Thoughts On The Starting Eleven And Tactical Aspects Of The Braga Game

If you, like me, don’t follow the Portuguese league or the early stages of the Champions League then you probably don’t know much about Braga. That’s the reason I was quite interested in listening to Arsene’s opinion about our opponents on Wednesday night. These are the points I got from the press conference,

Braga are team that is physically strong, well organized, play with quick transition from defence to offence, and are good with shots from distance.

It’s not a surprise really. You could easily describe Porto with those words and some of the other teams we’ve faced in the early stages of the competition, as well as many domestic opponents.

I’m getting a feeling we are going to see the first parked bus of the season. So far we’ve played against some teams that tried defending but none of them really set their stall out in front of goal. Bolton and Blackburn kicked it long at every opportunity and while we had phases in both games when we pushed them back, it wasn’t for long periods.

Braga are likely to sit deep and will try and emulate the tactics that made Inter so successful last season. Their problem is they don’t have players of that calibre so unless Arsenal players make some bad mistakes or they get a big slice of luck, the visitors are not going to trouble us much.

Moreover, with so many Brazilians in the side I doubt they will go route one. However, they might try to work the channels and use the pace of their wingers. I’m guessing Arsene rested Clichy and Sagna because of this threat and our full backs should have a big role to play today.

In attack, I think we will need some patience and a fast tempo. The movement of the front three will be extremely critical in opening a well organized defence. With the experience and creativity that we have, and the added aerial strength of Chamakh, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t score two or three goals.

Defensively, we have to cut out basic errors. When a team plays on the counter they have a great deal of space to run into and one error can leave us completely exposed. In the past we have seen that three or four of our players end up on one flank and someone in the middle gives the ball away with a sloppy pass. That’s the worst kind of mistake as it gives the opposition two thirds of the pitch to run onto.

I also feel this will be a game where we will need some good interceptions. Our defensive players will have to read the game well to break the quick transitions that Arsene talked about. If he is fit, I expect to see Denilson back into the starting line-up for this reason. Koscielny is also renowned for his interceptions but he will have cut out the mistakes he made in the League games. If we gift them an early goal this might turn into a really hard grind.

Lastly, we’ll have to close their players down in the defensive third. Many of the visiting side have a dangerous shot from distance and we cannot be lax in pressing. This is one area where the relative inexperience of our central defensive pairing might be tested. Song and Denilson will have to cover for them.

I expect to see three or four changes from the team that started against Bolton. Clichy and Sagna will come in place of Eboue and Gibbs. I realize that many people want Gibbs to get a run of games, especially after an impressive game against Bolton. But I’ll be surprised if Arsene gives him a start as he is quite inexperienced as far as Champions League goes.

That will give us an all French defence behind the midfield trio of Cesc, Denilson, and Song. Some fans will probably want to see Wilshere get another chance and he might play depending on the match fitness of Denilson.

Up front I think Arshavin and Chamakh will be supported by Nasri on the right. But that too will be down to match fitness. Nasri hasn’t played for over a month so I’m not sure if he’ll be ready to start. Rosicky will keep his place if the Frenchman isn’t ready. That could end up as a test for Little Mozart as these days I’m not convinced he has the fitness to play two games in three days.

I see the following starting line-up,

Almunia – Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy – Song, Cesc, Denilson – Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin.

I expect this game will be played in one half for large parts. After enduring the unbearable style of  Blackburn and Bolton this game should offer some proper football. We haven’t lost a Champions League group stage home game for seven years. Cesc opening his account for the season and a long range strike from Denilson should do the trick.

38 Responses to Thoughts On The Starting Eleven And Tactical Aspects Of The Braga Game

  1. Champion says:

    This is a champion article, keep’em coming!

  2. Junaid says:

    Nasri is still not match fit from his surgery and only just got back into training. Vela should start instead.

    • Phil23 says:

      I think Vela will be given a solid amount of minutes from the bench before he gets started. I cant see Arsene not giving him minutes one season and then straight away starting him. Especially because Vela doesn’t play on the right often if ever. (which I think is a waste as he could be very dangerous cutting in)

    • desigunner says:

      I tend to agree with Phil on this. It’s not that Vela isn’t a good player. He just hasn’t played enough minutes to start an imp game like this. I’ll be very surprised if Wenger picks him to start in this game. If Nasri isn’t fit Rosicky will probably keep his place.

  3. Phil23 says:

    Denilson looks to have improved a lot over pre season. He had the entire off season to prepare and was largely forgotten about as most wouldn’t expect him to make the Brazilian squad. I think that will change over the next couple of years. Watching the replay on atvo I realised that Denilson is the perfect player against certain teams. His link play has gone up a notch and his confidence seems to be up too. I remember countless times last year when it felt like we needed a long range shooter and Denilson brings this as well as a lot more possession because of his quick interception and ‘safe’ passing. Our 4th goal was a master piece and it shows EXACTLY why I think Cesc should play deep in midfield. Its not like he has to stay there but he can do anything when you give him time and space. Last match gave me the impression that we are going to win the title this season. Our squad are not all playing at 100% which is a scary thought. Arshavin will improve his finishing over the next few weeks as will Rosicky. Chamakh will find that over time the crosses get better and better, because when you know that if you put in a peach of a cross its going to get converted you actually start to aim your crosses rather than a blind cross into the box. I can see us dominating a couple of teams by 8 goals at home this season. As long as Chelsea get half of the injury problems we do they will hardly be able to field a team. We have the best squad by a country mile.

    • Furic says:

      haha your getting a bit excited by I am too! Denilson and Diaby are both players that I think could be a lttle more consistent (which could certainly happen, especially in the case of Denilson as he is young and has plenty of game time ahead of him). Denilson just looked so sharp when he came on, I know it was late in the game but his play was beautiful. His quick passing could really keep the tempo up in midfield which I think Arsenal need sometimes.

      Despite Fabregas being so brilliant just behind the striker, I do think that maybe it would be best for the team if he played a deeper role, alongside Song but with the freedom of gettiing further forward when needed. As we know, he’s a great defensive player thats tactically very intelligent.


      Perhaps the best possible midfield trio?

      • Gaj says:

        fabregas and nasri together in midfield…hmmm. i would prefer diaby or denilson instead of nasri

      • desigunner says:

        I do feel Nasri can be a very good deep lying midfielder rather than an attacking one. That way on occasions he will get a chance to run with the ball, something he is good at.

        But most importantly I hope we give him one position and play him consistently, juggling him around makes it tougher for him. If Cesc has to play deeper I’d have Rosicky or Arshavin in front of him.

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t want to read too much into what Denilson did in the last game as Bolton had given up by the time he came on. I did like his shot from distance and it will be good if he builds on it after decent success last year.

      I’d say the same about the fourth goal. I didn’t discuss it too much because Bolton were just going through the motions. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t brilliant to watch, just that we cannot derive many inferences from it.

      I feel Cesc should be free to do what he wants (Unless it’s going back home!) and it seems Wenger agrees with that. Once a player of his class matures, he will know when he needs to drop back and when he needs to go forward. On the other hand if we give him a deeper role it will be tough for him to go forward because the defensive balance will be affected.

      Good point about the crosses getting better. I’ve not doubt Sagna will do much better this year – as we’ve already seen with the Diaby goal, and the Arshavin one at Blackburn. Not sure about Clichy, he’s not close to his best and I’m not sure why.

  4. IMRAN cape town says:

    Why so much love for Denilson all of a sudden. Not just this blog but quite a few. Denilson has always been good. Most capped player last season and highest passes completed in our squad. Like all our other players, he is maturing now and is making those passes more meaningful. GUNNERS4LIFE

    • Furic says:

      well said

    • Alibaba says:

      I think i comes from the optimism people have at the beginning of a new season, especially after a good start. Also no one has had time to form their judgments over who they will choose to be the seasonal whipping boy which unfortunately is the sad case for many gooner supporters. I like Deni a lot and always have done but till now he performances have seemed restricted to winning and keeping possession of the ball with the odd flurry forward. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but like Song it is time he offered more in an attacking sense as well as maintain his defensive duties. He has the ability, of that there is no question. His touch and passing are exquisite and if he looks for a forward attacking pass & move more often rather than only focus on ball retention then we’ll see him double his team value. He does look confident and he’s at that age now where he should feel 100% comfortable in his abilities to try attacking with more freedom/confidence. He looks more muscle too which i hope will help since one weakness was his strength. Go Deni!

    • desigunner says:

      I’m not sure what I said to show love for Denilson. My point was that this is the kind of game where he should do well.

      He has a lot to prove so we shouldn’t raise expectations right now, otherwise it could be the same old story.

  5. AnonymousGun says:

    Cesc to open account.. 1 long range sniper shot from Denny .. +1 towering header from MC please =o

    There can be only 1 Arsenal!

    • desigunner says:

      I was worried MC might run out of his quota for the season if he keeps scoring in every game early on 🙂

      I don’t mind such games but he’ll be needed in the big ones.

  6. str8goon says:


    This selection should allow the pace and strength of wengerball to still flow. All the while resting certain players (Nasri/Diaby/Vermaelen) and letting other players think about their early season follies (Arshavin). Koscielny will have a trial by fire but the experience will be invaluable. Vela’s start will do his confidence no harm and hopefully be a kick in the a$$ for Arshavin.


  7. TD says:

    Frankly I think Wenger may try out Djourou (if he is fit). He may also get in Wilshere in the starting 11.

    • Alibaba says:

      Djourou played 90mins last night for the reserves against Mancity elite squad what ever that is. Still looks a little off his game, making the odd mistake here and there, but give him more time and he’ll be back competing at the top.

  8. another desi says:

    hey. another very very good article. man! i’v become a fan of yours.

  9. Alibaba says:

    I’d prefer to see Gibbs and Eboue play because we’ll need to stretch Braga on the wings and pull them out of shape. Gibbs and Eboue offer more offensively and are better crossers then Clichy and Sagna, and Chamakh will need quality service tonight in such a crowded pen box. Won’t happen tho, they were clearing rested for this game.

    • desigunner says:

      I can see the argument for Gibbs but don’t agree about Eboue. I think he has a lot of flair but his end product isn’t that good. Sagna is much more efficient in defence and attack, even in terms of crossing. Just my opinion.

  10. Alex says:

    Rosicky vs. Blackburn & Bolton 😉

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks for posting this. Have you noticed anything that would explain why Lil Mozart isn’t shooting as well as he used to?

      • Alex says:

        hmmmmm… its a tough question. may be his new contract with a new brand of boots :S but I think its more of a mental thing. he’s not as confident. he needs to score a long range shot or something, he is rushing or over-thinking things atm. but I’m sure he’ll improve after his first goal 😉

  11. aravindvr says:

    Braga are known as ‘Arsenalistas’ due to their resemblance with our kit.
    Arsenal vs Arsenalistas
    So I think their fans will not worry too much if the real Arsenal win tonight.
    Lets hope the Originals win over the fakes.

    Posession which is our main strength could be the key to opening this one.Denislon In.

    • desigunner says:

      Yeah back in 1920 or so their manager, who visited Arsenal, was so impressed that he changed their kit and other things to replicate Arsenal.

  12. sam says:

    How can anybody say that nasri should strart in place of rosicky. u gotta be kidding me. Rosicky fab and denilson seem to combine well. they change the games tempo collectively. we cant risk nasri today after recovering from injury. rosicky is in the form of his life. he just needs to find the scoring boots.

    • desigunner says:

      How many times have you seen Rosicky, Fab, and Denilson do this? Can you give me some examples?

      You’re admiration for Rosicky is great but you’re doing him a great disservice by saying he is in the form of his life. He is a much better player than what we have seen so far this season. Just have a look at the early part of 07-08 to understand what I mean.

      My point was that Rosicky might not be fit to play two games in three days. But there is a question mark over Nasri as well, so we will have to see.

  13. venky says:

    I think that we need a strong team at sunderland,Arsene himself said that. I guess the team will be just strong enough to beat Braga. If we happen to score a 3 goal cushion by half time expect a flurry of changes very soon in the second half.
    almunia,sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy – Song, Cesc, Denilson – Eboue, Chamakh, Arshavin.

  14. 15 september 2010 by usman labozhi I expressed my greecting 2 all arsenal fans (to i prify song,nasir,fabregas than to start with denilson and rosicky bec.we need to win this match not draw.thanks gooner 4lyf

    • desigunner says:

      Greetings to you Usman. I’m sure Wenger will send out a team capable of winning this game. He knows it’s important to win home games in this group.

  15. 15 september 2010 by usman labozhi I expressed my greecting 2 all arsenal fans (to me i prify song,nasir,fabregas than to start with denilson and rosicky bec.we need to win this match not draw.thanks gooner 4lyf

  16. gunnerholic 87 says:

    great article man.looking at todays match ahead arsene should go with carlos vela and chamakh upfront,high time vela gets to play ….hes a class act and will only get better.arshavin,song,rosicky,cesc(the king) because these guyz look to be in good form and with cescs performance against bolton he himself is enough to do the job:P…defence kos,clichy,sagna,squi….almunia as the goalkeeper….team looks to be more than capable of getting the job done and try to keep a clean sheet!…..gunner for lyfe

    • desigunner says:

      I’m hoping for a clean sheet in this one. They are not the same as Blackburn or Bolton where we have come to expect a mistake. So we need to deal with them better.

  17. […] Thoughts On The Starting Eleven And Tactical Aspects Of The Braga Game If you, like me, don’t follow the Portuguese league or the early stages of the Champions League then you probably […] […]

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