Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Stoke City

Ryan Shawcross, Tony Pulis, Stoke City… These names are more than enough to get the blood boiling.

It will be a tough challenge for the Gunners, especially young Ramsey, when Arsenal visit the Britannia Stadium for the first time after that horrific injury. But if the players can show anything remotely resembling the mental strength that helped them win that game, I’m confident we can add to the four successive league wins against the Potters.

The ref for this fixture is Mark Halsey and it does leave me worried. He is an old fashioned official who lets the play flow. The ref might give some free-kicks but he likes to keep his cards in his pockets. This means the thugs will be able to get away with countless fouls and rough tackles. When calculated violence meets a feeble official things can get out of hand very quickly. Hopefully, it won’t end in the same kind of tragedy that Peter Walton’s ineptitude caused last time around.

Tactically speaking, I expect Stoke will start with a high level of intensity. The hosts will press (more like push, kick, stomp, etc) higher up the pitch early on and will try to win free-kicks, corners, and throws in the Arsenal half. They will also play long balls on the flanks at every opportunity in order to win the aforementioned set-pieces. After all, the hosts have scored almost half their goals from set-pieces whereas Arsenal have conceded quite a few from the same.

The first fifteen minutes of this match will be critical. If Arsenal can survive that period without conceding a goal the game will get progressively easier.

Szczesny will be busy in the initial stages and this should be a good chance for the youngster to prove himself in an ugly, hostile away game. The pressure and the nature of attacks on his goal will be unique in many ways. I hope he doesn’t leave his line too often and lets the outfield players attack the balls floated or thrown into the box. That means bulk of the responsibility should be on Koscielny and Djourou (if he is passed fit).

Another important aspect of defending against a team like Stoke is alertness at the back post and inside the box. Many of their goals come from knock-ons or a scramble in the box. The midfielders and those who get post-duty will have to remain vigilant to prevent clean shots on goal from such situations.

The Gunners will also have to ensure they don’t panic if the ref fails to control the game and things get nasty in the opening exchanges. The crowd will be behind the home side and they will try to get the ball and bodies into the Arsenal box by hook or more likely by crook. The defenders have to maintain their composure in such a case and should avoid the tendency of hoofing the ball to safety. Obviously, the midfield has to help out by being available near the defence. This way they can challenge for the second ball and can also collect the ball from the back five.

Holding on to the ball under pressure, especially when the opponents are pushing or kicking you, can help alleviate the pressure and can also lead to counter-attacks. With Theo on the flanks Arsenal can cause some serious damage early on by controlling the ball and moving it at pace.

In attack Theo and Robin should have the pace and the movement to trouble the Stoke defence. Ramsey should also get a chance to add to his winner against United as long as he is alert to possibilities in the final third.

Arsene has a couple of tough decisions to make with regard to his team selection. Diaby, Cesc, and Nasri are unavailable while Djourou and Clichy will have to undergo tests.

The midfield should be the same that dominated the park against United. Wilshere has had a gruelling season and is running out of steam. Ramsey and Song will have to take more responsibility.

Up front, RvP and Walcott are sure to start. On the left, Arshavin might be the popular choice in the absence of Nasri but I’d prefer Eboue or Rosicky, both of whom can offer better defensive cover and thereby balance the starting line-up. It will be even more important if Gibbs is starting at left-back.

Vermaelen could make a welcome return to the squad. I don’t expect to see him in the starting line-up straight away but a few minutes, late in the game, should be good even if it’s in the midfield.

Preferred starting eleven,

Szczesny – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy – Song, Ramsey, Wilshere – Walcott, RvP, Eboue.

I don’t expect Le Boss to pick Eboue. Arshavin will probably be his choice. Hopefully, the lack of balance won’t be fatal.

This game isn’t as important as it could have been but that doesn’t mean it’s as worthless as some might consider it to be. The players have a lot more than pride to play for. Here’s to a fighting display and a smashing result.

PS: Have you seen this truly insightful table. Just in case you are unaware, that is how the Premier League table would have looked if all the shots that hit the woodwork had gone in. The margins really are that fine! Thanks to YW over at ACLF for sharing it.


18 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Stoke City

  1. t.boyle says:

    just read wenger regrets not buying cb in transfer window and that it is not a super market well it did not stop chelski or even bolton sighed weater expecting cahill to leave the differance is chelski shop at harrods and wenger shops at pound strecher

    • Kushagra India says:

      Same Old Same Old here goes the spin machine..

      • Steve says:

        I have lost count of the number of times ‘fans’ say “we don’t want Arsenal to be like Chelsea” and then they go on to moan that Wenger didn’t spend 25M on a defender! Signing Wheater is a big deal? Is he any better than Squillaci?

        It’s a shame this blog is being polluted by the D&G. Desi, please moderate these comments.

      • Kushagra India says:

        Yeah anyone who craves for trophies and is not miffed by repeating the same mistakes over the last 2-3 years by the Arsenal is a D n G u r spoiling the blog inhibiting the debate..r u paid by the Arsenal…

  2. santori says:

    We live in hope I suppose, feint hope.

    Best case scenario, Chelsea beat United, we beat Rory Delap. We’re 3 points off.

    Still two teams ahead of us but hey, worth a punt.

    Fingers cross, come on you blues!

  3. Phil23 says:

    Eboue has always been a disaster on the left but if you mean Walcott on the left that would be interesting. Although due to his lack of games there Arsene must know something about Theo playing on the left that we don’t, (of course he does!) This is the team I would like to see; a Vermaelen Djourou combination although the odds of that are tiny considering Koscielny is the only one who is 100% match fit out of the three. Good luck Ramsey I hope you score!

    • prince says:

      A Kozzer Verm defence is better. Kozzer is quicker, more alert and down right better than DJ20

      • Phil23 says:

        I agree that they are probably our best pair although not at the moment as we don’t really know how good Vermaelen will be. Against a team like stoke I would prefer to have our two best headers of the ball. Vermaelen and Koscielny would do better against a slightly more technical team. Lets not forget that we will probably see only 1 or two shots from open play from Stoke and Djourou seems to have a calming influence on the rest of the team when it comes to set pieces. Although Vermaelen is statistically better in the air. Also Kos is not quicker than Djourou. In fact I have been told that Djourou is almost as fast as Walcott. He may not look it due to his height but he is very fast. Also don’t forget that Djourou is a couple of years younger than Kos and Vermaelen so is obviously going to be slightly more inconsistent. When he is on his game he is an absolute force to be reckoned with.

  4. bob says:

    Desi, You are far too kind to use “ineptitude” to characterize Peter Walton’s so=called refereeing at the Stoke crime scene. In case you’d like a little whiff of pre-match Ref-Tampering from Kastle Fergus, you and readers should check out this from today’s Guardian. It’s so blatant – his ode to his “colleague” Howard Webb – that I had to shake my head thrice(and still am) to wake up from the dream that wasn’t a dream: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/may/06/sir-alex-ferguson-howard-webb-chelsea
    I think referee “ineptitude”, which helps keeps your readers on the fence, is not a neutral position, but an polite enabling position on the bent (that is, bent) shananigans that are currently ruling the EPL. Would you consider a phrase between ineptitude and bent such as “not explicable by coincidence” to characterize performances such as those that Walton has routinely now visited on Arsenal (including this very season as you well should recall)?

    • Steve says:

      Pray tell how you know so much about so many footballers mate? Reading articles makes you an expert, does it?

      • Kushagra India says:

        So what are you doing here watching films or highlights …..condescending AKB….

  5. Steve says:

    That table really tells a tale. What’s funny is that Arsenal top the goalscoring charts and concede the least! Wonder how leadership from commanding centre-halves makes the ball go and hit the post instead of finding the corners.

    • Kushagra India says:

      Our annual collapse goes on abated doesn’t it teell you something you delusional fool…and if thats case who has the highest GD…..muppetry…

  6. Dr Boris says:

    We must win stoke while we keep our fingers crossed and chelsea can reciprocate our favour by beating man utd.

  7. dw says:

    Wenger needs to no when a player
    Is having a dip of form then take that
    Player out of the team and give him
    A rest.
    The last 3 games wilsher has been under
    Pare and he needs a break.little things
    Like that will cost u games.
    This is where alex fugason has done well
    When a player has had a dip of form he took
    The player out of the team even if he was the
    Top goal scorer.
    And there some games that would of suite bentner
    Or chamake but they dident get a chance.
    Like anderson and park they dont play all season
    But they allways play against us because fergie
    Seen that certain players styles works certain games

  8. Zgunner says:

    I hope Eboue starts over gibbs tomorrow.

  9. pH says:

    I hope Vermaelen starts at the left back. He’s better than Clichy in every aspect despite not being match fit.
    Fingers crossed Djourou passes fit. The overall organisation of our defence will be better with them.

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