Thoughts On The Starting Eleven And Tactics For The Sunderland Game

Before the game against Braga I’d said that we were likely to come up against the first parked bus of the season. The visitors proved me wrong on that occasion but it gives me the chance to make the same prediction again. Sunderland will provide us with the first parked bus of the season. Trust me, no one will be happier if I’m proven wrong once again for that will mean we would have won at the Stadium of Light.

Essentially, what I’m saying is that if the Black Cats come and attack us or are as disorganized as Braga were, then we will have an easy win. History of our games against Steve Bruce’s Sunderland, their recent performances, and their games against the other top sides tell us that it will be anything but easy. To me the Mackems are very similar to Birmingham; extremely well organized, hard working, difficult to score against – especially at their home.

Tactically I don’t expect this game to be very different from the ones against Bolton or Blackburn. Sunderland will probably play a little more football than those two, just a little. They’ll hopefully be much less physical; perhaps, less violent is the better way of putting it.

Our last two visits haven’t been pleasant ones. Fabregas salvaged a point with a late, late header a couple of seasons ago, while a Darren Bent strike in the 71st minute gave the hosts a win last year. In that game, Sunderland were able to absorb the pressure as Eduardo wasn’t as effective. It was our first game without RvP and just after an international break. We couldn’t create much and conceded a soft goal. That also broke our 13 game unbeaten run and we lost to Chelsea and City (League Cup) soon after.

I think this year the key difference will be that we have Chamakh in the starting line-up. If they sit deep they’ll be inviting trouble. We also have Arshavin and Cesc in good form and linking up well with the others. That should mean that we will create a lot more chances and work the keeper more than the two saves he had to make last season.

Unlike the other games so far this season, one key difference will be that our midfielders and attackers will have much less time on the ball, particularly in the final third. Sunderland will surely close us down better than the ‘B’ teams; Blackburn, Bolton, Blackpool, and Braga!

That means we will need a high tempo and quick passing. Obviously, this will have to be combined with some sharp off the ball movement. I hope our players will be up for it just two days after a Champions League game. I’m tired of the “not sharp enough” post match comments from Arsene.

Arshavin, in his customary post match interview on his site, said – “Yes, this away game is going to be a difficult one. Last year we lost there. So we have to show our character, we need to win. Now we are going to have 2 rest days in order to restore our strength for this game.”

I’m not sure if it was a two day holiday for the whole team or something’s been lost in translation here. A two day break between games will certainly be an interesting way to prepare for such a game. I would never question Arsene’s decision of training or giving players a rest, but I certainly hope our players turn up and start at the pace we showed in the last game.

The hosts will try to force us wide and limit us to shooting from distance. Of course, good crosses and a couple of stinging shots from distance will help, but breaking down a well organized defence will also require patience and persistence. We need to get in behind their defence and that requires excellent runs and inch perfect balls. Not easy when you’ve a man closing you down all the time. I do hope we get an early goal. If that happens this will be a fantastic game to watch.

I’m keen to see if Bruce starts with two strikers. That could make the game easier for us just as it did against Bolton. Ten men behind the ball is when we struggle the most.

Defensively, this will be a tricky game. Whether they play with one striker or two will not make a big difference to our defence. The problem with Sunderland is that they are a largely harmless side who end up hurting you with an odd chance that they create.

In the game we lost last year I don’t remember them creating much except that goal. Similarly, the year before that, they scored a late goal from a wonder strike. Even this season so far they scored two goals from two shots on target against Birmingham, one from one against Wigan. In both games they got away with a draw even though they were down to ten men.

Our defenders will have to watch out for counter attacks – the quick transition from defence to attack that we saw in patches from Braga, and we will need to be alert on crosses and set-pieces. Last season Bent was unmarked around the six yard box when he scored a scrappy goal. Koscielny and Squillaci did an excellent job of closing down the strikers in the danger areas against Braga and we will need more of the same in this game as well.

As far as the team goes, I don’t expect too many changes. Can Wilshere play three games in a week? Is Denilson fit enough to start? Will Rosicky be picked ahead of Nasri? Those are the only questions that come to mind.

The back four will probably remain the same. Gibbs and Eboue might get the chance in the League Cup on Tuesday. The midfield is also likely to be the same unless Denilson is fit enough to start a game. Up front, we might see Rosicky in place of Nasri as the Frenchman is coming back from an injury and playing him twice in three days might be a risk. Although it’s the kind of risk that Arsene has taken in the past.

I’d like the following line-up,

Almunia – Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy – Song, Cesc, Wilshere – Rosicky, Chamakh, Arshavin.

On the whole, this game will be a tough one but one that we should win if we want to challenge for the title. A clean sheet would be nice. It’s achievable but we’ve faltered in the past. I think we will score two or three and concede one.

32 Responses to Thoughts On The Starting Eleven And Tactics For The Sunderland Game

  1. Furic says:

    I remember this fixture last season and prior to the match I had a terrible feeling. Things seemed to be conspiring against us. The international break had just finished and RVP’s injury was a cruel blow. This time around, with Chamakh in the side and the team playing with confidence, I have a very dfferent feeling. I think the statictic is 6 goals in 5 games between the two clubs and being at the Stadium of Light I guess we can expect another close one. Cattermole out for Sunderland is a huge loss from them and this also gives me confidence.

    • desigunner says:

      Agree with you about a general positive feeling right now. I just want to see us play at a fast tempo, I think other things will fall in place.

  2. Phil23 says:

    I think we saw a couple of the different tactics we will use as our back up plans this season. Firstly, when we play good counter attacking teams Arsene has the choice of keeping the fullbacks in a much more defensive role. This means we don’t get caught in 4 on 2 situations and terrible things like that very often. Secondly,(and more interestingly) when Eboue came on for Arshavin we were even more concentrated through the middle of the park with Wilshere Fabregas and Denilson all alternating in getting forward and even two of them at a time could go forward. This added with Carlos Vela meant that the sole aim was to put Carlos through knowing that he is a clinical finisher. I think that late in games this could be a very good tactic especially when the other team are tired. This is a far cry from last year where we would just start aiming average balls into the box which was pretty much a relief for the opposing teams. We will see what happens against Sunderland but lets just hope the boys are hungry for more goals!

    • Phil23 says:

      I forgot to mention that by putting Eboue on for Arshavin we were much more covered on the wings. This meant that in the center of midfield they could pivot from having two defensive midfielders to having two more attacking midfielders. I recommend to everyone to watch the Braga game again a few times. Theres pretty much a goal every 15 minutes and it just makes you so proud to be a gooner.

    • desigunner says:

      Interesting observations. Let’s see if we repeat any of this.

  3. Boop says:

    well done for being the first to point out that Sundie away was our first game in the newly minted 4-3-3 without RvP. (Trying not to take anything away from Sunderland, whom I appreciate.) I feel quite confident about this one although things can always go awry. Our 4-3-3 at the moment has a bit more about it than last season – more players with an on-form Barca-esque game but played over bigger patches of pitch. This is thanks to either of Rosicky, Diaby, Wilshere and Nasri (pre-op) adding to Cesc’s talents for incisive pass and move, adding in Arshavin’s ability to fleece the defence (if he’d just hit the bloody target more often). Theo was a beneficiary prior to injury. Chamakh keeps it complicated for defenders b/c he can just hold it up anywhere on the pitch, or play a little two touch, too, and stay involved, whereas Rvp likes to pop up and then deliver a killer pass. Chamakh keeps it ticking over a little better, I am sensing.

    Eboue will start methinks. A lot depends on his form in the final third as to how easy this gets, or not. Also, we find out how up for individual battles our two new French centre backs are. I am excited for this one. Win it and it won’t matter what we do against Chelsea, we’ll still feel in with a shout (must at least draw against Citeh). Lose it and lose to Chelsea and AW will have his work cut out for him to regroup our troops by xmas for a solid title push.

    • desigunner says:

      Good point about the importance of winning this one. I agree if we win this, it will put us in a good position when playing Chelsea and in contrast losing will build tremendous pressure for that game.

  4. Messi says:

    very comfortable too about this game guys but maybe because of that little shmuk! cattermole aint playing (to kick everyone off the pitch)whose huge huge blow for them.


    sagna koscienly squillaci clichy

    cesc song denilson

    rosicky chamakh arshavin

    subs: fabianski, eboue, djourou, gibbs, wilshere, nasri, vela

  5. amel says:

    I think, predict:
    1. Sunderland will play with two strikers. Gyan will be centrally, and Bent on right wing so that they will attack our weaker side with clichy.
    2. We will have two-three-four goal chances and we must convert them into goals.Two of these chances will be in the first ten minutes.
    3. We must try shoots from distance (Cesc,Rosicky,Nasri,), because we wont come so easy in box.
    4. Clichy and Sagna should stay back more often.
    5. We will play with our Braga team with one change (Nasri=Rosicky)
    6. I hope it wont be Almunias fault when we concede goal.
    7. I hope Dowd wont fuck us up!

    • Furic says:

      Dowd is unpredictable.
      Hajde Bosna!

    • desigunner says:

      I really like points 6 and 7.

      Not sure about 2. We will get chances spread out over the game, and especially towards the end. Sunderland conceded two late goals against Brum and one against the Latics. I think they’ll succumb to late pressure if we are behind, which I hope we are not.

  6. kc says:

    Great analysis! Sunderland won’t be as violent without Cattermole in the line-up. Agree with your starting VI, unless Nasri is fit to go. 3-1 to The Arsenal is a good bet.

  7. Gooner B says:

    Has anyone noticed that our entire defence is french?Squillaci is good but when TV5 comes back,I want a partnership of TV5 and LK6.I dont care the amount of errors he has committed so far,that guy is very solid,fast,good in the air and comfortable with the ball on his feet.

    • desigunner says:

      Yeah I noted the all french back four aspect before the last game. It was inevitable after we signed Kos and Squillaci, at some point they were going to play with Sagna and Clichy.

      Vermaelen was supposed to be out for one game. Now it’s uncertain when he will be back! Achilles problems can be complicated. Hopefully he won’t miss too many games.

  8. nemz moi says:

    Gunners to just replicate their form from where they stopped

  9. deepak gunner says:

    rosicky should start every match.he is in real good form .rosicky-cesc-nasri-arshavin,song- as midfield,defence kos-squi-sagna-clichy …chamkakh striker and almunia as the goalkeeper. eboue,vela,wilshire dont mind seeing jay emanuel thomas too hes got a good physical presence but i feel wenger wil play him in the carling looks better than the previous visit last year…we should be able to get the win and keep up with the great start to the seaon.Goooner 4 eva

  10. gulp says:

    @Deepak gunner, i think the lineup has to be left to the guys that actually work and see the team train and preform EVERY day on the trainingpitches? the guys that know who has niggles and who has not? the guy that knows the players and knows what we can expect out of them? not someone that does not even know the players personally.

  11. uncle mike says:

    my team would be almunia squillaci kos clichy
    nasri song fabregas
    arshavin chamakh vela
    i would put vela on as he is our joint top goal scorer on 4 goals and i think arshavin is better on the right and he is our top assister.

    • KingKolo says:

      who would do the defending in your team? Song and..? not sure Nasri or Rosicky are going to sit like Wilshere or Denilson would… Sunderland away is hard enough without trying to stop em with Song on his own

    • AnonymousGun says:

      Sorry.. but that team will lose .. No right back.. 10 players for 90 minutes 😡

  12. Aussie Jack says:

    My main concern with Arsenal last season was that it took them 20 minutes to get into their stride. Once they got their tempo up they were fine but in some case the horse had bolted. This season they have just got to come out of the blocks in under 5 minutes.

  13. OzGooner says:

    This will be a cracker and more entertaing than braga if we can score early. We must get off to a flyer and continue the form from mid week I sense the boys are hungry for this one and I keep saying that this is a different team this season and they look much more up for the fight. But I will be nervous until we score.

  14. GoonerDave says:

    Aussie Jack & OzGooner….. Do you know of any ree to air showing EPL in this par of the world ? (I’m in Philippines).. Regards.. GoonerDave

  15. GoonerDave says:

    Aussie Jack & OzGooner….. Do you know of any free to air showing EPL in this part of the world ? (I’m in Philippines).. Regards.. GoonerDave

  16. sharpgunner says:

    Good post. Remember however, that the Arsenal of last season is a much inferior one to the one of the current season. Nonetheless, we should not be complacent. Victory is assured if we show the same commitment and understanding we have displayed so far. It is really important that we do not drop points against average but sometimes, stubborn sides like Sunderland, Stoke etc.We shall try to kill off this game in the first half.

  17. tom says:

    sanga sqilachy kos clichy
    fab song rosicky
    nasri chamak arshavin

  18. amel says:

    No catermole and no mensah.. they are left with two brainless defenders Ferdinand and Bramble.

  19. Bongo says:

    Good post but, and I don’t mean to sound too critical or derogatory, you left out a key new strategic option we have. Chamakh’s head.

    You say we need to get behind them often as they will park the bus, that’s not our only option anymore with teams that play that way. We now have the best aerial attacking threat in Europe (as the stats from last season prove). We no longer have to try and thread a needle with these teams, we can just bombard them with high crosses from the wings if they try and shut up shop. In fact parking the bus will be detrimental to teams that play us now because the variation in our play and this extra dimension we have will make it exceptionally hard to keep us out.

    They will have to close down our wide players quickly to prevent these crosses but they also can’t afford to leave space while they do this, something that’s very hard to do with the type of speed and movement of our players. This new threat means the defenders will have to be very wary of marking Chamakh in the box but his movement too is so varied if they try to mark him too closely they’ll open up space for players like Arshavin and Fabregas to get off snap shots.

    Again I mean no offence but when I read your article it seemed more like I was reading an article from last year when we didn’t have this option. We had lots of problems last season trying to break these teams down as our only viable strategy was to get behind them a lot, something which bus parking teams are well used to defending against, because we had neither a long shot specialist nor an aerial threat of the calibre Chamakh has.

    Can you imagine if we had a player that had the long shot ability of say gerrard or Lampard, that would mean we’d be dangerous outside the box, dangerous in close quarter ground attacks and dangerous in the air. We’d be unstoppable.

  20. DKD says:

    I don’t think Wilshere should start…cal me stupid,btu the guy is brilliant, I think AW will slowly bring him into the picture. Although he may start, in that case Nasri or Rosicky will have to sit…
    Expecting a difficult game at the Stadium of light today. Highly doubt it will be high-scoring, but intense it shall be. The back-four have to be solid, and even thought TV is missing SQ18 gives me some confidence (touch-wood!)…hoepfully if we don’t concede early or rather 1st we should beat them..looking forward to going ahead of Chelsea…



  21. […] Thoughts On The Starting Eleven And Tactics For The Sunderland Game Before the game against Braga I’d said that we were likely to come up against the first parked bus of the season. The […] […]

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