Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Leeds United

This piece is a difficult one for me. I like to write these articles based on what I’ve seen. In the case of Premiership and most Champions League teams I can watch some of their games or at least decent quality highlights. That makes it easier to visualize how a game might pan out.

In the present case of Leeds United I know very little. And memories of the likes of Viduka, Harte, Kewell, and the woodwork tormenting Arsenal at the end of the 02-03 season aren’t particularly useful in anyway.

I thought it might be a good idea to look for some recent highlights of Championship games featuring the visitors. That search led me to this youtube channel for some recent highlights and to this compilation of goals by Leeds in 2010.

Based on that limited evidence, the visitors look like a decent side in the attacking third. Snodgrass on the right wing seems to have an intelligent head on his shoulders along with neat ball skills and a good cross. Luciano Becchio looks like a decent finisher in the box. Max Gradel, the Ivorian, has pace on the left and he can convert chances. Even their midfielders have the ability to pop up with a crucial goal or two.

Last season, while still in League One, Leeds defeated Manchester United at the same stage of the competition, at Old Trafford. Subsequently, they took the Tiny Totts to a replay. In due course, the visitors got promoted to the Championship and are now fighting at the top end to gain re-entry to the Premier League. I don’t wish to make this a eulogy for Leeds but the bottom-line is that the visitors can cause an upset if Arsenal don’t turn up at their best.

The game is even more risky because Arsene will be making a number of changes. Most fans can understand the need for rotations given the fixture congestion and the need to give certain players some well deserved game time, but finding the balance while doing this is not easy. United got walloped 4-0 in the League Cup when they made a number of changes against West Ham. Speaking before their game with Liverpool, Fergusson acknowledged that last season he got is starting line-up against Leeds wrong. We have to hope the same won’t happen to Arsenal.

Wenger has already said that he’s likely to rest Nasri, RvP, Koscielny, and Wilshere. I wholeheartedly agree with that decision. Sagna is also going to miss this game through suspension. That gives us five changes. If Cesc and Theo don’t start it will be seven and if Fabianski is rested that will make a total of eight changes, just the number that cost us two points at Wigan! Giving Gibbs a start would make it nine.

Having said that, I feel Arsenal can afford that many changes in this game because this is at home. Recent problems with wholesale changes have come on away trips in the Champions League and Premiership. A Cup tie with a lower division team at home should not fall in the same category.

I’d love to see Szczesny play the next two games. Nothing against Fabianski, as regular readers will know, but I’d like to see the young Pole in such games where he could afford a mistake or two.

In defence, Eboue and Gibbs should come in at full-back and Squillaci should partner Djourou who looks to be coming into this own. Clichy and Koscielny can do with a breather but at least one if not both have to be on the bench.

Picking the right midfield will be a tricky job. Ramsey started the last game on loan at Nottingham Forest but will he be ready to start for Arsenal in a game that is likely to demand a lot more physically and mentally? I’d prefer to see the youngster come on for the final 20-30 minutes or so based on the score-line.

I hope Arsene starts Alex Song in this game alongside Denilson. This will give Arsenal a fairly strong defensive midfield. Rosicky should add the creative threat in front of these two.

Up front, I’d not mind a repeat of the attacking line-up we saw at Wigan. Arshavin on the left, Chamakh in the centre, and Bendtner on the right should have more than enough to trouble the Leeds defence.

Preferred starting eleven,

Szczesny – Eboue, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs – Song, Rosicky, Denilson – Bendtner, Chamakh, Arshavin.

I think a lot will depend on how the players approach this game. If they go out to prove a point, the likes of Arshavin and Bendnter can destroy the visitors. If they take it easy it could backfire. This game might be a bigger mental battle rather than a tactical one.

Even then, Arsene must ensure that his team selection does not leave the defence exposed, especially on the flanks. That is one of the reasons I want to see Song in this game. Playing someone like Eastmond alongside Denilson will leave the defence vulnerable.

Games involving Leeds have seen plenty of goals and we don’t want them at the wrong end in this game. The visitors will probably mirror Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation and based on their record in the Championship (2nd highest in goals scored, 3rd highest in goals conceded) this game could be full of goals.

Finally, I’m hoping Leeds come to play football and not as a bunch of cloggers. The visitors have nothing to lose and should try to bring their best game to the pitch even if the Championship remains their priority. I’d hate to see another Arsenal player picking up a serious injury at a time when things seems to be falling in place.

20 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Leeds United

  1. simon says:

    We will play football,make no mistake about that,we cant defend.Leeds will score,could be interesting.Becchio in the air ,the best in the Championship,be warned!

  2. Joe says:

    The gaffer might opt to rest JD as well. He may give Ignasi Miquel a start.

  3. wasa says:

    vela gonna play!
    Arshavin could win this game single handed 😀

  4. Filip says:

    It is important that Vela ( left wing) and JET(right wing) start the match.Also if you are going to play a youngster from the reserves, it should be Aneke, NOT Eastmond.

  5. Man Utd didn’t field all that weak a team against us last year. But full time, we’d seen Kuszczak, Neville, Brown, Welbeck, Anderson, Obertan, Berbatov, Rooney, Owen, and Giggs among others.

    Leeds simply played very very well that day, and we didn’t do the traditional lower league FA Cup shock tactic of scrapping a lucky goal and then parking the bus. We went toe to toe with our hated rivals, one of the best teams in the world, and fully deserved the win on the day.

    But that was then, and this is now.

    I don’t think you need to worry whether Leeds will come to ‘play football’, that is, tbh, what we do everywhere. We simply cannot defend, and we are really rather exciting going forward.

    I’ll be at the Emirates later today, and I’m looking forward to an exciting game. I don’t expect us to have any real prospect of pulling off another cup shock, but hey, anything is possible.

  6. Henry XIV says:

    Who will he the leader then to keep them from “switching off” , panicking if things go awry, o they play with the handbrske on? As much as I like him ( and I do) Rosicky ain’t that leader unfortunately 😦

    Come on Arsenal!

  7. Mark says:

    if we play bendtner and chamakh together, i’d prefer we play a 4-4-2, rather than having bendtner on a wing. ideally, we’d give Song a rest. But I understand we need a bit of steel and experience in the center if we want to win a trophy; and I like giving Song more responsibility without Cesc/wilshere playing alongside him; good for his development and leadership, which he has shown in his last couple of games. i’d also like to see JET get some good minutes, and likewise with Ramsey. best Ramsey doesn’t start IMO, as it will be a pretty intense match.

  8. Mark says:

    Henry XIV, Rosicky is very much that leader: he presses, gives his team-mates an option through his hard running, and provides plenty of drive and energy to the team. You do the man a disservice by saying otherwise.

    • Henry XIV says:

      I respectfully disagree, and to back up what I said regarding Rosicky (whom I really like..again) you need to look no further than our shocking first 30 minutes against Wigan. Rosicky was captain then, and the TEAM’s performance was disjointed at best, shockingly poor at worst.

  9. Dark Prince says:

    Today’s case is just another example of when Arsenal should not be complacent. Given Arsenal’s recent performance and the opponent we’re playin today, it will seem like an easy Arsenal win, but the players should not think it is easy. I hope Denilson has a good game today. I’ve seen sometimes that playing him and Song together is not always a good idea, because both dont have positional understanding between each other. Also i hope we have Cesc, Nasri, Vela, Walcot n Ramsey in the subs bcoz if we’re trailing in the second half, then we wud need Nasri, Cesc and Walcot to come in to help us. But if we’re leadin then Vela, Ramsey can come in. Also i’d love to see Miyachi playin today. But dont kno where he is…

  10. Femi says:

    Arsenal will surely defeat leeds utd,take it or leave it

  11. goonerjax says:

    i think we should play vela up front today,he is the type of player who can really flourish in this sort of game seeing that leeds have an uncertain defence,and arshavin and JET on the wings. I completely agree that we can not play denilson and song together and ill prefer song to play and playing him might also give us the oppurtunity to play one of the younger cb,im thinking bartley should be given a chance

  12. Sonu says:

    Aaron Ramsey is going to be in the squad for this game. I wish Aaron will get some pitch time and I’m pretty sure he will if Arsenal are comfortably up by a couple goals by 60 minutes mark.It would be a great time for Rambo to return to the squad in front of the home crowd at The Emirates. I have been praying for his return and I hope he is back stronger than ever.
    C’mon Gooners!.

  13. IncredibleG says:

    As I said yesterday, we have to carry our intensity into this one! If we do that, it will say to me that we really have turned a corner. Obviously, my opinion won’t matter much to you but going into matches, for the rest of the season, knowing that we will fight hard until the final whistle would feel wonderful, no?

  14. Tare says:

    Well. MEN are playing soccer, not boys.


  15. Claver says:

    Leeds are out of their depth, I think.

  16. Miranda says:

    Oh joy, not only are we not out of this time-wasting comp, despite our best efforts, we’ve now got an exhaustion-ensuring replay, a fate I wish only on our main rivals (e.g. United) or our worst enemies who I hope will go down (e.g. Birmingham, Stoke).

    On a brighter note, what a fantastic keeper Szczesny is becoming. Impossible to hold it against him for keeping us in, or indeed against Cesc, but I’d be happier to see those two strutting their stuff only where it matters, i.e. the CL, the League and, to a lesser extent as this year we can win it and it will be over next month, the Carling.

    Very nice interview with Lehmann on fifa dot com. He says he values his time with us over all other clubs. Worth checking out.

    • Miranda says:

      Oh well, at least Stoke and Wolves have also got replays, which hopefully will make their lives harder, even help to send Wolves down; less sure about Stoke getting relegated but haven’t yet completely given up hope.

      Interesting that Walcott has admitted to diving and apologised to Wenger and Grayson. Admirable of him but, knowing the British media, probably not very wise?

  17. Claver says:

    These things happen. I hope that our so-called second team learn/appreciate the hardwork and effort required to win these things.

    I think that tactically AW has to improve, or perhaps he just does not have the players who can execute his tactics well enough on the pitch. I still think we need one excellent goalscorer. We cannot afford Bendtner’s misses and Chamakh’s disdain in the big matches. They are fantastic players however we need an experienced, proven goalscorer.

    Walcott. He is STILL only 21yrs. What will he be like at 23! May ‘THEO’ keep Walcott.

  18. […] Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Leeds United This piece is a difficult one for me. I like to write these articles based on what I’ve seen. In the case of […] […]

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