Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Newcastle

Man, it feels good to type such a headline once again. Football is back and there is something to look forward to even if it isn’t with the greatest of optimism.

I haven’t done the season preview yet because a lot is bound to happen between now and the end of the season. I want to wait for the transfer window to close and see a couple of games, especially of Chelsea and Liverpool, before making any predictions. I know things are bleak in the Arsenalsphere and don’t look Rosy for Arsenal even through red-tinted glasses. But let’s wait till the end of the month and focus on a game at a time at least till then.

My humble suggestion is – before you do or say anything, just ask yourself “how does this help?”

So with that mantra let me move on to my thoughts before the game.

Cesc and Nasri are not in the squad. Wilshere and Diaby are injured. Denilson has moved on. It wasn’t that long ago that Arsenal had too many similar players vying for the midfield roles. Now, Wenger will be hard pressed to put out a midfield that can dominate the game for 90 minutes.

Looking at the list with squad numbers(Eboue?), only Rosicky, Ramsey, Song, and Frimpong look like players who are fit and available to play in the midfield. Some fans would add RvP and Arshavin to the possibilities behind the striker but pre-season has not given any indications that Wenger will make that change at this stage of the season.

To me, the best possible midfield would be Song and Frimpong behind Rosicky. Ramsey has been extremely disappointing in the warm up fixtures and it would be a big risk to put him in the middle in a game that is set to be a lot more critical to the rest of the season than just the three points at stake. But I have a strong feeling Arsene is going to put his faith in the young Welshman over Frimpong, who is undeniably the most inexperienced player of the four.

Picking the back five and the front three should be straightforward.

Expected line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Song, Ramsey, Rosicky – Gervinho, RvP, Arshavin.

To be frank, and despite my reservations, this team should be good enough to get the three points. Newcastle have issues of their own to deal with. They have lost three key players in Carroll, Nolan, and Enrique. The left-back will be a big miss as he made their left side really strong. Gervinho can have a good time against his replacement.

Arsenal can win this one or throw away the points as they so spectacularly accomplished last time around. A lot will depend on the tactics being used and how the teams perform for the duration of the game. At the risk of breaking all unwritten laws regarding hyperbole, the final half hour of this game might be bigger than any other period of football this season as far  as the Gunners are concerned. Or to put it another way, whether Arsenal can get in a position to have other big matches in the season or not will depend on how this game ends.

That’s putting a lot of pressure on the team but I am not creating the pressure, merely point out what already exists.

If the away support continues their good work from last season the team will benefit and it can have a big, positive knock-on effect for the season.

Tactically, Arsenal have to play the way they did away from home last season and then improve on it. That means the team has to drop off and press from deeper positions just inside the Arsenal half or around the half way line. The midfield would have to be really close to the defence must not leave them exposed on the break.

A lot will depend on Newcastle as well. If they sit back and invite pressure this could be a very different game. To be frank, that would work in the hosts’ favour but I haven’t seen Pardew take that approach in the two visits last season when Arsenal scored four.

Rosicky or Ramsey will have to support Song in bringing the ball out and should spread passes from deeper positions. That can open the game up, especially if they can find they can find the runs of Arshavin and Gervinho. As with most football games, the first goal will make a big difference and the timing will decide how the rest of it shapes up.

I am not sure if the Barcodes have enough quality in the final third. That means Arsenal might get away with some mistakes, especially from open play. Set-pieces will be a different ball game altogether and this will be the first competitive test of Arsenal’s new zonal marking system on corners. I am not convinced but there aren’t anywhere near enough data points to analyze or judge that so this is more of a watch and learn stage. I won’t be surprised if the same can be said for the coaching staff in that limited context, while for the players it might be on-the-job training.

Apart from defending set-plays, and the positioning and contribution of the midfield just in front of the defence, the third and final major factor in this game will be the quality of runs and finishing by the attacking players. Of course, a player can make great runs but they would come to nought if the supply is non-existent. Arsenal’s creative chemistry is going to be tested. I haven’t seen signs of great understanding in pre-season so chances might be limited in this game. That brings me back to the importance of finishing. Good chance for Van Persie to establish himself as the biggest player in the team.

Btw, who will be the captain? One of RvP or TV?

Last season, this game was open and led to a number of goals. This time around, I am not sure that will be replicated even though I am hoping for the kind of result we got against Everton a couple of seasons ago. I have a feeling this game will be a cagey affair and decided by a solitary goal.

36 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Newcastle

  1. Gunnahuntyall from 606 says:

    I am predicting 0-3 to us.

  2. starting 11 in my opinion:


    sagna kos TV Gibbs

    song ramsey frimpong

    Arshavin RVP gervinho

  3. jrock says:

    I love how people keep saying we threw a four goal lead away against Newcastle last year. Sure, we made some mistakes, but their first penalty was softer than baby poo, and the second one was fabricated by Phil Dowd. Newcastle also should have had two players sent off (Barton for the tackle on Diaby, and who ever grabbed Sczeny around the neck after they scored a goal). People seem to forget there were a couple stories published after the game talking about match fixing simply because of the calls that went against Arsenal.

    • Zgunner says:

      One of the best worded and objective comments I’ve seen in a long time. People are in denial about rigged-football.

      All it takes to be convinced is recall how much money people “invest” in football.

    • Alex says:

      pretty sure it was Nolan that grabbed Szcsesney’s neck.

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t agree with all your observations but there definitely were questions marks over a couple of their goals (although they also had a legit goal disallowed). Barton could have been off as well. There is no doubt it was not all Arsenal’s doing.

      But that does not change the fact that Arsenal lost complete control of the game and weren’t able to string five passes together in that twenty odd minute spell. To me that was at the core of that draw. The ball would not have come near the Arsenal penalty box that often if the team had not lost control. That would have minimized the effect Dowd could have had.

      When a one or two goal lead is lost one might put bulk of the blame on the ref. When a four goal lead is lost the focus has to be more inwards. Given the way those twenty minutes were played, can anyone deny Newcastle would not have scored other legit goals if the penalties had not been awarded?

      If that had been a one off one might still accept an outward focus but it has happened often enough to establish that even when the ref doesn’t affect the game Arsenal can collapse defensively.

    • Claverc says:

      Sadly, it’s the same Refs this season. And Rupert ‘PassMeAFiver’ Murdoch is still hobnobbing with refs, for his beloved Manure.

  4. RmanGoon says:

    Its gonna be RvP with the armband I think. Good article, our midfield looks once again inexperienced and too young. Losing Cesc and Samir causes that.

    Oh well, lets just pray and hope!

    Come on The Arsenal!

  5. Abdullahi adeniji says:

    Welcome back bro,wishing our beloved club a good outing and subsequent successful season,i cant have a different line-up to d one u put out coz d team is stretched as i hope wenger make some decent midfield signings.Meanwhile arsenal have agreed terms to sign campbel from costarica,what’s ur take on that?

  6. Ajayi odunayo says:

    I tnk rvp fits d new arsenal’s skipper

    • Zgunner says:

      RVP was the natural captain when Cesc was named captain. I speculate the captaincy was given to Cesc because he needed to develop his leadership -which is not his strength-

      …unlike Robin.

  7. Myles says:

    wheres walcott, i predict a 1 – 2 win for arsenal.
    also jadson?, brazilians do not do well in the prem.

    • richard says:

      Normally myles i would agree, however Jadson though Brazillian plies his trade not in spain or portugal but the Ukraine he should be robust enough to be a hit in the premiership but also has a decent skill level and at 27 is in his prime and should settle quicker than a twenty year old and has won the ukranian league several times so knows what it takes to win things.

    • richie says:

      Gilberto da Silva did O.K for us he was a Brazilian wasn’t he? And he played a big part in our invincibles squad.

  8. richard says:

    well lets see for me 1 szczseny 2 sagna 3 kos 4 tv 5 gibbs 6 song 7 frimpong 8 arshavin 9 gervinho 10 walcott 11 rvp subs Fabianski ramsey Miyachi traore rosicky chamakh vela

    • Phil23 says:

      That is the exact line up I would play. Pure pace down the wings, solid base and a genuinely top attacking player down the middle. Sadly we won’t see it as Frimpong won’t be trusted (maybe rightly so but that’s Arsene’s fault for not buying a bloody left centre defensive mid) and Arshavin wont be trusted because with Ramsey or Rosicky behind him we will get torn through like a hot knife through butter. I expect something between our line up and Desi’s line up to start although could see his line up starting easily. (Desi – I know its not your line up as it’s obviously only your expected line up)

      • Prabal Rakshit says:


        Absolutely share your sentiment on a left sided defensive player. In fact the only transfer rumor that was interesting to follow for some time was that of Arturo Vidal. I was really hoping we would snap him, He is a left sided defensive mid who offers good attacking options as well. Something similar to what Arsene thought diaby would have been

  9. Manama says:

    Dnt agree dat frimpong,song,rosiky would serve as we would strugle 2 create.think ur likely line up shd do d job if d boys r disciplned n play compact.wud go 4 walcot ahead of AA23 though.our bench is another concern.nice work desi.

    • richard says:

      thats why rosicky on bench to come on for frimpong or song if necessary .arshavin i had as attacking midfield with gervinho on left and walcott on right the three subs i would probably use is ramsey on for arshavin miyachi on for walcott swapping wing with gervinho and chamakh on for rvp

  10. Yang says:

    If toon come out to attack then team will be fine. After last season milk cup-final, Arsenal show clear tendency of struggle when opposition concede possession and sit back tight.

    This is a season open game at home for toon so I guess they will come out and attack so I cannot see lost point at this game however CL qualify is worrying.

  11. Anthony Onwuekwe says:

    That is a wonderful write-up but i think we have to adjust our game defending cos we dont have more experience MDs in the center.

    • Zgunner says:

      I feel you might underestimate Rosicky. He’s been through so much but he is CLASS.

      On top of that he is loyal and grateful to the club that stood by him through his injury. He bleeds Arsenal..

      He’ll inshallah get a nod before frimpong.

      Sagna Vermaelen Kosceinly Gibbs
      Song Rosicky
      Gervinho RVP Arshavin

      Clean sheet anyone? 4-0 Arsenal?

      Who knows. But the motto now is FORWARD.

      This is an intelligent club that knows the dynamic nature of the world of football. This is the team Arsenal has invested in for years.

      People say Arsene has no plan B… well tomorrow will tell.

      It’s not hard to believe Arsenal will be in the Champions League again next year, and afford to be knocked out of the Champions League from this stage. They would probably have a better season without Europe’s distraction, though this would hurt the club financially. But Arsenal as I said CAN afford that.

      This is a club that has qualified to Europe every year and statistically it is no surprise to see them a top four AGAIN come May. (And by this I am not suggesting that there won’t be moments of frustration being an Arsenal supporter).

      Back to the point….
      Sure we can beat them 4-0 (sorry for getting sidetracked).


  12. Barca have succeeded in turning Fabregas from the once-intelligent-and-most-loved Arsenal player to a disgruntled-and-worst ingrate to wear an Arsenal shirt. I hope for Barca’s sake he’s worth all the trouble. For Cesc, I wont wish him any better days without making such confessional statements that Alex Hleb sang on numerous occasions after toeing same inglorious line.
    Fabregas wants to return to his boyhood club. A club that didn’t consider him good enough for first team before Wenger ingeniously did! He is going for trophies. Did he ask Messi which one he would have preferred – all his(Messi’s) Barca medals or just that one World Cup gold medal that proudly sits with Cesc’s collection! If it wasn’t for Wenger and Arsenal Cesc wouldn’t have made Spain’s team to Euro ’08 and WC ’10.
    Wenger let Pat Vieira go once he sighted Fabregas. Vieira’s last kick gave us our last silverware. Six years ago! What has Fabregas given in return? Selfish struggles just to attract Barcelona!
    Wenger made Fabregas Arsenal’s captain at the tender age of 21! What is Fabregas repaying with? Paying part of his transfer fee just to leave!
    I was so mad at Flamini for leaving when and how he did. But Fab has broken the chain. And I am not a pretender. It won’t ever BE WELL WITH FABREGAS ON THE PITCH UNTIL HE CONFESSES AND PUBLICLY APPOLOGISES TO WENGER AND ARSENAL. By then he must have lost his spot on the Spanish National side and cost Barca the Liga and Champions League trophies.
    On Nasri, the less said about him the better. But believe the duo will learn hard lessons of how not to leave Arsenal. We’re watching…

    • Prabal Rakshit says:

      Tai Obasi,

      I am sure you reflect the sentiments of umpteen denizens of Arsenal blogosphere when you let loose a stream of vitriol against Cesc. But don’t you think it is a two-way street?

      – Are you sure Barcelona never considered him good enough, before he left for Arsenal? In Spain players can’t be offered a professional contract till they are 18 (I suppose) but the same age is 16 in England. Arsene made use of this rule and brought him to London. The same rule that he has used for Hector Bellerin, Toral Harper etc.If he had so much talent to have caught Arsene’s eyes, wouldn’t the Barca youth team management have not noted him? What makes you think that he would not have been in Spain’s Euro and WC winning sides if he had continued in Barca? Remember he was never rejected by Barca.

      – You ask what has Fabregas given in return? Over the last six/ eight years, he has made enough goals and assists that have propelled him into Europe’s elite. Had it ot been for some profligate forwards and a very recurring hamstring injury, he might have contributed more. You blame him for not landing a trophy with Arsenal, but do you really think one player can single-handedly drag a team to glory? If this was true, wouldn’t Lionel Messi have won the Copa america for Argentina? There are multiple reasons why we did not win trophies in the interim: we have been in rebuilding mode since the Invincibles left, our injury record has been shattering, some really dodgy refereeing decisions and above all (as Desi has described in a lot of his posts) we have never been able to achieve a healthy defensive strategy with the way we play.

      – Fabregas was made a captain at tender age of 21. I believe it was an not a reward to cesc but more of a sweetener to make him stay at Arsenal for longer. Arsene had done this with Henry as well. IMO both Cesc and Henry have fantastic footballing minds, but they are more ‘leaders by example’. They inspire others through superlative performances of their own. This has two problems: 1. the other members who are not as blessed as the captain get awed by the display and forever remain in the captain’s shadow. 2. If the captain’s form dips for some reason, he all of a sudden has nothing to lead the team with.
      In other words the decision to make Cesc the captain was more Arsene’s and therefore the blame of failure should also lay with him to an extent.

      – Fabregas repaying with part of his transfer fees: I feel this is a fairly generous gesture on his part, at least to speed up the process or his departure. In hindsight it benefits Barca more since they can now pay a reduced price.

      If you look at this entire episode from Cesc’s point of view, when he broke into Arsenal team he had the likes of Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira etc. to look up to and learn from. Slowly as the invincibles moved on, he found himself as the person every one looked up to, each time the team found itself in a sticky situation. Arsene built the squad around Cesc and changed the formations to support him, but the necessary investment to strengthen the team both in form of players and coaching, was not enough to take the team to the podium.

      In this situation, if he sees his childhood club, playing with his childhood buddies and winning almost all possible silverware, would it not be perfectly normal for him to want to move back? He did sign a long term contract till 2014, but the the club showing similar set of failings every season, wouldn’t it be normal for him to feel stagnated?

      In spite of everything he has never openly come out with a statement favoring a move to Barca, since that would have fuelled an unnecessary media bonfire in England and Spain. He has always maintained that it is a decision between two clubs. IN fact he has never responded to the Spanish media insinuations through the words of Xavi, Puyol, Valdes, alves etc. He has respected the fact that Arsenal have been honest with him by not offering him for sale to the highest bidder but have allowed only Barca as potential buyers. The protracted delay in getting this done, the spillover effects on the season prepration are not his fault. They are results of Barca’s cash situation and their backhanded efforts at forcing Cesc to hand a transfer request and thereby increase pressure on Arsenal.

      Nasri’s case is slightly different. He never had the Cesc-esque bond with Arsene. He desired the center midfield position but realized he would never make it till Cesc was here (simply because Cesc was more well suited for that role). Nasri plays center-mid for France and realized he would have to establish himself in the same position. His style (as Desi has mentioned on this as well as other blogs like backwards gooner) is a dribble based style, which with is more suited with a team with a strong defensive base. The likes of Sneijder and Ozil play in similar formats and they do not have to track back to defend as they have a clutch of defensive minded midfielders to take care of that.

      Nasri probably realizes that he will not be able to have that kind of freedom in Arsenal, as will most likely have Wilshere and Song behind him. Both the blue and red halves of Manchester offer him much more protection in that matter. Of course a close to 50% salary hike (if he joins Man city) is too tempting to be ignored. he probably realises that if Man City do not snap him now, next year they may not be able to offer him the same salary (because of FFP regulations etc.) This is just a guess of mine.

      Before berating him as a mercenary, I feel his side of the story should also be considered. I mean paid professionals in all spheres of life attach paramount importance to remuneration and so footballers would not be any different. Nasri is taking this opportunity to cash on his good market value right now.

      • Probal,

        Your defence is well-structured, makes perfect sense but definitely you weren’t schooled in a closet where loyalty makes sense.

        Arsene sacrificed countless players just to mould Fabregas to what he became. Agreed the Spaniard attracted his manager’s trust with his sublime potentials but the fact that players like Rosicky, Hleb, Nasri, Ramsey, Arshavin, Wilshere – all natural attacking midfielders were forced to other roles just to give Fabregas freedom of expression shows how much
        Wenger relied on Fabregas to mould a team that would rule England and Europe. At 24, Fabregas just broke his manager’s heart. All those years of toil and patience from Wenger look a stupid venture now. Look at Ferguson – just acquired youngsters at crazy prizes to checkmate Arsene. And Fabregas, Nasri decide this was the appropriate time to move.

  13. Map says:

    I would prefer jadson,gotze,scott dann and joel campbell to give arsenal the pm so far a good team but lacking depth in the midfield,defense and the cf position but with the signing of joel campbell then arsenal will really come of age

  14. Kieran says:

    In the wash up last season We couldn’t finish games with Cesc’ ability to split lines. Samir sat too long on the ball when his ego grew.

    I think a change of formation will help Andrei as well as our army of fast men out wide. Combinations at the start of the season is my biggest fear. Ramsey has not had a complete season in the top flight yet, and seems a little inconsistent and will benefit from this season, I personally will be happy if Arsenal can hang on to third spot and create another strong unit.

  15. Gadman says:

    Nice article
    I wud hpe 2 c roydinho@some point though – daz if all is ok

  16. FoolishgooNer says:

    Here we go. Expected are. Win more injuries. If we do that and couple more players back from injuries we will be ok and survive another week. If go in every game as underdogs this will be great season.. Because hunger and determination covers weakneses. Besides we finally would have rid of the want aways who thought success resides elsewhere.

  17. Gunners dark horse of 11-12 campaign says:

    Can anyone give a really honest evaluation of ramsey post injury. He’s our next great hope but all the adulation I have got seems to be pre-injury potential.I know He won us the man utd game but I mean his overall play as a midfielder since coming back not just his ability to give that incisive shot when found by a great pass around penalty box (tho this is obviously a welcome trait).He was targeted by man u and seemed to have a higher trajectory than wilshere in da past.


  19. toonster says:

    Ye have a light weight midfield and poor defense but good strike force. I predict a 2 1 victory for the toon at St james’.

  20. bob says:

    this should be an easy win for AFC and present little challenge…

    the lack of arsens plan b has been apparent for 6 seasons. why you think that will suddenly change is beyond me… want to look at the future? just look at the past first.

  21. Claverc says:

    The motto is ‘Forward,Onward and Upward To Victory’ my friends.

    The time for histrionics is over.

  22. Claverc says:

    Arsenal have a ‘poor defense’ according to toonster over there.

    Shall we compare it to the Newcastle defence?

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