Thoughts On Starting Eleven And Tactics For The Carling Cup Final

So, the big, season-defining game is here. As I mentioned in the last post I’m quite confident and that is making me nervous. If I use my head, everything tells me Arsenal should win this one and rather comfortably at that. But the last few years have thrown up plenty of unpleasant surprises and the heart is a wary, somewhat sceptical creature these days.

Tactically, I expect to see a Blue bus parked inside Wembley. Mcleish is likely to go with a 4-5-1 and it will be interesting to see whether he picks the pacy Martins or the big man Zigic up front. I won’t be surprised if the Scot starts with a quick forward looking to play on the counter. He can bring the big man later on.

Birmingham are a unique team in that they have this tendency of putting up a serious challenge in the final 10-15 minutes. They’ve overturned a goal deficit against the big teams with their late push and Arsenal will need to score early to counter that. As we saw at St. Andrews an early goal will force them out and the Gunners will get a lot more room for their creative play. That way Wenger’s team could establish a bigger lead before the final quarter-hour of the game. Obviously, that means Arsenal need to start the game positively and at a high tempo just as they’ve been doing recently.

After the first goal they can slow down a bit but must use the ball and space more intelligently to create clear chances on the break.

With Mike Dean in charge the players will have to be prepared to win against 12 men. It will be a tough mental test and we need to see the Arsenal that overcame abysmal refereeing against Everton and Stoke and not the one that succumbed at Newcastle.

While the team as a whole has to be mentally tough, it is also an individual characteristic. So it will be interesting to see if Wenger plays his strongest team or not. In the previous Carling Cup games Arsene has made some changes to the starting eleven but I’d like to see the strongest team for this one.

At the back that would mean Koscielny coming in for Squillaci and no other changes. Eboue and Gibbs will have to be satisfied with a place on the bench.

Up front I’d like to see Arshavin on the left where he can trouble Stephen Carr who is error prone. RvP, who will captain the side, will be the key figure at the centre of the attack and I’d prefer Nasri on the right. Some might suggest playing Nasri down the middle but to me Nasri and Arshavin on the opposite flanks seems more balanced. I also feel Nasri is at his best on the right.

Picking the midfield will be a challenge in the absence of Cesc. The simpler option would be to bring Rosicky in for El Capitan in front of Wilshere and Song. I’d prefer to see Wilshere in a more advanced role with Song and Diaby behind him. That will also give Arsenal a stronger physical presence on set-pieces.

I don’t think the trio, Song-Wilshere-Diaby, have ever started any game this season so it might be suggested that this is not the right time to experiment. I will trust Wenger’s judgement on that.

Preferred starting line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy – Song, Wilshere, Diaby – Arshavin, RvP, Nasri.

If Arsenal can repeat the defensive performance that we saw against Stoke, I can see the Gunners keeping a clean sheet. That will be some achievement as Birmingham have showed good form in Cup games.

I really want to see a focussed and confident display for 90 minutes even if the ref favours the opponents and the players are roughed up. Arsenal must not show signs of confusion and weakness in their play as it can lead to a negative cycle – the opponents get fired up while the Gunners start making individual mistakes. After that the ball just keeps coming into the Arsenal box giving the ref enough chances to blow for a penalty or for an opponent to get lucky with a tap-in. This will be possible if the players keep their concentration on the football and not on the result or its implications.

I have a feeling Van Persie’s delivery on set-pieces and his sharpness in and around the box will make a big difference. Wilshere should also show he is ready to take some load off Fabregas.

Prediction by my mind is a 3-1 win for Arsenal but my heart is afraid it will be heart-break after extra-time. Ultimately, my backside is bearing the brunt of sitting on an uncomfortable fence but thankfully the wait is not a long one.

37 Responses to Thoughts On Starting Eleven And Tactics For The Carling Cup Final

  1. JJ Pittman says:

    Very nervous about refereeing. Not just that they get calls, but our guys could get hurt. We somehow have to shrug off the thugs, no Diaby moments.
    Do not feel this match is season defining: win will mean nothing to critics. Loss will give them reason to criticize even more. A controlled thorough thrashing, say 3-0, will satisfy us and any neutral observers. This still is, however, the “could not care less” cup.
    I have way too many “friends” who support ManUre and Chelski, only one of whose opinion I respect at all, and I have already heard their sour grapes bs.
    C’mon you Gooners!

    • santori says:

      Based on the ref alone, we’ll probably concede 2 goals both penalties (one to be retaken twice after two misses, one because Bowyer blatantly side kicks then bundles Djourou over in our half)

      We’ll have to be extremely unforgiving up front.

  2. Anon 1 says:

    Great article..Song, Wilshire and Diaby all started as a trio at Stamford Bridge this season, though Diaby played as the most advanced midefielder that day…..

    • santori says:

      It will be quite physical, might not be bad to have the extra strength of Diaby, if it is accompanied with mental strength as well.

    • winner says:

      The trio also started at Anfield if my memory serves me well. Much will depend on the fighting spirit of the players. I believe Birmingham are really up for this one, and so will be Arsenal. Two early Arsenal goals are preferable but should that fail they should remain patient and continue to play their game. A lot will depend on the referee, if he stamps out malicious fouls early in the game we are likely to see Birmingham thoroughly outplayed, if not then we are in for a bruising match. I just can’t see Arsenal losing this one.

  3. Anon 1 says:


  4. I cannot disagree with your lineup.
    Tomorrow seems like a year to me.
    *Fingers crossed for The Arsenal*

  5. Dobbi says:

    Good luck to the boys in red and white, i hope they do us proud!

  6. DGooner says:

    I would agree with the starting line up and I do hope we win convincingly as it will inspire us for the rest of the season. Go Gunners!

  7. Edu says:

    Diaby is injured and also suspended so he will not play.

    Aaron Ramsey or Rosicky could start.

  8. kc says:

    Great Post! Line-up is spot on. Arshavin, Van Persie, and Nasri up front will light it up! 3 nil to The Arsenal!! C’Mon You Reds!

    • santori says:

      I’m with Desi and extremely nervous we don’t botle it, especially since we are at the door so to speak.

      BUT if we win (and we should) let’s win by a wide margin and send out a clear message to everyone.

  9. showtime! says:

    Diaby will start and we wil nid strength in midfield.he hs oredy saved hz ban

  10. arvind says:

    First off, Cashley.. you are a dumbass and good riddance to you! Shooting someone with a rifle????

    MY guy feeling on the game is penalties… with us prevailing. if we do win in regulation my man of the match will be wilshere…. just my feelings so far.

    • FoolishGooner says:

      Haha@Arvind… You predetermined your MOTM little baised ain’t ya? Jack is a wonderful player but this English media/crazy pressure must cease so he can grow and realize his potentail. In response to all the Gooners who are afraid from refs/injuries/other team bullying tactics grow a pair. AFC players arent made of glass they are professionals who can take and dish everything on the field. It is all about who wants to it more. Cecs and Theo will be missed for deferent reasons. And in the risk of sounding overconfident, i think Jack and Nasri are more than capable to fill for them in this Match. The real question is will Diaby/Rosicky/ and a tired song fullfil their duties to maintain the balance of the team. I think my answer is yes but that is why they play the games. As someone suggested already, our goal isn’t to satisfy critics. They will always find away to discredit AFC and Wenger. Just like some of us always predetermine their MOTM before games so to always praise some players and critisize others no matter their on the pitch performences! Politics/Nationality/stupidity you call what you like, but that is Arsenal for you. It a game, it is a Final and it is massive indeed! We are favotires and i know we can do the job. Cheers Gooners.

  11. D says:

    It’s a shame Theo has to miss this game. It’d have been fitting for the player to play this one as he’s been instrumental in our run in this year. Also Theo is a bigger miss on the flank. With Arsene not risking El Capitan for this one I’d have loved to see Arshavin playing in the “hole” behind RVP. It’s his favorite position and although his tracking back has improved over the games it wont be missed when he is playing in that position.

    In my opinion McLeish will start Zigic. With Mike Dean starting for the Brums, I bet McLeish is gonna expect some dangerous free kicks that can be delivered into the box by Seb Larsson. Should there be a 75 min deadlock then he might sub one of his midfielders and put Martins on.

    As far as our midfield goes. I’m really nervous about starting Diaby. Mind you, I rate Diaby very highly but I somehow feel the Diaby-Song-Jack trio wont click. Diaby cannot be counted upon to hold and his decision making is a bit off in the final third. Jack and Diaby should have a really good understanding and should take turns going forward. As you have said, with such little playing time between them it’s quite risky. That said, Diaby with his physical attributes can really help us out in the box (either one). But, I’ll take the “simpler” option and go with Tomas instead.

    Glad to see Koscielny back (No offense to Squillaci). 3-0 to The Arsenal and the great run in to the title , FA cup and the champs league is set into motion.

    • Mark says:

      I agree don’t think Diaby is ready, nor does he deserve to play having done very little during the CC campaign. His height would be handy though.

  12. ashish says:

    I totally agree with the lineup but wenger might want to bring bentender into the starting lineup moving nasri into the central midfield along side song and wilshere and bringing diaby late on in the game if required. This will bring more creativity in the midfield.Fingers crossed. 4-1 to arsenal for me with arshavin,bentener and RvP to score.Cmon Arsenal!!!!

  13. amit says:

    great post…cant wait for the match to start!
    my prediction: Arsenal 2 Birmingham City 1

  14. Mark says:

    expect bendtner to start on the right wing. if Wenger wants to keep bendter from leaving the club, he’ll be starting. it’s also tactically advantageous to have bendtner’s height for defending set pieces.
    I also wouldn’t be surprised seeing Gibbs line up. He’s our future, and a win in a CC final would really be beneficial for his growth as a player.
    Also expect Denilson to play, however I can see Denilson as the unlucky one who might be benched for this one, even though he has been a mainstay with Bendtner and Gibbs throughout the campaign.

    Sagna koscielny Djourou Gibbs
    Bendtner Wilshere Rosicky Arshavin

  15. Ajinkya says:

    If mike dean makes a mess of this game, I am going to England myself to beat the hell out of him.

  16. FoolishgooNer says:

    Lol@ajinkya we do not condon violence against senior citizens on these parts. However mike dean you are on notice.

  17. RILWAN M B says:

    Arsenal 3 Birmingham 1

  18. el says:

    I can see the line up being

    Sagna djourou koz clichy
    Song wilshere denilson
    Nasri rvp arshavin

  19. Kayciey says:

    Take it easy. We are winning this. 3 – 1 for Arsenal.Scorers AA23, RVP, Diaby. Zigic to score for them on a set piece.

  20. Metalhead says:

    I think the Wilshere/Diaby/Song trio is acceptable. But it’s not wise to field a rusty player (Diaby) in a cup final.You need players at their best to inject confidence in the team. If Arsene makes the mistake of fielding Wilshere/Denilson/Song, then I think we’ll get overrun in the midfield. I think Arsene should field Wilshere/Rosicky/Song, with Rosicky playing Cesc’s role. I know Rosicky is not in great form but his experience will come in handy. He has very good vision just like Cesc. He has this great ability of spotting forward moving players and delivering incisive passes. I think he is the best after Cesc in doing that. Besides, I think we need a deep lying creative midfielder like Wilshere if we are to score. Diaby and Denilson give the ball away too easily and can lead to unnecessary panic.

    I agree with you on Nasri. He functions best when playing on the right. I even said this in one of your previous posts. He has scored some sublime goals from the right. The one against Porto and the 2 against Fulham spring to mind.

  21. djfgjk says:

    Anybody that has been a key player from the start of the cc will start todays final match

  22. arshavin=achilles says:

    Arshavin and RVP will score in this game…also watch Nasri as he will be having at least one assist…3-1 for Arsenal my prediction

  23. BergkampHenry says:

    Hey guys i am on a shift during the match, is there any website i could use to watch the full match (delayed coverage)??

  24. Claver says:

    What to say eh?

  25. Claver says:

    Our midfield was rubbish today. Mediocre. How on earth did we beat Barcelona?

    We were not getting behind their defences, our passing was too slow. Rosicky and Wilshere were pathetic. Utterly pathetic. What service did Chamakh get?

    Today is a sad day for the Gunners.

  26. […] Thoughts On Starting Eleven And Tactics For The Carling Cup Final So, the big, season-defining game is here. As I mentioned in the last post I’m quite confident and that is making me […] […]

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