Arshavin, Walcott, Rosicky, Nasri – Who should start?

Based on the comments left on the match analysis after the last game, I’m guessing many gooners were unhappy with the choice of Nasri on the left. They’d have preferred Arshavin. Based on the Russian’s cameo in the final half hour and the Frenchman’s hard working yet uninspiring initial display, obviously with the benefit of hindsight, this seems like a valid point.

I’m not completely convinced by that argument as I feel Arshavin and Walcott on the wings would have left us exposed defensively. Nonetheless, it presents an excellent topic for discussion as Wenger will have to make some tricky choices because right now we have 4 players – Arshavin, Walcott, Nasri, and Rosicky – all in good form, competing for two spots. And I’m not even considering the likes of Vela, Eboue, and JET. No disrespect to them but when the big guns are available they will always be on the fringes.

Among those four, Arshavin, when he plays, will probably be on the left. Similarly, Walcott will be on the right. I don’t see either of them being that effective on the other flank.

Yes there is an argument that Arshavin could play centrally, but we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons that Wenger doesn’t like that and I’d like to believe he’s given that some thought and discarded the option for valid reasons.

I’m sure we’d all like to see Walcott on the left/centre emulating the feats of Henry but I can’t see that happening right now. Maybe in a couple of years after Theo learns to control the ball better.

So for now I’ll go forward with the assumption that Arshavin and Walcott will play on the left and right respectively. Rosicky and Nasri, as we’ve seen time and again, are far more flexible and can do a job anywhere in midfield.

So the possibilities are – Arshavin with any one of the three on the right, Walcott with any one of the three on the left, or with Rosicky and Nasri on either flank.

The Russian and the Englishman make an explosive combination. As I said above, I feel it’d leave us defensively weak on both flanks, but I will acknowledge this pair was brilliant against Blackpool and pretty good against Blackburn. Should we take more of a gamble on them, especially in home games? Will it add the pace, directness, and urgency that we need to break teams down early on?

Then there is the choice of picking either Arshavin or Walcott. Obviously form and fitness will be an issue but considering that right now both are in equally good shape, Arsene will have a tough choice to make.

Against Newcastle Wenger went with Theo (perhaps Arshavin had still not recovered completely from the virus) but it didn’t work out. Enrique and Gutierrez did an excellent job of denying him any space.

On the other flank Nasri wasn’t able to create much either. Would Rosicky have done better? Based on what I’ve seen Arsene picks Nasri whenever the Frenchman is fit and doesn’t need a rest. This frequently leads to changes in his position.

Clearly, Wenger thinks this is not a problem and I don’t have hard evidence to argue against that but I’d certainly prefer if Nasri was given one wing and time to adapt in that position. By that logic I’d always play Nasri on the right and Rosicky on the left. One of them might have to come central when Cesc is missing or rested but that’s a different issue.

Effectively, it would be Arshaivn/Rosicky with Walcott/Nasri leading to four different combinations.

The final choice would depend on the opposition, venue, and tactics.

For instance, at home we could go with a somewhat riskier but far more attacking 23-14 combination. In the bigger games we could have the more technical and defensively stronger 7-8 pairing.

Tactical decisions could also make a difference. For example, Newcastle were clearly much stronger on their left than they were on their right, both defensively and offensively. In such a case it would be better to have a technical, hard working player like Nasri on our right with Arshavin exploiting their relatively weaker flank where he’d get more space.

In contrast, there could be other teams like Bolton or Blackburn who have a weak left back. Walcott could terrorize them all day long. We could pick Arshavin or Rosicky on the other side depending on the venue.

Then there are games like the upcoming visit to Molineux where it’s hard to say whether the hosts will be stronger on the right or the left. One could say that Jarvis provides a strong threat down the left but dealing with him will be down to Sagna and I’m confident the Frenchman will deal with the threat. The choice of the attackers would depend on the quality of the fullbacks but in the case of Wolves it’s difficult to say one is really better than the other. In such cases the best option would be to rotate so that we have a fresher/sharper attacking player in the starting line-up.

Walcott has played twice in the last week so it would be best to give him a breather and have him on the bench as an impact sub. Arshavin should start on the left and based on my reasoning mentioned above Nasri should start on the right. Of course, there is always the injury angle and that could keep the Frenchman out. In that case Wenger might have to pick Theo for his third game in a week or shift Rosicky to the right.

I just read everything I’ve said so far and realized these are far more complicated decisions than I’d initially realized. There are just too many factors involved but these choices are critical to the shape and balance of the team. As we saw against Newcastle, once they closed our attacking options on the right we looked bereft of ideas and lacked creativity.

By now you must have picked up the fact that I don’t have a definitive opinion on this issue. It can be argued in many ways and it’s really difficult to say one choice is better than the other without the benefit of hindsight.

Of course, Arsene is paid big money to make such decisions so he doesn’t have an excuse for getting it wrong but it does give us plenty to talk about. Can you make a case for the choices on the flanks?

45 Responses to Arshavin, Walcott, Rosicky, Nasri – Who should start?

  1. Iceman10 says:

    So Nasri was ineffective during the Newcastle game? I thought he was one of the better players when he was on. By current form Nasri has a place in the staring 11 its upto the other 3 to fight for the other spot. I would rather play him and Andrei but the russian has been poor so I say play Rosicky on the left and Nasri on the right.Ive also noticed that even though he is playing in one of the wide forward spots it seems as if Wenger has given him freedom to float around. All I know is out of the 4 he is the one who deserves a start the most.

    • desigunner says:

      Hasn’t Arshavin done better than Nasri in terms of Minutes per goal/assist? Not saying Nasri is not good, far from it. But it does highlight how we can perceive one player to be poor and another to be in top form even though facts say something different.

  2. guy says:

    im not being funny but anyone who would have preferred arshavin to nasri is a crack head. He deserved being dropped. and still does. I think we have more options than you have mentioned though. for me we have nasri, walcott, arshavin, rosicky, vela, wilshere and JET who can fill these positions. My current choice on form would be JET on the left and nasri on the right. arshavin needs to get his hunger back, walcott needs to learn to be effective for 90 minutes, rosicky needs to stop running in circles, vela needs to learn another way to finish and wilshere is too good centrally

    JET is scoring for fun in the reserves and deserves his chance. nasri is our best player this season.


    • bjohnson says:

      NO – Anyone that thinks Walcott should start in any Arsenal team is a crack-head

    • mmc says:

      Nasri is superb! I believe he will win us many games! his combination with chamakh has been good so far! think he shud start on the right and substituted by theo in dying minutes… dont know if i’m wrong but nasri doesnt seem to play well when cesc is in the team (if i’m right, I wonder why…)and rosicky seems clueless when in middle- the wing suits him more- i think.

      • sambo, ilorin says:

        I’ve noticed that too. Whenever Cesc is on the field Nasir shrinks from taking responsibilities and in fact the whole team seem to play thru Cesc with no player willing to create chances.

    • Davi says:

      Imo theo had played his way into the starting 11 for the newcastle game. He has been incredibly good in front of goal this season.
      He’s not the sort of player who is going to play brilliantly for the entirety of many games, but he always scores or comes very close at the moment. He hit the bar this week, scored against shakhtar, hit the post the time before etc.
      Perhaps he should have come off, or at least been moved to the left to escape enrique, who seemed to have his number, but I completely agree with wenger’s decision to start him in this game.

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t think JET has ever played on the left in his fledgling career so far. And on the right he has Walcott, Nasri, and Rosicky, perhaps even Eboue ahead of him.

      I think he will have to come up with a special moment as a sub or wait for the Carling Cup chance.

  3. Kannan says:

    1. The problem actually lies in central midfield – Songinho, Fab, and Wilshere cannot play together. Their mentalities are too similar. All of them love to go forward. One of them has to be sacrificed for the more conservative Denilson. When everyone is fit, Wilshere will have to make way for Denilson. Sad, but necessary. It also makes ball retention easier.

    Best combo in midfield = Denilson – Song – Fabregas.

    On current form best is = Denilson – Song – Wilshere.

    Rosicky can come on as sub and play in the Fab role, if Wilshere / Fab are having a bad day. He brings in a lot of brains and dogged determination. He is too old to operate on the flank.

    2. Coming to the wings – Walcott is more useful as an impact player. If the opposition full back drops deep and maintains a good 4 yards between him and Theo, Theo gets nullified. So there is no point starting with him. Sad, but true.

    Best wing combo – Arshavin left, Nasri right.

    3. Now I am really putting my neck on the line – Sometimes, sometimes, I think Eboue is awesome on our right flank. His understanding with Sagna is telepathic. And Eboue more often than not, takes on players, more than Nasri or Walcott. So we got to trust Eboue and let him play on the right. He will also be very useful when playing against awesome left sided threats like Bale, Evra, and Cashley.

    4. Not too impressed with Chamakh. His finishing sucks. And he rarely shoots. Perhaps Bendtner would be a bit more selfish and do something better.

    • santori says:

      I don’t think we need necessarily have a fixed first choice for the spots out wide rather we should play the best person to give us the necessary variation we need to open the can.

      Therefore if the game is open and we need speed, Walcott. Ditto Andrei out left although he works better in tighter confines.

      If we need to put in crosses (or have more finesse) Nasri, Rosikcy (out left)

      If we need power then Eboue, Diaby (out left)

      Vartiation is key, something I feel Wenger is not getting out of his team. We have the tools for the job but we are not maximising them.

      We need players to :

      1) Add width, spread the play wide thereby opening up the defense

      2) Take shots from range more (Nasri did good)to have the opposing defense come out, and thereby affording us more opportunity to pick those defense splitting passes when necessary

      3) Practise and put in good crosses (widemen and FBs…yes Sagna too who only seems to be able to cross below knee level. We need to use Chamakh more. We certainly did not put in way enough crosses with Chamakh and Bendtner on.

    • arsenal says:

      chamakh plays like a playmaker rather than center forward. he needs to take shot insstead of passing when chances came

    • indiagunner333 says:

      I m completely agree with your view on Chamakh..he doesn’t likes to shoot…even in this match he had the chance to test the goalie but he back heels the ball….

  4. josie says:

    walcott, fabanski, clichy, should be drop kicked out of the club. over paid idiots

  5. Aussie Jack says:

    Not much point in shuffling the cards until we fix the defence and signing one left back will not be sufficient.Sagna stays put, Vermaelen we don`t know about, the rest are bench players. The goal keeping must go to Szczency, Fabiansky as back up. Left back along with two centre backs to be found. Some money needs to be spent and it could be a fair amount. Once this is in place we`ll look for a striker who will inject fear into the hearts of the opposition and he`s going to cost a few bob. Then we`ll see my version of `the beautiful game` WINNING.!!!!

    • desigunner says:

      I guess you forgot to mention we should do all that without repeating the mistakes of Madrid, City, Totnumb and others who’ve been trying this recipe for years 🙂

  6. w12mcee says:

    A.W needs to get JET involved sharpish. nuff said

  7. santori says:

    FW : Chamakh,Bendtner,(RVP),(JET)
    CAM : RVP, Fab, (Nasri)
    LW : Arsharvin, Diaby,(Vela)
    RW :Nasri, Walcott
    CM : Wilshere, Rosicky,(Ramsey)
    DM : Song Denilson
    LB : Clichy, Gibbs
    CB : TV, Kos, Squid, Djourou
    RB : Sagna Eboue
    GK : Fabianski, Al, Szeczny

    Assuming 4-2-3-1

    No more than 2.5 players competing for positions. Those in brackets either pushing for a place (JET), injured (Ramsey), unconvincing (Vela) or alternatives (Nasri, RVP)

    We want natural width so I wouldn’t have eg. Nasri playing right. We tend to cut in too much. Instead we need to take the ball down the line more to spread out the congestion in the middle.

    I think centrally in a 4-2-3-1, the hole just behind the forward belongs to Fabregas but Nasri (and RVP) could push him for this spot, in which case Fabregas can play withdrawn at young Jack’s expense.

    Otherwise naturally, Nasri would be preferred out wide on the right for his finesse work and more importantly his crossing. We are not using the width well enough and not using Chamakh(or Bendtner’s) aerial strength at all.

    As and when we need speed (when play opens up…predictably 60 minutes in), Walcott is the option.

    Rosicky is the utility. Practically, I can see him play any of the positions in midfield, particularly out left where is crossing might benefit us (again the route 2 usage of Chamakh aerially as oppose to the predictable short passes through the middle)

    Rosicky can also play a useful DM (Song’s) role when played in concert with a high energy player such as Wilshere if and when Song is out injured (although I am not sure if he will sustain 90 therefore Denilson to come in for him at some stage)

    Let’s not also forget Ramsey who will be back shortly to push for a spot. My gut feeling is he’ll be competing with Wilshere directly for the fetch and carry role.

    On the left, Andrei for speed and Diaby for power. I actually think this is Diaby’s best position as it frees himself from consequences and allows him to muscle in field when necessary or simply power down the line for a cross. He will also add height at the back post for crosses coming in from Nasri out right.

    Vela is yet to convince me of his ambition.

    I also wonder if we have space for another striker up top (bearing in mind RVP to me seems more like a withdrawn striker much like Bergkamp and best played in the hole). We could well do with another speed merchant to beat the last man. Benzema anyone? JET is of course an alternative showing great hunger (and cheaper).

    • desigunner says:

      Interesting thought on the whole but I’d not count on Ramsey till the next year at least. It could be fatal to rush him.

      I’m also not convinced about Diaby on the left as he doesn’t pass/cross the ball well enough. He has some improvements to make to his game and after that he could play wherever and however he wants. But for all that to happen he must remain fit!

  8. Kanye14 says:

    Wolves away.
    Fab in goal, sagna squilaci djourou clichy. Four in midfield, nasri cesc song rosicky. RvP n Theo or Chamakh upfront. Lets try out 442 coz 433 atm isnt working!!

  9. go gunners says:

    i think we need to change our formation at least in home games. It always seem like we are playing with 10 men only. against newcastle walcott hardly did anything. he was just waiting on the wing for the ball. same is the case with arshavin. i think we need to play 4-4-1-1 at home. this will give us urgency we need at home and faster transition from attack to defense.
    we can play either arshavin, walcott or vela just behind the strikers or rather as second strikers.i think we can use them more in that positions. walcott or vela can easily open defense with their pace. depending on who the striker is we can choose from those 3. then in the midfield we can rotate cesc,nasri, tr7 wilshere and ramsey with a defensive midfielder.

    • desigunner says:

      I’m a fan of changing the formation once in while to surprise the opponents but Wenger seems to have a strong opinion against it.

      I don’t agree that we play with 10 men. Walcott was not very effective in attack but he also took out Enrique and Gutierrez from the game who are two of Newcastle’s key players and a big attacking threats. That is one of the reasons they didn’t create many chances against us.

  10. NOAH NIKANOR says:

    1. Arshavin he keep the ball and he know how to give to strike, score.2. Nasri he is bright player he must take in middle of the field do his best for. 3. Walcott must be in the striker moddle not a midfider he is striker and he must take his position. 4. Rosiscky must start in all the game he get old this he time to show want is he used to to in german.

  11. VRH says:

    ROSICKY the best option…….He is the only guy whom I trust…..Better optio than walcott or even ARSHAVIN…
    Arshavin should be sold and arsenal shoul sign marko marin , podolski or gourcuff……

  12. VRH says:

    Team for next match against WOLVES must be

  13. watts says:

    wenger should seriuosly consider changing the formation when it suits us…….the 433 thing is becoming too predictable and opponents almost expect us to play in a certain manner in this formation. 4-4-1-1 looks good to me:

    nasri and arshavin canbe replaced with eboue and ros7 respectively. walcott replaced with JET or vela.

  14. Tulio Kinsly says:

    Desi, i fully agree with your analysis but would like to put forward a very solid fact you seem to have omitted…. Untill Arsene Wenger realise that Walcot cannot be used in tight games against teams who mostly come to Emirates to play a defensive game then Arsenal can comfortable Navigate those games.Walcot doesnt yet possess the creative combination play to price open tight defences when we are in a spell of control, the Newcastle game was difficult for us offensively basically because Walcot couldnt cope with combination play of pass and move which resulted in the breakdown of Arsenal’s attacking move anytime Walcot had the ball. Walcot is an explosive player who basically runs into space and not pass and move,not a dribbling player and doesnt pass the ball in between the opposition midfield/defences.

    In these tight games mostly at the Emirates,we can play nasri or Rosicky on the right and when we take the lead and teams are forced to come out to attack thereby defending a high line we can exploit the use of Walcot and also in Away matches when teams mostly play abit of attacking thereby creating space for Walcot to exploit.

    • desigunner says:

      You’re right, there is a technical deficiency to Walcott’s game and that’s something we have to live with. I think Wenger expected the others to create some space for him or that Walcott would make some intelligent runs. Since our midfield wasn’t able to run the show it’s difficult to say what went wrong.

  15. Karthik says:

    The problem here is that Nasri and Arshavin cut in far too frequently for them to play together, also I think Rosicky is the best player we’ve got in the advanced midfield role. But owing to Cesc, both nasri and Little Mozart have to sit on the flanks, I agree with Desi, either 23-14 or 7-8, we could also go for 7-14 or 23-7 or 14-8, but 23-8 makes us very very narrow.

    • metalhead says:

      I’m surprised Wenger didn’t use Rosicky against NC. Especially considering what he did at Liverpool. It seems Wenger has lost faith in Rosicky. Even Eboue seems to be underused. I think he can be quite useful as winger. He also tends to make those driving runs through midfield and his crossing is pretty good. When you play someone like Chamakh you are better off feeding him in the air rather than off the deck.
      I’d like to see a Plan B from Arsenal. When things don’t go your way you have to try something different. There isn’t an element of surprise when you play Arsenal. You pretty much know they are going to do the same thing which is pass the life out of the opposition. And if their passing game goes awry like against NC they struggle.

      One more thing that was apparent was the lack of steel in the midfield. Someone like a Gattuso or even a Flamini would have helped. A ball winner in general. I noticed NC players won the midfield battle far too often. With Song’s new role the midfield is high in creativity, short of a steely player.

      Lastly, we also need to work on our finishing. Lets hope Chamakh puts on his scoring boots against Wolves.

      • metalhead says: Another instance of Arsenal resorting to the long-ball, part of the plan B that I was referring to. On both instance Van Persie was on the receiving end. Just goes to show what a good finisher can do. Mind you the ball control was phenomenal. Interestingly Arsenal frequently used the long option when Adebeyor was around. Arsenal played a 4-4-2 then. With Chamakh around that is not a bad option rather than playing scoring the perfect goal all time. But mind you ball control and finishing is of utmost importance.

      • desigunner says:

        I think the problem here is that Chamakh doesn’t make enough runs to get into goal scoring positions. If he makes those runs like RvP did people will start giving him the ball. It’s as if all his play is about making space for others and creating opportunities for the midfielders and wingers.

        I guess this will come over time as the team adapts. That’s why people say there is an adaptation period for new signings, something we’ve completely forgotten because our signings do so well from the start.

  16. kafuuzi jackson karugaba says:

    Let’s admit that the whole team seemed slugish and lifeless against newcastel and we were luck not to have conceded more goals.

  17. Arun says:

    Go back to 442.
    Play JET and RVP upfront. Nasri on right, Arshavin on left, Cesc and Song in the middle.

    Subs: JET-Bendtner, RVP-Chamakh, Nasri-Walcott, Arshavin-Rosicky, Cesc-Wilshere, Song-Denilson.

    Covers incase of Injuries: Vela upfront or left wing, Diaby for DM or left wing, Ramsey when he is back for Cesc role, Lansbury,Eboue on right wing.

    The startin eleven can take on any team any day.. When someone is havin an off day, there is a suitable and equally good sub available. Even in case of Injuries, there are players available who can do a decent job whose inexperience can be covered by other experienced players on the pitch.

    I’m happy with the current back five. Clichy or Gibbs no issues for me. Same with Sagna or Eboue. Though in both cases the formers are prefered by me for a starting berth. All four CBs are very good. Except for Djourou, the other three equally deserve a starting place.

    I’m totally convinced that Caroll goal would be the last mistake we saw from Fabianski. I dont know why but I’m ready to go with Fabianski for this season than Scezney who would commit few mistakes before becoming flawless. We cant afford anymore mistakes. May be next season I would feel comfortable with him.

    • desigunner says:

      Lets not get hyper over JET. Neil Banfield said there is a huge gap between reserves and the level of Carling Cup. And we’ve seen the gap between CC and the League (vela is a classic example). The hype around JET will collapse just as quickly if he struggles in a couple of games. Would be better to ease him into the top level.

  18. MSL says:

    There are so many combinations possible that one cannot put a finger on one and say- This! This is the one. The flexibility gives us a great deal to change tactics according to a game but it also leaves us without a consistent starting eleven. (Fergie is a genius in this regard, the success he achieves with squad rotation is unbelievable. )

    I am not comfortable with Arshavin and Walcott on the pitch when Song is rushing forward. With Song or Wilsher purely holding, we can afford to have them both else gaps appear way too often. Walcott-Sagna are yet to develop an understanding to start often.

    Arshavin and Nasri supported but Cesc-Song-Wilshere is a preferred eleven with Walcott in for Nasri.

    • desigunner says:

      Agree with you about flexibility and grudgingly I have to admit Fergie has done well but mostly that is down to a strong defensive approach and nicking 1-0’s with the likes of Ronaldo and Rooney producing some magic.

  19. […] Arshavin, Walcott, Rosicky, Nasri – Who should start? Based on the comments left on the match analysis after the last game, I’m guessing many gooners were unhappy with the […] […]

  20. NOAH NIKANOR says:


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