Thoughts On the Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Sunderland

The Sunderland game brings along some interesting statistical trivia.

  • Arsenal are top of the current Premiership form table (3W, 1D) while Sunderland are rock bottom (4L)
  • Arsenal have won just one of the last five meetings with Sunderland (1W, 3D, 1L) but the Black Cats haven’t won away at Arsenal since 1983 (2D, 7L)
  • There have been only eight goals in the last six games between the sides

Despite the huge gulf in form I expect this game to be really tight. In fact, given the injuries Arsenal have and the fact that the Gunners have only won four out of twelve meetings with sides in the top half of the table, I’m expecting a draw in this game. Of course, a win is vital not only for the points but also from the confidence point of view. It can be achieved if all the players can perform at their best for the duration of the game.

Sunderland are a very compact team that relies on its ethos of hard work and togetherness. When they are able to play as a unit they are really tough to break down and have caused big teams some serious problems over the last couple of seasons. After the injury to Fabregas, Arsenal were really outplayed at the stadium of light this season.

It will be interesting to see whether the visitors will push forward and press Arsenal higher up or they will sit back to absorb pressure. In the absence of El Capitan the Gunners sometimes struggle to bring the ball out from the back when the opposition puts pressure on the midfield and defence. If Steve Bruce shows some ambition we could see an interesting battle in the middle third. It won’t lead to much goalmouth action so many might find it boring but I like such tussles.

An early goal could open this game up and I’m hoping Arsenal will add to their League-topping 11 goals scored within the opening 15 minutes of games this season.

It’s difficult to pinpoint any defensive weakness in the Sunderland side but off late they have been susceptible to set-pieces and crosses. Not sure if Arsenal can capitalize on that weakness but if Bendtner spends a lot of time in the opposition box he should get a few opportunities to increase his goals tally. Arsenal’s best bet of scoring will come from a moment of individual brilliance.

The defenders will have to be alert as Gyan has the ability to convert half-chances. Sunderland are also quite good at scoring from distance and move the ball better than many other mid-table teams. In the absence of Song the other midfielders will have to track the runs better. Szczesny will definitely be required to make at least a couple of big saves probably from counter attacks.

If the back five do their jobs well and the attackers take a couple of chances I can see Arsenal winning this game but it will be a real surprise if the winning margin is greater than two goals. That would be the best case scenario in my opinion.

Since Arsene was able to rest most of the players the starting eleven should be quite fresh. I expect the regulars to start at the back. In the midfield I’ll prefer to see Denilson and Diaby behind Wilshere. Some might suggest that playing Nasri through the middle is a better option but I prefer to see the Frenchman on the right wing with Bendtner in the centre and Arshavin on the left.

Preferred starting line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy – Denilson, Wilshere, Diaby – Nasri, Bendtner, Arshavin.

I feel this side has better balance. If Nasri played through the middle with Wilshere staying deep instead of Denilson, either Chamakh or Rosicky would have to come in to the front three. I think both those players are a bit off form right now and will affect the quality of the attack as well as defence. Denilson might not be a popular player but he can certainly do a job in such games.

That said, I don’t expect Arsene to pick this starting eleven. Wenger will probably go with Nasri in the attacking midfield role.

Ramsey should get a few minutes towards the end as he eases back into first team reckoning.

As I said, while it is quite possible, I’m not expecting a win in this game so a positive result will feel like a big achievement to me. I can understand others might feel a lot more confident but my suggestion is don’t take a win for granted.

Finally, I don’t believe Sunderland are a particularly nasty team but Muntari is one player who worries me. I hope no Gunner is injured in this game.


28 Responses to Thoughts On the Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Sunderland

  1. Zgunner says:

    Arsenal’s test of character will be on display against Sunderland.

  2. santori says:

    Desi, I’ll go with your line-up too except there could also be a case to sub AA for Chamakh, Bentdner goes right and Nasri left, if we’re still goaless after the break.

    1) Being that they have shown weakness in defending against set play and crosses, it makes sense to exploit the presence of both Chamakh and Bentnder on the field.

    2) Match against the ‘O’s looked like the audition for who will get the part leading the line. Bendtner’s certainly in the lead but it would make sense to give both big men a run out again. If anything, we’ll still need the other one to gain sharpness.

    I’m also with you on the likelihood of the draw on account that United just did us a favour and we’re not very gracious at taking these.

    A lot will depend on our midfield engine.

    I don’t think either of Denilson or Diaby are particularly effective on ther own (holding) but I think you just about get something from them when they play together.

    Cautiously optimistic we grab the bull by the horns for once.

  3. Greencard usa says:

    Fortunately neither statistics nor history can determine the outcome of a game; they provide a little ground for speculation but nothing more. Each game, I believe, depends on the very specific conditions that attend. Here I hope and expect the mental strength of Arsenal to create its own history and exercise full commitment. With all at stake there is no better time or reason for collective belief, commitment, cohesion, and an unmovable desire to play for one another as a team. I expect and believe Arsenal will win this one handsomely.

  4. arvind says:

    I really really hope we see Ramsey back in action. Just the sight of him being back will be a huge moral boost. I love the guy and he does have a knack for scoring sometimes. I dont expect a lot of minutes for him but its really good for Arsenal to have him back!

    I think Nasri is going to score… you talk about ind. brilliance… he is the only one I can think of doing that!

    I really hope that liverpool beats manshister united on SUnday!

  5. Davi says:

    Although they probably do rely on workrate overall, don’t dismiss sunderland’s ability as ball-players. They have quality strikers in gyan and welbeck (although I think they’re having an injury-crisis atm) who will be a handful for any defence, particularly gyan, and quality midfielders in muntari, richardson, sessegnon and the Egyptian winger who’s name I forget. They’re usually pretty good in defence as well.
    It should be a tough game.

  6. Dark Prince says:

    I think an important part will be of substitutions bcoz of the barca game midweek. I guess wilshere will make way for ramsey in 60th min n arshavin n nasri making way for chamakh n rosicky in 70th min. This wud give us a less tired starting 11 against barca.

  7. Phv says:

    I would prefer a trio of diaby, wilshere and Ramsey for tomorrow.Ramsey should start because he is back at his best like he showed for Cardiff.He brings sharpness to our attacks.He is too good to sit on the bench.He hasn’t had an injury for fourth months so there is no danger.He is fit enough.Sunderland have been pathetic recently ( losing at home vs tottenham’s squad players ) but it always feels like teams up their games against us and we will struggle without cesc.I really hope for a win.It is just so important at this stage.

  8. Abdikheer says:

    Rambo n jack shuld ply at the midfield rambo s gud at scoring while jack s gud passing

  9. Irish Desi Gooner says:

    Agree with you desi, can’t take a win for granted. Sunderland is a good side. Having said that, I do feel that the fighting spirit of our team this season has been absolutely sensational and they’ll certainly do their best to keep the pressure on Manu.

    On a side note, I just looked up who’s the ref for Sunday’s Pool Manu clash. It’s Phil Dowd. While I do admit that I am quite paranoid and possibly indulge myself unhealthily into the whole “there’s a conspiracy with the EPL’s refereeing” idea, does anyone else feel that we can fairly confidently “predict” the outcome of that game? Just a thought.

  10. wallace says:

    well phil dowd is a bloke who has got no common sense in situations which turn the games on their head. . such a pathetic ref. . . english refs are a joke. . . e.g howard webb the manu ass licker

  11. BergkampHenry says:

    once again great analysis desigunner, i really enjoy reading your articles as they are intelligent, insightful and relatively objective.

    i agree with the lineup, although i would like to see chamakh make an appearance (be it from the bench or otherwise). a strong performance after his goal last match would certainly boost his confidence/form and would provide another attacking option in the clash with barcelona.

    I also hope diaby and particularly denilson put in a good shift, and look forward to the (albiet inprobable) possibility of Ramsey making a return.

  12. Drvics says:

    Hi Desi,

    I am back from a long sabbatical, but I did keep track of all things Arsenal and especially your take on the goings around, whenever I could.

    On tonights game, I am quite confident we will have a positive result. It wont be an easy game but I expect a win with a 2 goal margin with us owning a large chunk of the possession.

    The reason for my prediction is the Sunderlands lack of form. They also have suffered their fair share of injuries and their back up is nowhere as strong as ours. Their CB pairing hasn’t been stable also (through Bramble has been ever present and Mensah has been chronically injured).

    We should however be very careful of the long range shots as you mentioned, Desi. They have several players, especially Muntari, who can hit absolute pile drivers. The midfield and the back back line will have to be alert a 100% for this threat.

    The other Black Cat to watch out for is inevitably the Keeper. Gordon has had a few nightmarish performances this season (took majority of the blame for their tonking against Stoke). But, as always, against us, the goalkeepers tend to have their better games.

  13. matt says:

    gordon is injured apparently. So is welbeck

  14. Gersha says:

    We don’t have worry about senderland
    comeon gunners @ camp nou.

  15. OnDGooner says:

    Denilson tends to give away so many freekicks especially in the last third. I wouldn’t play him but either Rosicky or Aaron Ramsey if both are fully fit. Diaby and Wilshire should be ok in the middle there but not Denilson in such a crucial match.

  16. IncredibleG says:

    Agree with your line-up Desi. Also in full agreement that any win is a good result today. The number of people underestimating Sunderland in the interverse is quite scary. These guys can play football and Gyan might not be the total package but he can score against anyone.
    At the moment, I’d like the guys to stop talking about winning trophies and contract extensions and focus only on the strengths of the next team and how they’re going to deal with them. *Cliche Alert* Every games, at this point, is a cup final and we can drop points at any time. Only a solid winning run will lead us to silverwear.
    We’ve got a 2 week break in league fixtures followed by another break after our trip to the Hawthornes. All 6 points from March is essential and could be enough to put real pressure on Man U and put us in the driving seat for the 5(!!!) EPL matches we have in April.

  17. Jatin says:

    U go a draw desi…but i must say…diaby was pedestrian to say the least today..we just have to sell rosicky…grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

  18. Kushagra India says:

    Diaby Denilson Rosicky arrrrgggghhhhhh….

  19. Kushagra India says:

    Bendy Chamakh both shoulda scored today really we need a better backup for perennially injured RVP …..lack of killer instinct and all that….

  20. Kushagra India says:

    Even the great man himself Bergkamp understands we need quality players
    ” Looking back, every time we won something, every summer before he bought some players. Petit, Grimandi, Overmars in 1998, Campbell, Van Bronckhorst in 2001. A change of a squad, a few big players, can help a squad — there is competition, there is knowledge.
    “Three new players will mean 17 others will look at it and they will change. Something happened in those seasons I mentioned which made us stronger. Sometimes you have to get those players in to make something happen

  21. Kushagra India says:

    Arsha twice stayed on his feet to pull off the strike dear REFEREEEEE!!!!!!

  22. Kushagra India says:

    We played much better with 2 strikers ….

  23. Kushagra India says:

    and seriously enough of Denilson disgusting to say the least how he managed 151 appearances is beyond me…

  24. Kushagra India says:

    Anthony Taylor money well spent by the referee…..

  25. Kushagra India says:

    Anthony Taylor money well spent by the fergie…..

  26. […] Thoughts On the Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Sunderland The Sunderland game brings along some interesting statistical trivia. […]

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