Thoughts On The Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Barcelona

Some of you might remember I’d discussed a slightly defensive approach before the home game. The main premise was that since the team is not going to dominate the ball they’ll have to put in a well organized defensive performance. As events unfolded we saw Barcelona dominating the game and taking a deserved lead but a disallowed goal and some missed chances meant that Arsenal were not out of the tie. The positive approach was rewarded towards the end as the visitors tired. One goalkeeping howler combined with a wonder-strike and a lighting fast counter attack were enough to give Arsenal the win.

Will that advantage be enough to qualify for the next stage by eliminating the favourites remains to be seen.

Arsene has talked about a slightly different approach to the away game whereas Cesc has said that we must stick to what we know. Both men know that Arsenal will not dominate possession against this Barcelona team.

For a while now, I’ve held the opinion that tactical modifications are one of the great man’s weaknesses so I’ll be keeping a close eye on the tactics that Wenger will deploy. Arsene said, “We can defend when we have to.” Some of the recent performances, and the fact that Arsenal have now conceded fewer goals than Manchester United in the League, do back up that claim but I’m not fully convinced.

I liked the way Fabregas talked about this game.

We have to be intelligent and mature enough to solve the problems they may cause. We know Barcelona keeps possession of the ball something like 70 per cent of the game and we are not used to that.

There is no doubt the problems Barcelona will cause will be completely different from the ones that Arsenal have to face twice a week in England. The Catalan giants with their trademark pressing will ensure that the Gunners will not have any time on the ball to pick out simple passes even at the back.

I expect the intensity of pressing in this game to be much higher than the first leg. I also expect more purposeful and focussed attacks from Barcelona. Their confidence while playing at home is at a different level and Arsenal will not get away with a performance like the first half at the emirates.

Barcelona have many avenues of attack but Arsenal will have to ensure at least three basic issues are handled without an error for the duration of the game.

1) Messi must not be allowed to turn and run at the defence without any pressure

While the hosts will have plenty of attacking threats there is none bigger than the diminutive Argentinean. If he is allowed to receive the ball without pressure and run at the defence he can wreck havoc against any opposition.

Since Messi literally roams all over the pitch these days, often dropping back into his own half to receive the ball, it’s not easy to stop him. However, I’d prefer to see more pressure on the best player in the world when he receives the ball in the Arsenal half. And at no point should he be allowed to just get between the lines without close attention.

One approach would be for the defenders (Koscielny) to track Messi as he did in the latter stages of the first leg. I’m not convinced that is a strategy that can be successfully used for ninety minutes as it leaves a big hole at the back for others to exploit and the Arsenal midfield is not renowned for tracking runs diligently.

Easier said than done no doubt, as any manager or player who has gone up against Messi will confirm. Arsenal will need impeccable communication between the defenders and the midfield to pull this off.

2) Gap between the lines must be narrow

Apart from communication, the Gunners will have to ensure that the gap between the midfield and defence is never too large, especially when the opponents have the ball. If this distance is as big as we see in the above image it will be like playing into the hands of the opponents.

Obviously, this is a tricky issue because if the players drop too deep they might end up in an overly defensive shape and lose all options of breaking forward. But in my opinion defence will have to take priority at least for the first half. If Arsenal are two or three down by half-time this game will be over and Barcelona will be able to sit back and play on the counter.

We have seen their weaknesses late in games and it’s imperative for Wenger’s team to keep this tie alive till the final few minutes.

3) Defensive line must not be broken due to lack of concentration or carelessness

Once again taking an example from their goal at the Emirates, we can see the defensive line losing shape way too easily making it easy for Villa to get in behind.

This is a fairly high line while playing against a team like Barcelona so it will be interesting to see if Wenger uses this tactic or pulls his team further back to reduce the space between the defenders and the Keeper.

In either case we are likely to see a lot more attacking runs from the opponents; Villa, Iniesta, Alves, and others. If Arsenal don’t maintain the defensive discipline Barcelona will be able to convert harmless possession into a goal at blink-and-you-miss speeds.

Apart from these three points there are some other issues that Arsenal will have to pay attention to. For instance, the gap between Eboue and Djourou is way too big in the above screenshot. Arsenal will have to be a lot more compact than that.

So far the only tactic that has had relative success for visitors to the Nou Camp in a big game has been a deep and narrow defensive line with a second layer of protection within five yards or so. I don’t think Arsenal can quite pull it off if they try this approach so they will have to find a middle point between an extremely defensive approach and their usual high-line attacking style.

The tactics that Arsene can use will also depend on the players available to him. Without Walcott it will be easier for Barcelona as Arshavin doesn’t have the same pace and will not put in an equivalent shift in defence either. In fact, I’d be tempted to play Eboue on the left ahead of the Russian for the first hour of the game. This will allow Nasri some breathing/attacking room on the right as he won’t have to spend time tracking Alves.

Preferred starting line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy – Diaby, Cesc, Wilshere – Nasri, Bendtner, Eboue.

There could also be an argument for playing Gibbs instead of the Ivorian but the youngster doesn’t have enough experience to play in a game of this stature.

I’m sure arguments can be made for starting with Arshavin and going into the game with a positive mentality. I can’t reject the thought outright but it seems like a high risk option to me.

With Van Persie’s surprise late inclusion in the squad there is a chance that the Dutchman might start this game. As I discussed in the previous article it’s an option that doesn’t worries me more than it excites me but I cannot reject that possibility either.

In response to the previous post some suggested that Chamakh should start this game. The logic of using the Moroccan’s superior work rate seems sound but I’m worried about his lack of confidence in front of goal. On the other hand, if he can get one of the central defenders sent off it will completely change the complexion of this tie.

Personally, I’d prefer a solid opening with some quick breaks. Barcelona will miss Puyol and Pique. If Arsenal can put Abidal and his partner under some pressure this game could yield exhilarating situations.

Szczesny will undoubtedly be called upon to make some big saves and Koscielny will need to at least repeat his excellent display from the first leg. This game offers the duo a glorious chance for redemption after their terrible gaffe in the League Cup final. I won’t blame them if they don’t succeed but will be extremely disappointed if they buckle under pressure.

I’d also like to see Arsenal make the best use of any set-piece opportunities that arise. In many matches the Gunners seem to take these lightly but they cannot afford to do so in this one. Valdes is one of Barcelona’s true weaknesses and must be tested at every opportunity.

The home side are likely to get the benefit of most of the close decisions from the ref so none of the players can risk flirting with fouls the way Song did in the first leg. This will be closely linked with the positions that Arsenal take up. If the gap between the lines is large then the midfielders will inevitably end up conceding some fouls as they chase opponents towards their own goal.

The Gunners must avoid the mistake of hooking the ball back into play from dangerous situations. Putting it out for a corner or a throw should not be a big problem against Barcelona as long as they are alert to the quickly taken ones. If the Arsenal players switch off even for a few moments, Barcelona can covert a free-kick or a throw into a goal with relative ease.

On the whole I don’t want to have too many expectations from this game with a guy like Messi in the opposition ranks. Arsenal have the players to make this an entertaining and closely fought encounter but I’m not convinced they have the defensive discipline and concentration to keep the Argentinean and his cohorts out for the duration of the game. Of course, I had similar thoughts before the first leg as well and look how it turned out. With a bit of luck you never know.

76 Responses to Thoughts On The Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Barcelona

  1. Snir Geuli says:

    Desi, haven’t read it yet, but just wanted to let you know that I saw your email and I think I’ll take your offer.

    Keep going and being one of the best Arsenal Blogs.

  2. JJ Pittman says:

    3 years ago Flamini was able to man- mark Kaka at San Siro. No one can man-mark “the Flea”(hence his name).
    We can attack them even without TW14, especially since they will not have Pique & Puyol.
    Sagna is best RFB in the game, even with Dani Alves on the other side.
    Think it will come down to keepers and luck. Can’t do anything about luck, but Czszesny v. Valdes is biggest comparative edge we have.
    C’mon you Gooners!

    • gunner_expat says:


      it’s not just ‘the flea’, it’s ‘La Pulga Atomica’… the atomic flea

      honestly no one team should have the aberration of nature that is messi…he should be shared by all. we ought to get him for the second leg honestly!

  3. Dark Prince says:

    I think arsenal’s weakness is definately the left side. Now that Walcott isn’t there, i cant expect Arshavin to do the same defensive job. Gibbs replacing Arshavin could be better for a defensive line but he wont be as effective in attacking. Plus this left side is the side where Pedro and Alves will attack from, and both will definately attack together. So we need someone who can defend and support Clichy. And Arshavin doesn’t seem to be the one. Unfortunately, i dont think we have anyone who can replace Walcott.

    • Titi says:

      You do realize when Walcott is on the pitch Nasri plays left winger! How in the world is Walcott gonna help Clichy better than Arshavin when they don’t even play on the same side of the pitch?

  4. Dark Prince says:

    Also i think its crucial that we score atleast one goal…bcoz that would mean barca needing to score 3 goals to win. And if they score only 2 goals and the game extends into extra time then Arsenal have better substitutes than barca. I think Gibbs starting in Arshavin’s place could be a good idea, and later on Arshavin should be brought on when barca are tired.

    • desigunner says:

      Agree about the importance of getting a goal, especially an early one. That way even if Barca get three they’ll be vary of Arsenal getting another and going through on away goals. Wanted to cover this in the article but missed it as it was getting too long.

    • Messi's dad says:

      fully agree Dark Prince. funnily enough, seems like whether we play birmingham or barcalona, the critical factor would be whichever team scores first!

      other than set piece play as mentioned by Desi, I feel we would also need to break quickly (10-15 seconds) frequently, committing not more than 3, at the very most 4 players max each time, even in the first half. we need to “remind” them of the need to cautious, make them play “with the handbrake on”.

      although TW14 wasn’t too effective in the first leg, now that we’re 2-1 ahead, I feel he’d be sorely missed as absolutely no one in the Barca squad could match his pace, and he did wear down the Barca players in his several lung bursting runs contributing to their fatigue in the second half.

      Conversely, and just as critically as scoring at least 1 goal, is the fact that we should be mentally prepared to deal with conceding the first (and if it happens, hopefully the only) goal. the players need to remember the mathematics of the champions league away goals rule. the game is not lost EVEN if we are 2-0 down at half time – all we need is to score 1 goal, and then Barca would need to score 3 goals total to avoid extra time. if we make it to extra time, hopefully our superior fitness could be a factor.

      if (or should i say, when), Messi / Barca scores 1 goal, the team should not panic, should calmly re-group, and just make sure Barca do not score again. Barca would continue playing keep ball, but more than ever we should be wary of their counter. if Barca are 1-0 ahead, i say the team should not fall into the trap of trying to win the ball back in the Barca half fruitlessly, especially since, at 1-0, I expect them not to be content to play keep ball in their half. i feel they would continue to attack to try to emulate or better last season’s 4-1 score to “avenge” the Emirates loss. so i say our gameplan should still be the same – let them pass into our half, then only try to win the ball back in our half and kill them on the counter.

      Ahem… cough… cough… quite easy to do right? LOL!

      • desigunner says:

        Excellent point about being mentally prepared. I thought last year Arsenal went forward immediately after conceding the second goal and played into Barcelona’s hands.

        It will also be interesting to see how the hosts approach the game. For them 1 – 0 is a better scoreline than 2 – 1. They might start playing deeper after scoring the first one.

    • Gennie says:

      Guys, there is Rosicky, he can play in Arshavins place. He can help Clichy defend against Alves and Messi. I do not think Eboue or Gibbs are suitable. Gibbs could be ok but creativity when attacking will surfer. On the other hand, Morzat was rested against S’land, he should be fresh enough to put in a good shift since Barca’s game is more technical than physical.

    • dotstuff says:

      I have been having lots of thoughts about having both clichy and gibbs on the pitch to nullify the threat on alves overlapping.if we can keep barca quiet on the left side of our defence, we can get a result from this match. how the team balances with such a formation was seen against leyton but this is barca?

      • JJ Pittman says:

        100% agree! Granted that it was only Orient and necessitated by Rosicky going out, but Clichy was great in front of Gibbs, even forgetting the goal.
        His speed, pace and savvy really showed and could against Barca as well, forcing Dani Alves to stay back more than he would like.

  5. Charlie says:

    Interesting Desi. I agree with your point about Chamakh being poor in front of goal lately but he says he’s back after burning out in December and i think he is perfect for this game. High work rate pressing Barca from the front with the ability to hold up the ball and not give away posession. Plus the aerial ability against a defense without any specialist CBs could give us a chance from set pieces. Eboue is accident prone in the extreme and i would feel terrified seeing him in the starting lineup for this match. Mascherano will probably play so your point about a sending off might be a good one.

    • desigunner says:

      I have not been impressed by Eboue in general this season but his performance in the last game was not bad. Perhaps he can raise his level for the occasion?

  6. amband says:

    the same team that beat them at Ashburton Grove should take the field

    Chamakh is better that Bentner

    • Titi says:

      Chamakh is better … just needs to be more aggressive in front of goal. I think he adds so many more dimensions to our team. Can turn provider when needed, works like a horse, is the best aerial threat we have … oh yeah, he also happens to have 2 feet to shoot with as well 😛

  7. amband says:

    Concentration near game’s end and stoppage time important. Gunners ten to go absent and let a goal in during this time

    Awareness and concentration right to the end

  8. FoolishGooner says:

    Well Desi i hear your skepticism. I think the most important think about this game is tactics; unfortunately that is our weakest point (Wenger). We have an advantage, so if we start the game know what the score is and counter-attack with real purpose! We will advance no matter what messi/alves or the rest of Barca Masters try to accomplish. If we start the game afraid, make mistakes (giving the ball away in the wrong places) it will be a long night. Honestly i feel great about this game! I might be the only sensible (Foolishgooner) in the planet who feels this way tonight. If Robin is fit and starts it shows that the BOSS was planning for this game all along. Win or lose i will respect the man forever. Personally I will start Chamakh upfront because he is intelligent, works hard, and knows how to play big games in CL! Nasri and Arshavin should be up for it. Cecs, Jack plusa willing runner (Diaby? Denilson? Rosicky?)i think Diaby should get the nod because he can dispossess the Barca Midfielders and can hold on to the ball. Barca Midfielders will have to faul Diaby to get the ball away from him, he doesn’t rely quick passes to be affective (Denilson). Quick/hurried misplaced passes is how Barcelona gets the ball back. Because they pass so much they know where the passes are going and when to press. So Denilson is no no in this game. But what do i know we shall see tomorrow. Till then Cheers my fellow Gooners where-ever you might be today.

    • arvind says:

      diaby seems to be way too nervous to be in a game like this. his constant dribbling and errant passing will kill us against barca…

      • desigunner says:

        Last year he was the one who troubled the hosts as he got away from them in no time. But his decision making was a bit disappointing after he got into good positions except for the pass that set up Theo through.

      • Titi says:

        soooo … you want Denilson on? At least Diaby can hold onto the ball. He will get fouled just because he will be the second best player with the ball at his feet(second only to messi) its so haard to get the ball off diaby!! He will start … no way Wenger playes denilson for this!!

      • arvind says:

        Diaby is high risk… he dribbles incessantly and thinks he can beat his man to do what? give a bad pass, refuse to shoot a the goal and when he loses the ball, fouls the opposition. He is not reliable in a high stakes match like this. I do not like diaby or denilson… Im hoping for a mirable Song recovery!

      • samir nasri says:

        i think diaby was quite fit last year as well. he hasn’t played many games this time around.

        nasri is our best player with the ball at his feet. he can keep it going forward with ease, diaby is more at ease with his back to goal.

        unless fitness is on his side allowing us to see the powerful strides he does possess, i don’t see him as useful in this game.

      • dotstuff says:

        I think Diaby is the lesser of all the ‘evils’ available for us. the other options are denilson (NO WAY) and rosicky (either one of cesc or nasri drops back)

    • veskovp says:

      I disagree that Diaby, Denilson or Eboue have place in this game, not until we lead with 3:0.The team should look like that Szczesny – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy –Wilshere- Cesc, Arhsavin – Nasri, Bendtner, RVP.

    • Waleed says:

      How is tactics Wenger’s weakest points? He is one of the most tactically astute managers in the game – one of the reasons he has kept this young team so competitive over the years.

      Just because he doesn’t sacrifice style for results doesn’t mean he is clueless tactically. Tactics doesn’t just refer to defending well, tactics can be about getting the best out of your team. And that Wenger does really well.

      Tactically in the first leg Wenger out thought Guardiola. It was a great game to watch from a tactical perspective. Just because Wenger didn’t follow the desi approach and play 9 defenders doesn’t mean we were clueless tactically.

      Did you notice, for example, our pressing strategy, something we’ve worked on this season (through marking i think its called)? Or did you notice how Walcott played deeper, primarily in a defensive role? He was not able to make runs in behind the defence but he ran very hard for 70 minutes and harassed barca players everywhere on that right hand side. Did you notice how Koscielny started keeping tight to Messi in the second half? Or how when Barca brought in a midfielder we brought on Arshavin and Bendnter?
      If tactics really were such a huge weakness for Wenger we wouldnt’ have won the last match.

      If you want an example of a tactically naive coach, look no further than Maradona. That is really being clueless.

      Or how about all the long ball managers in the English game today? Are those managers really more advanced tactically than Wenger?

      Denilson actually did very well against Barca last time. So I’d pick him over a rusty Diaby. His quick, safe passing style works well against Barca.

      • samir nasri says:

        i actually agree with you, i’m not of the school of mourinho thought.

        it can work, but not for our team. in my opinion. wenger, for me, is like pep. they know their team is built to attack, and attack well. for me, that is being very aware. and as a player, it’s odd to hear your coach tell you to play against your natural game.

        having said that, i don’t see why you decided to deride desi’s thoughts on the game, he makes good points, and we may very well find that defense is the best offense.

      • samir nasri says:

        not sure about denny. i’m actually on the fence about who should start. (den, diaby?)

        arsene knows. and if diaby has fitness and strength on his side, then my vote is for him.

      • Gennie says:

        I believe Diaby is still a little rusty, but he plays and does what he did at Newcastle first half, then Barca will be in for it. Denilson too has not played much this season and seems off form. However, I believe both players can do a good job in this game because the physicality is naught. Diaby, on his game would be perfect because he would attract a bunch of Barca players creating space for runners, and should he be able to make a pass, there will be plenty of space to run into (just remember the first goal against Barca last season, and a couple of other chances which Arsenal missed because of a poor choice of pass).

        Still, since Barca do not play physical AW could go with a midfield of Wilshere, Rosicky and Fabregas. All that is needed is for Rosicky to keep his energy high, and why not, he is still fresh as he only played a few minutes against S’land. You do not need huge and bulky DMFs when playing Barca, but one that are dynamic and quick, particularly because keeping possession will be indispensable in this game.

        Upfront, Nasri and Bendtner flanking whoever starts between RvP and Chamackh (if speed is needed, then Eboue could come in ahead of Bendner on the right, he had a very good understanding with Sagna during Sagna’s first season at Arsenal) and his crosses are satisfactory. He should be able to find RvP or Chamackh in the centre. Nasri should remain upfront to keep a high goal threat when we attack, otherwise he could swap positions with Morzat in this midfield.

      • desigunner says:

        Interesting point about tactics. I agree there are many other managers who are much, much weaker than Arsene is tactically. As far as creating a system and at a Macro tactical level Wenger is brilliant. But it seems you, like most others, are making the mistake of classifying people into tactical geniuses or tactically clueless. The reality is in between. All great coaches have some weaknesses and some strengths. You’ve made the same mistake by interpreting what I’ve said to be same as using 9 defenders.

        Don’t forget Arsenal played most of the first game with 9 players behind the ball. It isn’t a matter of choice in such a game. So the discussion is more about how those nine players will be set up.

        Your assertion about Wenger out thinking Guardiola in the first game is just as wrong as those who deride Arsene when the team has a poor performance against a weaker side. It is based on the results and not on the performances. It can easily be argued that Messi’s goal was legal and that would have completely changed the nature of the game. So we cannot focus only on results to justify tactics.

        I have no doubt Arsenal will end up playing this game with 9-10 men behind the ball for most of the game. If they’re tactically prepared for it we will see some chances on the break and relatively fewer on our goal. If not, it will be the reverse.

        Regarding the point about pressing – Arsenal’s pressing tactics in the first half at home were quite poor and it allowed Barcelona to run the game relatively easily. It also led to a number of chances for them. At home they’ll make much better use of the ball and the chances if Arsenal use the same tactics.

  9. arvind says:

    we also need players to be an outlet for the counter… nasri… cesc, when we are defending corners.. barca push player forward in large numbers and we need to exploit that. I agree Desi with defending the first half… if we go down a goal or 2, it is over

  10. chengiskhan says:

    I don’t think the Gunners can afford to play Arshavin in this game. He has the double negative of ending too many of Arsenal’s attacking plays and not busting a gut to play defense. I can see him trying to pull off back flick after back flick only to surrender possession… again… and again. I would actually prefer to see a ball handler with decent defensive skill such as Rosicky on the left side of attack. It would be more like a convertible 4-5-1.

    • desigunner says:

      Rosicky on the left is also an interesting option – can defend and can hold the ball under pressure – but I’m not sure he’s got the confidence to play such a game.

      • samir nasri says:

        if wenger does decide to put arshavin on. i think he’ll bust a gut in this game. he lives for the big nights.

        i think many people underestimate arshavin.

        when i watch him play, he makes a mistake and looks up to the sky. i think this is tactical.
        often this creates space for him, as he’s left unmarked higher up the pitch. lately i’ve noticed him doing this more and more, and it seems only at times where we don’t really need him tracking back viciously.

        in my opinion, he’s a very, very tactically astute player.

      • samir nasri says:

        desi. about thomas. i don’t think it’s about confidence right now, he played a very good game against leyton, because he kept it simple. he still looks short of fitness.

        that’s the explanation for me.. rather, strength is a better word though.

  11. CY says:

    Prefeered Starting Eleven: Szczesny Sagne Clichy Koscienly Djourou Nasri Arshavin Cesc Diaby Chakmah Van Perise

  12. Maximilian G. says:

    you don’t bench a world class match winner like Arshavin when fully fit. These are his games, it is not coincidence he scored a magical goal of the highest class in the 1st leg, nor that we never loose Cl game when he plays…and replace him with an errant Eboue, in left midfield a position he never (ever?) played.
    it does not go without saying that Diabi, so short on fitness and form and confidence,in anycase so often ponderous, nervous,and tactically clueless should be preferred to the scapegoat Denilson (whose bad luck is a carreer of playing in England) but who showed last year that he may be perfectly suited for this sort of highly technical game .

    • FoolishGooner says:

      Point taken Maximilian: Diaby on his current form is a high risk. However the french man skills if he gets it right tonight can tip the balance in terms of fair possession of the ball, counter-attacks and strenght ball retention! Denilson doesn’t not give me nearly as much. I’m not a Denilson hater but i have seen Barca enough and his side ways passing are ticking bomb to explode against such team. Sunderland pressed us breafly in the first half! Denilson was confused and lots of blamed Diaby! i watched that game again Diaby had no Midfield help and Jack was confused or so far behind. Where was Denilson? waiting for side pass instead of making a run? We shall see tonight how it goes.

  13. arvind says:

    wouldnt that be something if Wenger throws on Ramsey.. ! unlikely, but for a second made me think…. young, energetic, teams well with Jack, what if????

    I know I know….. but still!

  14. mansfield says:

    Since we really don’t have the pace with TW14 out, why not play with MC29 with B52 right and nasri left. I understand that the MC29/B52 pairing has been less than electric when played so far this season (mostly cup matches if I recall correctly) however B52 can put in a better defensive shift than Arshavin and is more positive in his play than a Gibbs/Eboue would be. Arshavin could then then come on late and hopefully repeat his excellent work minus the defensive gaff toward the end of the last match.

    Following this logic Diaby would get the start in mid with F4 and JW19. This alone would make any set pieces we earn more interesting as Barca is not not known for their height.

    Additionally, pulling the two wide attackers back into midfield to make a somewhat traditional mid 5 might help us close the gaps that Desi mentions in the excellent piece above.

    I would like us to hold a high line, but that is going to require a large mental commitment that would be hard to maintain over the 90 mins.

    I would expect to see RVP trot on at the 70 min mark if needed. This owing both to his dodgy near miraculous recovery (if 90% is a recovery) and the gaffer’s propensity to sub late.

    All in all I think that the safe bet is on Barca to go through and I imagine that that will probably be the case however, I do not expect the scoreline to mirror last years. I am looking a for a strong, energetic, and spirited display. Give me that and I no matter the score I will clap the lads.

    • desigunner says:

      Bendtner and Chamakh together will certainly offer a unique threat to Barcelona. But the team will then have to be set up to play aerially and to use the strengths of these two ie high balls, balls down the channels, looking to win set-pieces, and so on. It would be a stretch to play these two and then to expect a lot of the play to go on the ground.

  15. Dark Prince says:

    I think if Van Persie can start then Bendtner can play on the left wing. Atleast he’ll defend better than Arshavin. But still the idea of Gibbs starting looks more of a better calculated risk for me.

  16. cesc4 says:

    Great to see RvP back!!! I dont think he will start but will come of the bench as 2nd sub if needed. For me the real worry is diaby covering messi when he drops to the middle and tries to bring in Pedro and Villa into the game. This is where the game will be won or lost. I seriously believe that arsenal can score two away goals on conter attack if they have decent finishing.This is where AW’s focus would be to keep messi covered and try to score two away goals.

    All the best !!!
    Last time I got it rite this time i beleve it will be 2-2 in this tie.

  17. Dark Prince says:

    Gibbs too is fast on his day, and with barcelona too uneducated about our younger generation, i think Gibbs can surprise them a bit. Also it would have been nice to see Ramsey playing instead of Diaby or Denilson, both of whom i believe are a weak link. Denilson will give away the ball easily n will not provide much in protection during counter attacks and Diaby would slow our attacking pace by holding on to the ball too much. Song will be missed extremely today.

  18. Listen Up says:

    So much good truth mixed with strange opinions. Like a drop of acid in a glass of water. Diaby? lacking confidence? the man is THE most over-confident footballer for his age. If France were in a penalty shoot out in’ a world cup final with the next penalty deciding the entire nations fate, I’d bet any money diaby would be wagging his hand in the air panting with his tongue out in desperation to take it. Starting Van P ‘COULD’ present a huge risk, but NOBODY truly knows how fit the man is except himself and the arsenal fitness staff. For me Eboue will only be effective if brought on in the last 10mins IF the scoreline is tight and Barca look tired (which they will). Starting Chamakh is a fantastic idea ONLY IF we get good service from clichy and sagna crossing the ball from the flanks and good set piece deliveries. Chamakh may not have his full scoring ability he had at da start of the season, however he can BULLY the inexperienced barca CB partnership.

    Szczesny – Clichy Djourou Koscielny Sagna – Diaby Wilshere Fabregas – Nasri Chamakh Arshavin

    Subs: Almunia, Gibbs, Eboue, Denilson, Rosicky, Bendtner, Van Persie

  19. Raghugovind says:

    A very intelligent starting line up Desi . I agree with your assessment. Van Persie and Arshavin shoulld be our iimpact substitutes . The reason why I don’t want Arshavin to start is that he sometimes cannot play 2 games in 3 days case in point the Carling Cup final . Having said that He is a Big Match player . His presence will definitely be felt n this game too . Hoping for fireworks .

    • Raghugovind says:

      I was very skeptical about the Carling Cup final and the result well …. But i don’t know why maybe its the inclusion of Cesc and most importantly Van Persie I am feeling quite confident about tonight .

  20. Tiarnan says:

    Denilson & Diaby will leave us totally exposed in this game, if played in front of the back four.

    What we could do is pair Fabregas & Wilshere just in front of the back four – theyre both brilliant at receiving the ball and laying off passes – even in the most pressurised game they rarely cede possession. Theyre also not afraid to put the tackle in either.

    Up front Id play Arshavin (Left) Nasri (Middle) Chamakh or Diaby (right) – With Van Persie (Striker)

    Chamakh can track back alot better than any of our front players and can add a scoring threat from corners and free kicks. Diaby obviously can do the same and offers slightly more defensive stability.

    In essence its an attacking formation but it means our best players will be on the pitch.

    Eboue playing ANYWHERE other than right back is suicide – when he plays wide left he holds the play up, gets caught in possession and offers no threat whatsoever.

    Denilson playing ANYWHERE other than left back in the dressing room is suicide, full stop.

    If our players play to their best and Denilson isn’t playing I wont be overly worried by Barcelona. I think theyre complacent and really believe all the hype surrounding them.

    Theyre no where near as good as the Milan team of the early 90’s that won 4 European Cups – and even they were beatable.

    • absolutegunner81 says:

      i think that was spot on what you said. what people dont realise is that 2 players in barca is true assets: xavi an messi. both was relatively cut off at the Ems due to wilshere pocketing xavi like Come ere Boy! and Koscielny doing quite well stifling Messi. True he had a couple of spaces but we made his chances reduce to nothing. They also have a problem with lasting 90 mins against english opposition, especially us as we play almost the same game as them but with more intensity and purpose instead of the useless 500 passes just to hold the ball…

  21. Right Gunner says:


    Some body is paid for those decissions and thats none other than Wenger.

    all we can do is TRUST IN ARSENE,

    We just need somebody to mark Messi, the rest are ordinary.

    TRUST ME I SEE 2 GOALS AT CAMP NOU and we cant concede more than that.

    • Raghugovind says:

      Branding Xavi, Iniesta and Villa ordinary is a bit too much . Even for that matter Pedro is world class. Then there is Dani Alves . Please my friend don’t make such sweeping comments .

    • Tiarnan says:

      We need somebody to mark Messi? Isn’t someone paid to make that decision?

  22. scarface001 says:

    4-5-1 —– we lose. ( but we could draw if chamakh leads the line instead of bendtner)

    4-4-2 —— we draw with no goals scored with both wilshere and fabregas stuck too deep.

    4-3-3 —— we win cause wilshere or fab will get a forward position and pick out arshavin or nasri in the flanks.

    there is no way the fullbacks of barca will be sitting back and we MUST fool them with diagonal through balls to arshavin or nasri.

  23. karanja .D says:

    defend then counter attack.

  24. absolutegunner81 says:

    i think this year we have a better chance at camp nou as we have deployed a few wily tatics before the game…FYI pep is always studying his opponents through all types of research….especailly believing RVP would be out ater seeing with his own eyes RVP with a swollen ankle. what wenger did from that day of our cc final los was hatch a plan because he knew what was at stake for this season, i.e. song might not be all tat injured but kind of rested cos if he would of played and got carded, he would miss a match. walcott injury legitimate and works out well 4 future fixtures…same goes 4 tommy V as he must be tired from playing virtually every game his debut season..might see him bk for blackburn..this season wenger put the jokes on the non believers which is some arsenal fans and media alike

  25. jose maria says:

    Barca will target the left flank where dani alves patrols. They know clichy is our weak link with his tendency to switch off at key games.
    I would think eboue will b a good bet to help screen the back four alongside either captain jack/abou he has the pace to cover up if need b n we all know crapelona will come at us pretty hard.
    Arshavin shouldnt start cos he won’t b of help defense wise. Woy is due a big game soon and it doesn’t come any. Bigger than this

  26. DGooner says:

    As always great post…. it’s always a pleasure reading ur posts. By the way I just started my own blog today so stop by and read it if u can @ …. I also put a link for ur page as this is one of my favourite blogs. Cheers mate

  27. Samuel says:

    Woth Desi as Arsenal,s coach we can expect a thumping from Barcelona as our two inept wingbacks Sagna and Clichy are the weak links in this Arsenal team,staying on their respective wings and cutting off the passes to the Barca wingers is what,s needed ,not moving off their wings into the centre of defence ,and exposing the flanks and the through ball behind both these dozy wingbacks,so what price Sagna getting caught once again with the ball played behind him without this dozy player even realising it until it,s way to late ?

  28. samir nasri says:

    just about 12 hours to go for me.

    if i sleep, it will be a miracle.

    here’s to a great game, irrespective of the scoreline!

  29. Darlington says:

    Brilliant, brilliant coments guyz! But i think starting Eboue at d right side of d midfield and nasri at d left will make us very solid at both flanks. Dis will also allow sagna d chance 2 sug forward 2 provide some brilliant crosses y ebou drift back 2 cover 4 him..then nasri at d left wll use his slippery and trickery 2 torment d make-shift defence as alves constant forays forward will definitely live their defence vulnerable.. Diaby’s hold up play can benefit arsenal 2day xpecialy as JM will start 4 them.. dis part of diaby’s play will surely draw harsh challenges 4rm JM hence d possibilities of him being sent off 2day is high…

  30. Phil23 says:

    I’d play one of these two line ups. Chamakh, Arshavin Fabregas Nasri, Wilshere Koscielny (man marking Messi everywhere he goes), Clichy Squillaci Djourou Sagna, Szczesny. This way Messi is man marked and Alves threat down the flank is minimised as Clichy can pass Pedro on to Squillaci and either mark him or force him back with forward runs. The other option is: Chamakh, Gibbs Fabregas Nasri, Wilshere Denilson, Clichy Koscielny Djourou Sagna, Szczesny. This way Gibbs marks Alves while Clichy marks Pedro and Koscielny marks Messi. We would also take them on better in the midfield battle as Denilson HELPS US KEEP THE GOD DAMN BALL UNLIKE DIABY WHO CANT MAKE AN IMPACT WITHOUT THE BALL. To say that Eboue could step up after having a average season against the best team in the world means that also Denilson could step up against the team he already stepped up against last season. Either of those teams will match Barca. A win will send us on to the triple imo. Good luck Arsenal. Keep the faith.

  31. goonerabacha says:

    no doubt desi, i have the feeling that will also put attacking threat to the host with their speedy league nature… fab reserves all the killer passes for today on emerate and xpect wilshere makes another topic to be discussed esp. wen guardiola broke his level down to that of his reserve.. he will show him why he deserve to be part of the guns.. home & away defeat 4 the gunners…2-0
    take this not for granted

  32. goonerabacha says:

    its the champions league final tonight Guardila vrs Father Wenger…..go guns

  33. Tee Song says:

    Decent enough point Desi but I disagree with starting Eboue. I dislike the idea that you’re going to start a defensive player as one of your forwards. That simply gives Barca their right flank. Dani Alves is so important to what they do offensively so it’s tempting to try to “defend” him. But he’s first and foremost a defender and if you want to decrease his forward forays you must make him defend. No matter who’s out there, Barca will preferentially try to go through that flank. If we can push him back even a few yards that will disrupt them. I’d start Nasri left for his better defensive workrate and Arshavin right.

    The key to unlocking Barca is Maxwell–he’s uncomfortable with quick players running at him. Arshavin might be even more effective than Walcott with his dribbling ability

    The other key is Maschereno. Busquets will drop into central defense along with Abidal. With Mascherano, Barca’s ball circulation will suffer as he’s not nearly as good on the ball as Busquets. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Busquets isn’t tempted to push up from his defensive position to help in midfield if we can successfully target Maschereno. If that happens, we need to be ready to try to play a quick thru ball right behind that vacated space if we win possession in the center of the pitch. Cesc should really try to pressure Maschereno as that’s a battle we can win.

    • desigunner says:

      Well one could restrict a full-backs attacking instincts by pinning him back but that can only b e done if you have the ball! If Barcelona control 65-70 percent of the ball it won’t matter who we have on the left, Alves will go forward. So it will be important to deal with his attacking abilities.

      Mascherano will be an interesting player. He can really break our attacks with his tenacity and tackling but he could also disrupt their passing. Will be fun to see how it goes.

      • samir nasri says:

        that wasn’t fun. watching hard work shattered due to one decision is just killing me nowadays.

  34. Baskar says:

    Desi i think we must play the game as we know it. Play it to chamakh and bring Nasri-Arshavin-Cesc into play. Their defense is not so strong so is their goal keeper. I’m also interested to see what Wenger tactics deploys today. Like always if we put ina strong fight with character that matters d most.

    • desigunner says:

      yup, strong fight with character … I think most supporters can deal with an adverse result as long as that fight is visible throughout the match.

  35. pH says:

    my score

  36. […] Thoughts On The Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Barcelona Some of you might remember I’d discussed a slightly defensive approach before the home game. The main premise was […] […]

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