenders to force a mistake or a hoof.

It sounds simple and often is, particularly if the Gunners can’t move the ball at a fast rate and Arteta doesn’t get enough support from the other midfielders and wide players. Villa have the pace to break forward and transitions in the centre of the pitch can be dangerous.

We are also likely to see a mix of some possession play and some long-balls from the visitors. In the reverse game Benteke showed a tendency of hanging towards Arsenal’s left flank. It will be interesting to see if he does the same tomorrow or the absence of Sagna encourages him to test whoever is filling in. In either case, his ability to receive/hold the ball, and link with onrushing attackers will provide a constant challenge to the defenders. Arsenal’s central defenders have neither been consistent, nor efficient at getting tight to strikers. This could work in favour of Benteke and the visitors in general. Whether Mertesacker and Vermaelen try to close him down or not, and how they fare in their efforts, will have a strong bearing on the number and nature of chances that Villa can create.

Counter-attacks and set-pieces are always a threat against Arsenal. It’s come to a point where it seems redundant to mention this.

Apart from the goalless draw against the Gunners, Villa have only 1 point from their remaining seven games against the top 6. Their six defeats include 4,5, and 8 goal drubbings. Again, in theory, Arsenal should find enough opportunities to attack their goal and create chances.

But this won’t work out if the Gunners can’t get past their initial pressing frequently, or if they end up relying on an inefficient crossing game with a single target in the box, or if the attack is limited to two player moves instead of multi-player combinations. There is enough quality in the side to produce chances and goals but I just don’t know if it will come out or not.

Wenger’s choices for the attacking roles will also be interesting. Will he bring Giroud back into the starting eleven? If so, who will he take out? We will see six out of the following eight – Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Rosicky, Podolski, Giroud, and Walcott.

The other decision to make is at right back. Jenkinson is the obvious choice but Coquelin might also be worth considering. Neither has covered himself in glory in recent outings but both have potential and deserve their chances. Jenkinson should probably get the nod considering he is the specialist for the role.

We might see,

Szczesny – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal – Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey – Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla.

Some of you might say Rosicky deserves a start. He certainly had a few bright moments after coming on against Bayern. I think it would be a bold move, particularly if he starts ahead of Ramsey. Arsenal will have greater drive when building from the back but will be slightly weaker defensively as the Czech star won’t have the same engine and work rate that Ramsey brings to the side. Wenger could go for this option if he trusts his back five and Arteta to do the job against Villa. He could also pull Wilshere next to Arteta and put Rosicky at the top of the midfield.

Given the player availability for this game and considering the fact that Arsenal don’t have a mid-week game to worry about, team selection should not be an issue for this game. Wenger can pick whatever he deems to be the best side without worrying about rotations and burn out. But will that be enough?


7 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Aston Villa

  1. [...] in case you missed it. In his analysis Mick put Villa down as a relegation battler and noted [...] …read more Read more here: [...]

  2. Redcore says:

    We should win this one. A third consecutive defeat means one more miserable week and I really dont want that :(.

    I hope TR7 can get a start so that the damned handbrake stays off and we see some slick passing from the gunners.

  3. Crack says:

    Our performance this season has defied all sorts of analysis and predictions. Simply watch the game, and don’t get your expectations high.

  4. Gerry Lennon says:

    Hi Desi, it is going to be a delicate balance between defensive security and pace in attack.
    I see two changes from the line up you have put up;

    Rosicky for Ramsey, which means Jack will have to stay deeper, and be more selective in his drive forwards? I feel we need Rosicky’s pace and movement to get the ball up to the strikers quickly.

    AOC for Cazorla – Heresy for some? But with Jenks at RB he will help from the right wing, and if Theo is there it takes away his vital role up front. Arteta will be fully occupied monitoring their more central attackers, especially if Benteke does drift to our right? The Ox also adds pace going forwards.

    These changes will mean Theo moving over to the left, on paper, but in practice he will be the one in and around Giroud. So more a 4-4-1-1 when in possession, and a 5-3-1-1 in defensive mode, with Giroud dropping deeper than Theo?

    If the Bayern game showed us anything, then it is the need to switch from defense to attack quickly, and BACK AGAIN equally quickly. The above line up does that, and give a strong bench, with Caz and Poldi to come on if needed?

  5. Winner says:

    This game is important to me for a number of reasons.
    1. For the first time Wenger has all his mid fielders and strikers available and has no need of resting anyone. We will get to see who Wenger believes gives the best balance to the team This is the team that is likely to feature more prominently till the end of the season barring some injuries.
    2.We have, realistically,only 13 games to go this season. We still have fourth place to play for and I believe Wenger and the boys will give absolutely everything to get that. However, in a sense this game is the beginning of our preparation for next season. I believe that We are going to see Wenger revealing his thoughts and inclinations about the future of certain players more and more in the coming games. Do you notice that in your analysis you have not mentioned Diaby, AOC and Gervino at all. They are all available, by the way, and Arshavin also. Inadvertently, it betrays your thinking process. Wenger has put faith in these players. And we also have invested a lot in defending them and the coach. But it seems to me that the moment of truth has arrived. There is no hiding from that now.
    3. A win this weekend together with other results going our way, followed by a win at Spurs next weekend will see us seize the initiative as far as qualifying for the champions league is concerned.
    4. A loss or even draw in this match; and the fans will likely turn against the team, the board and the manager. In recent times I do not remember a time when matters have reached such a boiling point. The anger, the disappointment and the hurt are quite palpable. Believe you me all this is stemming from the Blackburn game and not the Bayern debacle.
    6. A high scoring win will assuage the emotions but not heal the wounds.
    Having said all that I would love to see Jenkison at right back. He is not better than Coqueline but his determination and his fighting spirit is just what we all need to remind us that there are still people that willing to die for the cause. I would also love to see Diaby coming in for Ramsey; and Monreal for Mertersucker and the reshuffle at the back as the other changes. I believe that this term Koscielny has not been given enough chances and to me he is our best center back when it comes to playing the ball out of defense and he also poses a more portent threat at set pieces which we will get in abundance this afternoon.
    I tip Giroud and Walcot to return to their scoring habits. They havent struggled much against mediocre teams.

  6. dz says:

    Starting XI : Szceszny – Jenks-Kos-TV5-Nachoooo – Abou-Mikel – Santi-Jack-Pod – Theo

    Although that line will never start , that would be my choice

  7. Nick from Portugal says:

    well he’s gone for Diaby and is clearly not giving Rosisky the game time he needs or else he is nursing him. Poldi sub, no sense in that.

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