Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven For The Rugby Game

The first rugby game comes quite early in the season this time. I think it’s coming at a good time for us as we have close to our full strength squad available. This should allow us to dominate this game and get a win.

Having said that, I’d suggest fans don’t take a win for granted – Arsenal do not have a divine right to win and Blackburn only lost 3 home games last year (Did not lose to Chelsea or United) so it’s safe to say this will be a hard fought game.

I know its early days, but this season Blackburn have the lowest pass completion rate (56%) and Arsenal have the highest (87%). Anyone who follows the league knows that these two teams are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Before we get into tactics and starting eleven for Arsenal let’s look at the system the hosts will use.

This chart from the Guardian Chalkboards shows the 125 passes Blackburn attempted against Everton in their first home win this season. Yes, you read it right and I’ve not made a mistake. The whole team, in 90 minutes, made 125 passes and successfully completed only 63. Nonetheless, they got away with a 1-0 win.

The secret to their relative success at home is simple. They defend in numbers and as if their lives depended on it. They have big players and practice set-pieces a lot so they can concede fouls and corners without much concern as they defend these well. Then at every opportunity they kick it long.

Once they put 15-20 balls into the opposition penalty box and foul the keeper most of the times they can be certain that the ref will miss one or two. It’s also possible that the defending team might make a mistake or two. This is how they try to score. It’s no surprise that 59% of their League goals last year came from set-pieces.

Now with this in mind we need to think of our tactics and starting eleven. Firstly, we need to acknowledge that if you and I can understand this, so does everyone at Arsenal. They know what’s coming and will be prepared for it, but it’s not easy to play football with Rugby rules.

Broadly speaking we have two options. One would be to fill the team with physically strong players. Chamakh and RvP up front, Diaby, Song, Eboue and Cesc in the middle, and the regular back five. That team would be physically strong and technically not that bad. But by doing this we might end up playing into their hands and focussing on their strategies.

The other option for us is to play the Arsenal way. Technical skills and speed are our strengths. If we can pass the ball quickly, have good off the ball movement, stretch their defence, and force them to foul repeatedly there is a good chance we can dominate this game. They’ll try to break the flow of the game, they’ll kick our players and try to force a reaction, and they’ll win most duels in the air. David Dunn will try to shoot at sight. We need to take our free kicks and throw-ins fast, keep the ball moving, take shots from distance, use the width and get in behind as often as possible. Our crosses should be low and aimed for dangerous areas instead of hopeful high crosses that they’ll easily defend. We also need to maintain our focus for the duration of the game and cut out lapses in concentration in our own box.

I think this game will be a big test for Koscielny. I hope his inexperience doesn’t force him into a rash tackle or something that will get him sent off, especially early on. He will also have to read the game and the aerial balls really well. Cesc is another who will have a big game. Now that Wenger has said Fabregas and Van Persie are fit and available “as normal”, I expect El Capitan to be back in the middle. He will have to show that the summer nonsense is behind him and we can trust him to be at his best this season.

I think the following line up will have a decent balance of size and skill,

Almunia; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Clichy; Song, Cesc, Rosicky; Chamakh, RvP, Arshavin.

We can bring Walcott for impact or Eboue for balance late on. Although I can see the argument for starting either of them in place of Arshavin, I’ve a feeling they might not be best suited to start this one. Some might also suggest Diaby is a better option in midfield, ahead of Rosicky, especially for an away game. Of course, these are just my thoughts and Wenger has often surprised me in the past so I’m looking forward to the boss’ selection.

Arsenal have not won away from home against a team managed by Fat Sam since 2002. That includes the invincibles period and a few games with Lehmann in goal. So it won’t be a surprise if we don’t get a win tomorrow. On the other hand, three points will send a big message to the other challengers some of whom are sure to drop points at Ewood Park.

16 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven For The Rugby Game

  1. Dhruv says:

    Can not wait till tomorrow. I just feel this team has gotten a little more spine to it. The players are a year older and wiser to the ways of that mug fatty Sam. I would love to see Chamakh score one of his delicious headers from a set piece.

    Come on you gooners!!

  2. Canadian Gooner says:

    I actually agree on Rosicky. Diaby’s height speaks for itself, but Rosicky can tackle and will be better suited to pair Song’s “destroyer” position and distribute up the park. It also keeps him in the middle, instead of shifting him out wide to Arshavin’s normal spot. I think Walcott has to start after last week though. Chamakh could probably start on the left, since we play mostly down the right and Cesc, Sagna and Walcott could cross it to Chamakh arriving at the back post.

    3-1 seems like a popular scoreline to pick, so I’ll go with that. van Persie (2) and Cesc.

  3. Filip says:

    I expect us to lose points, probably all three.However, last season`s defeat there gives me hope that we can win this time.We lost only 2-1 with almost none of our first-choice players and fabianski having a shocker.This time we have our full strength squad available as you already pointed out.The problem is that Fabregas and Van Persie dont look fit enough and good enough YET.I would play rosicky instead of Fabregas in the starting eleven with Diaby and Song filling in the other two spots in midfield.

  4. Dutchgunner says:

    im so pumped for the game, although I will be happy as long as we dont suffer any more injuries.

  5. suhel says:

    i was really desperate to go watch arsenal play at ewood park bcoz i leave in blackburn and from the hill I can see the ewood park so clearly but unfortunately i couldnt afford it, it would hve been my 1st arsenal game.

    any way i hope we can beat THE DIRTY CLEAN TAC-TICS OF FAT SAM LOL


  6. Joe says:

    Once all fit – Almunia,Sagna,Koscielny,Squillaci,Vermaelen,Song,Frimpong/Djourou,Diaby,Bendtner,Van Persie,Chamakh. Is one powerful team and also the likes of Arshavin,Cesc,Nasri and Rosicky to mix in.

  7. Gurkhaligunner says:

    We’ll fuck them up mate 6-0 to the gunners .hope we start with diaby, song and cesc in the middle only 4 their physical approach .

  8. kc says:

    Great post. I think your starting 11 is the one to use tomorow. I think Chamakh’s strength in the air will really stand out against Bburn. I really hope Arsh has a blinder and shuts up all the critics. The man scores a goal and sets up another last week and still gets bashed on by sum Gooners. Ok so he doesn’t track back enuf for sum I get it. But isn’t he an Atacking player? Where does all the hate come from?

    • Alibaba says:

      I wouldn’t necessarily say people hate him, but instead the general concern is that because our system is so finely tuned for it to work against the best opposition everyone has to close down, track back and put in a lot of effort. Arshavin, off form and carrying niggling injuries like last season and recently, is very static and laboured in his passing. That’s worst case scenario! On his game he does put in a decent shift, more than some people realise i think but still maybe not as much as other players, but it’s not his style anyway. He prefers to sit in space and wait for the ball rather than come look for it or run the channels, tho obviously he does this too but less so. The other annoyance for some people i suppose is that he is so talented and devastating when he wants to be but it sometimes seems like he’s not in the mood. This is a weird one for me because at this level i find it hard to believe a player will consciously decide whether to try or not. It’s probably more to do with his mental game and preparation. Personally i think he is an amazing player and one of the best in the PL but i don’t want to see him played when he’s carrying injuries and there’s players like Vela, Bendtner, Chamakh, and even Gibbs or Jet who could step in to give him a breather.

  9. shottagunna says:

    Desi – I think you are well-meaning, not snarky, with your observation that both the coaching staff and team at Arsenal are well aware and prepared for Blackburn’s anti-football tactics. But the “snarks” are already plotting their attack on Wenger and the team should we fail to overcome Fat Sam’s rugby team. They act as if Arsenal holds all the cards, forgetting that the key actor in any game is the referee. Chris Foy had a shocker last week in failing to penalize the multiple assaults on Gomes by Stoke. The same referee is working our game. If he decides to let the anti-football tactics go unpunished then it will be a very long game for us Gunners.

  10. Alibaba says:

    Blackburn only have one dimension to their game – overpower. If we can’t beat them with strength and size then we have to be intelligent so on long balls we have 2-3 players picking up the knock on. close down and suffocate attacks on down the wings thereby cutting out supply. On set pieces it’s an mistake to rely on the ref for anything, so we have to be clever here also. When the space around the keeper is so congested his options are cut right down and there is almost a 50/50 chance of the ball going towards the net in such confusion. Re-bounds and deflections can go anywhere. So I’d leave a pocket around the keeper of maybe 2-3 yards so he has space to first see where the ball is heading and then make a better judgment. Even if they stick 1 or 2 players directly in his way, say 1 in front and 1 on his shoulder he can still maneuver better than having 8 players stuffed in there. We’d keep the posts covered as always, 1 player at the front of 6yd box, 3 along the 6yd line ready to attack the ball and the others man marking. More or less.

  11. Sonu says:

    Wasn’t Fat Sam in charge when we beat Rovers 4-0 away from home?.Or was it Paul Ince?.Could you provide a link

  12. Jjkmiles says:

    Please we should play diaby song rosicky in the middle. Except we are not playing van 10 before we use cesc. Two of them cannot be in today’s for us to get balance. Then attack should be theo arshavin chamakh, the defenders are sagna kolscieny vermelin and clichy. Wenger should be the keeper. But wenger should not stay till 60minutes to make a change if we are not winning. we should play with techniques and not rugby with fat sam’s boys. Only can we have good result to home for the international break.

  13. more-than-the-average-gunner says:

    looking forward to this rugby game with blackburn .. i see us winning this cos Wenger has highlighted the physical nature of the game ahead of time there is already pressure on the ref to make the rite calls once there is infringment in and around the penalty box .. heard the ref that anchored the game between spurs and stoke is the ref for our game .. the spurs vs stoke game had its controversies, the spot light will be on him to give the call and he definitely will be on his toes.. that i can assure u

  14. Ketch says:

    A good insight in to how the game might have gone, very good read.

  15. […] Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven For The Rugby Game The first rugby game comes quite early in the season this time. I think it’s coming at a good time for us as we have […] […]

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