Thoughts On Tactis And Starting Eleven Against Liverpool

Arsenal have reached the midpoint of this pivotal opening month. The two games thus far have brought along gruelling performances and just about acceptable results, which in a way has been much better than what many predicted or secretly dreaded.

On Saturday, the Gunners will take on the Scousers in a fixture that should provide a real and reliable benchmark for both sides and an accurate initial assessment of their chances for the season. Arsenal are arguably the weakest they have been in years. Liverpool, on the other hand, are growing stronger with each training session as their new signings get a chance to gel together. They travel to the Emirates stadium with virtually a fully-fit squad and no suspensions.

By popular logic, Liverpool should win this game on a canter. Given the cumulative problems at Arsenal – due to the transfer of a number of players including the talisman Fabregas, the uncertainty over Nasri’s future, injuries to Wilshere, Gibbs, and other squad players, and a couple of suspensions picked up through irresponsible and borderline stupid acts – there is every reason for fans to be worried.

In almost the exact opposite scenario, Liverpool have signed a number of players for relatively big money. That is supposed to make them appreciably stronger than last season when they snatched a draw in added time.

Why then should anyone expect the Gunners to get even a point out of this fixture?

Wenger’s knowledge of the game and the spirit, desire, and the efficacy with which the Gunners can implement the chosen tactics will stand in the way of the visitors. Time will tell if it be enough to prevent their first win at the Emirates and first in North London since 2001.

The biggest poser for Arsene is picking a balanced starting eleven from the available players. There just aren’t enough midfielders available.

Unless Nasri is picked, which is a big issue in itself given his fractious relationship with the fans, Arsenal will not have three recognized midfielders on the pitch. Arshavin or Van Persie are the two most likely candidates to fill in unless Wenger picks a youngster like Lansbury.

With injuries at the back, it would be hard to see a defender moving into a midfield role but that is another possibility that can be explored.

The way I see it, Van Persie, Walcott, Ramsey, Frimpong, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, and Szczesny are certain starters unless someone succumbs to a late injury before the game. That puts three positions up for grabs and interestingly, they are all on the left side – Left-Back, Left sided CM, and Left winger/attacker. One can argue that Frimpong can play on the left side of midfield and Ramsey can play on the right or in the attacking position. Since the midfield triangle is often quite flexible, the issue in midfield is not completely positional in nature.

Wenger has to pick three players so that the defence is not exposed on the left, the possession game can be sustained, and there is a balance between attack and defence. All these issues are intricately related.

I have a feeling Arsene will go with Jenkinson at left back as the youngster did reasonably well after coming on at a difficult time against Udinese. Le Boss will also pick Arshavin on the left of the attack while starting Chamakh up front and dropping Van Persie deeper in front of Frimpong and Ramsey.

Expected line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Jenkinson – Ramsey, RvP, Frimpong – Walcott, Chamakh, Arshavin.

Personally speaking, that line-up is not well balanced. But it’s my best guess for Wenger’s choices based on what I have seen in the past. The keyword there is guess.

In my opinion, that team will struggle to keep the ball and the left flank will be hard to defend. Jenkinson – Frimpong – Arshavin can work but it’s too big a risk. Placing Ramsey on the left is also a possibility but the Welshman has a more attacking mindset and will not track back as well as Frimpong might do.

Even if one doesn’t include Nasri into the starting line-up there are some possibilities that can work.

First option would be to play Vermalen at left-back and Squillaci in the centre. Don’t jump out of you chairs it’s just a thought. And Squillaci can do well if the team does not play a high line.

The second option, and one that I would prefer, is to move Vermaelen in to the left-sided midfield role. Again Squillaci would have to come in at centre-back. Van Persie would move into the central striking role with Ramsey behind him. Jenkinson will perform the left-back duties.

The reasoning behind this is that Arsenal will have Jenkinson – Koscielny – Vermaelen to defend the left half of the pitch while Sagna – Squillaci – Frimpong cover the right. Those trios aren’t ideal but look a lot more balanced than any other than can be created with the players available. In this system Van Persie would be expected to drop deep quite often and play as an extra midfielder. The attacking impetus would come from runs by Arshavin and Theo. Ramsey would cover the central midfield and spread the ball from deeper areas. Jenkinson would be under strict instructions to hold his position and not charge forward.

I don’t want to be too critical of Chamakh but his contribution in recent games hasn’t been substantial. Nasri and Bendtner are other options amongst experienced players but it’s hard to predict how the fans will react to either of them. Then we are left with A.O.C or Miyaichi, both extremely talented youngsters but is this really the right situation for them to make their competitive debuts for Arsenal?

Preferred line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Jenkinson – Frimpong, Ramsey, Vermaelen – Walcott , RvP, Arshavin.

I know some fans can’t stand the mention of Squillaci and others would not want to break the central defensive partnership that has done well in the last two games. The latter in particular is a fair point and one that might convince Wenger to leave Squillaci out. I am just not convinced any other combination will have the right balance from a tactical point of view.

That brings me to the tactical aspects of this game. Liverpool impressed in the first half against Sunderland but lost their way after the break as the game ended in a disappointing draw from their point of view.

I thought they were too defensive and lacked fitness and/or cohesion as the game went on. But that defensive approach could work really well against the Gunners, especially if Arsenal make the mistake of playing a high line in this game.

Carroll and Suarez will thrive on open spaces in the Arsenal half and Charlie Adam can cause all sorts of problems with his impeccable delivery from free-kicks.

Liverpool have conceded a number of goals in their pre-season games and have a young player at right-back who has, in fairness to him, done reasonably well. Nevertheless, one would expect Arshavin to trouble the youngster.

They also play with two strikers so Arsenal should be able to find more space in the middle if they can move the ball fast enough. In order to achieve that Wenger has to start players who are comfortable on the ball and with the patient short-passing game. Van Persie and Arshavin are players who look for the killer pass almost every time they get the ball. Neither of the duo is particularly likely to move all over the pitch on a consistent basis just to offer himself for a pass in order to keep possession.

This is clear from the passing stats. Players like Sagna, Wilshere, Nasri, Ramsey, Song, and the likes move the ball well and clock anywhere between 60 to 90 passes per game. Others like Arshavin, Van Persie, Walcott, and Gervinho are usually between 20 and 30 passes. It is a good indicator of their tendencies and positioning and will limit the possibilities as far as the tippy-tappy style goes. Given their adventurous approach, these players are also likely to have a poorer pass completion rate and will lose the ball more often.

The tactics of the team will have to be tailored to the players picked for the game. If Arsenal play Van Persie or Arshavin down the middle it will be hard to dominate possession and suicidal to play higher up the pitch.

The possibilities are endless but I don’t want to dwell on minor details any further. From a football fan’s perspective, the issues surrounding Arsenal have made this game a very intriguing tactical battle. I won’t be too concerned about the result but will be interested in the way Wenger sets his team up. With the changes in personnel this summer, there is every indication that the playing style will have to change. We might get a glimpse of the future in this game.

50 Responses to Thoughts On Tactis And Starting Eleven Against Liverpool

  1. Wenger should know that gunner fans want a winning team.We want to see goals and dont want to weave intrcate traingles/rectangles/squares/patterns.Please don’t indulge in thirty passes before shooting.In case Wenger does the gunners will rn into a cul de sac.
    Goals can come if less passes are made.

    • w12mcee says:

      i think the problem there (sometimes) is the movement off the ball and the timing of runs and the vision to spot it. what i like about gervinho is that he offers more opportunities for our midfielders to make through balls. its like nobody wants to be the one to make that burst into the box, the way that ljunberg used to, nasri was doin it for the 1st half of last season and cesc was good at it, hopefully theo will be hungry to get behind the scouse back line as often as possible


      • santori says:

        Top a certain extent yes.

        Our movement off the ball was poor against Udinese when they tightened up.

        Rosicky is also not quite as good spotting openings behind defenses and gaps as Fabregad or say Arsharvin. hence more short passing (although he does weight in an occasional good ball through channels)

  2. w12mcee says:

    i got a feeling nasri will play. not sure how the fans will act though. djourou may be fit so we might see vermaelen at LB

  3. craig says:

    I always enjoy the thoughtfulness of this blog.

  4. John says:

    Another brill one Desi.

    Arsenal forever!

  5. winner says:

    vermalean left back, Squillaci center back, Frimpong defensive mid and Nasri central mid with Ramsey further up as an attacking mid fielder. Arshavin Robin and Theo up front. I think that is the most balanced but also least experimental side from the available players. The bench will be made up of teenagers plus Bendtner i.e AOC, Ryo,Afobe, Miguel, Jenkinson, Lansbury. The team has a carling cup feel about it. I would have loved to see Coquelin, at least as a back up defensive mid fielder, in this one but I have heard a word about him since the loan spell. Well I will not blame Wenger for the injuries and suspensions, but he is responsible for the lack of depth. The need for defensive reinforcement was well known before even the window opened. In the middle we expected Cesc to leave and surely Song was going to miss some games. As for Nasri-we have an opportunity to see him in the position that Wenger had in mind for him in the post Cesc era. If Wenger wins this one then he must be immortalized. However, having said all that I believe that if the selected starting eleven give 110% each and work for one another with full focus a win is possible.
    Best wishes!
    On another note, there is a possibility of putting Jenkison at right back where he is more comfortable, Sagna at Center back, where he has played before, and Vermalean at left back. Yes, it will be experimental…whichever way one looks at it the line up to start today as well as the tactics will be largely experimental.

    • santori says:

      Why you would use the best Cback as a LB when the likes of Carroll and Suarez need management is beyond me. Instead, we have Squillaci when our midfield is the weakest it’s been for some time. Shades of Udinese times 10.

  6. Aussie Jack says:

    Are Bendtner and Vela still available?

    This is a game where we have to pack players into the defence and do the `un Arsenal` thing by playing the long ball to a couple of maraudereing strkers to try their luck. Play deep, bring Liverpool out and go over the top and behind.

  7. willybilly says:

    This is of course dependent on the Nasri situation and I personally believe Wenger will use him. His comments to the press seem to suggest so anyway. So for me it will be Walcott right Arshavin Left and Ramsey Frimpong Nasri in the middle. A pretty tasty looking set up.

    Jenkinson should start on the left with Kozzer Verm and Sagna. VP upfront obviously.

    This is a good team! Capable of beating Liverpool. But if the situation with Nasri is deemed untenable and they decide they can’t play him they will have to in my opinion give a debut to Ryo miyaichi on the left and play Arsh with Rambo and frimp. It would mean a very inexperienced left side but still a good one, with Ryo bound to if nothing else unnerve liverpool through being an unknown quantity with good step overs!!!

    • santori says:

      Rambo and Frimps will have to step up considerably.

      Rambo has given the ball away too cheaply in recent games. Frimps is a unit but he lacks maturity so hopefully he avoids rash challenged of the Eboue sort in his critical role for us.

    • cupsui says:

      I agree 100% with this guy! he took the words out of my mouth, talk of squillaci in the middle is crazy. Nasri to start in not put arsharvin in the “cesc” role and ryo or the ox on the left

  8. JP says:

    Nasri to start with Ramsey and Frimpong, jenkinson LB, arshavin, rvp, Walcott up front. Go GUNNERS!

  9. Red and White Gunner says:

    Sagna, Kos, Verm, Jenk
    Ramsey, Frimpong
    Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh (Walcott)

  10. Arsenal4 says:

    Sczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Kosc, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Ramsey, Andrey, Ryo/AOC, Theo, RVP

    Despite the gloom and doom, that’s actually a not so bad first 11. Granted the bench is quite poor in comparison to our rival for this game.
    3 youngsters, but I actually think they’re worth the chance.

    This game, like the Udinese, is actually carry so much political notion, between Wenger vs. The spoilt fans and blood smelling media.
    I really hope the players realizes this ( a state that’s so unfortunate) and in turn fight for the club like it’s big final and not let Wenger down.

    In fairness, I am a bit frustrated that we lost Fabregas and yet have an established replacement, lack of proper back up for RVP. I feel this the two are the biggest key areas for our season. What frustrated me the most though, the spoilt fans. The deragotary and negativity remarks of the club are beyond me.
    Very uneducated and uncultured, embarrassing.

    All the best today!

  11. mids says:

    how about traore?if available then the prob is if djourou is fit he can fil songs shoes

  12. Nick says:

    Very thoughtful blog. I think Nasri should play – who is better? The fans resent him partly due to his talent, which we need on the pitch Sat. Hope they can show self-control for the benefit of the team.

    As for your passing stats, it tells me forwards are deployed differently than midfielders or wingbacks, who foment attacks which the forwards finish. Don’t think a general conclusion about how they’d do in midfield is justified.

    • desigunner says:

      That’s a fair point. The passing stats in themselves are not enough to draw that conclusion given that the attacking players haven’t really played in midfield. RvP did on a couple of occasions last year and if I am not mistaken his passing was almost the same as what he does when playing a striker. But those are just a couple of data points. I added my personal opinion about the style of these players into the equation but that makes it a subjective and could be wrong.

  13. tha GOONer says:

    I stopped reading the article when I saw “and Squillaci in the centre”

  14. T2T says:

    1. If Nasri plays, the Supporters better cheer him on. He is, after all still an Arsenal player and anyone not encouraging him cannot call themselves Arsenal supporters.
    2. Go with speed and youth, take a gamble..
    Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Jenkinson
    Miyaichi, Ramsey, Frimpong, Arshavin
    van Persie, Walcott

    Use Oxlade-Chamberlain as an impact sub.

    • santori says:

      I think Chamberlain could be effective converted into a striker.

      He certainly has the better build for it than Walcott and his off ball movement (from what I’ve seen) is good. He seems to also pack in good anticipation and is alert to opportunities.

      I’m a little less concern with the striking option at the moment as :

      a) I don’t think it is our most pressing priority
      b) we have 3 young candidates in Afobe, Campbell and Chamberlain.

      Of the 3, I feel Chamberlain might be the better. He certainly looks like he will be fast tracked (considering what we paid for hihim!!!)

  15. Zgunner says:

    This is my preferred lineup:




    Walcot— Nasri ——-Arshavin


  16. We are in a very desperate situation for a result in today’s game. This means that Wenger should select his best players available. Should we lose today, we are likely to lose on Wednesday-a terrible prospect! This takes me to the game itself. Samir Nasri is still our player and we should make use of him as long he is our player. I remember James Milner playing for Aston Villa and then transferring to Man City the following day, so why not Nasri? We want a result, and Liverpool presents us with a chance to beat them when they have not bonded as a team, and playing at a place where they have not won for years now.

    For me, Nasri should play on the left and asked to track back and help out on whoever will be picked to play left-back. Wenger has said he has never questioned Nasri’s commitment. Let him exhibit that today. On this note, I would like to call upon all Arsenal faithfuls to swallow their pride and support the Frenchman, as subjecting him to abuses will not help the team at all!

    It is true that the team that we will play today is terribly depleted. This means that looking at individual players would be a mistake. The team should defend as a whole, committing men behind the ball when we lose it and attacking in numbers when in possession, but asking Frimpong to sit back and the left-back to keep their discipline and not get carried away by being tempted to attack, as Kuyt, Suarez and Downing can cause some problems on the counter.

    As for the left-back, I sincerely don’t think Jenkinson would do the job. He is naturally a right-back, and given the resilience and tenacity of Dirk Kuyt, I think he can be skinned! This therefore bring me to the young Spaniard, Miquel. Naturally a center-back, I think he can make excellent cover at left-back. He has excellent game reading and a perfect tackle. This would add to the solidity of the backline and save poor Jenkinson from being exposed. Although Miquel would not add a lot in terms of attack due his lack of pace, his defensive grit will allow his partner on the left more time to maraud upfront in such of goals that will give Arsenal, to many, an unexpected victory.

    In midfield, Wenger should play two defensive men in Frimpong and Ramsey, and then play Arshavin in the ‘hole’ behind Van Persie. The Russian’s direct runs will overwhelm the shaky Liverpool defense, allowing him to score against his old prey, or attract fouls from the somewhat reckless Lucas. Depending on the performance of either Nasri or Arshavin, the Japanese sensation, Ryo, would be brought in to provide the spark to the Arsenal team, to overwhelm the visitors. Such is the confidence, the determination, the skill and the pace of the young Japanese that Flanagan will find impossible to handle. I expect an intriguing afternoon, but eventually, the Arsenal youngsters, against all odds, will come out with a win. I hope it won’t persuade Wenger to change his heart and not spend on new players. ONE LAST WORD: COLLECTIVE DEFENDING IS KEY!!

    • santori says:

      Jenkinson isn’t ideal but he is fairly no nonsense.

      Much prefer using him out left than our best CBack who should be watching Suarez and Carroll.

      Certainly would not want to see Squillaci. Yucks.

      • I have not talked about Squillaci either. It would be stupid to disorganise an already solid partnership of TV5 and LK6. My point is introducing Ignasi Miquel who is predominantly left-footed to play left-back. He’s a CB but playing on the left with his left foot would be more natural than sacrificing poor Jenkinson whom I’m sure will get a rough ride from the tenacious, experienced and extremely hardworking Kuyt.

  17. henry14 says:

    personally, i would play nasri, but with all this shit going on… arshavin played down the middle in zenit and russia, so i think that might be the answer for the midfield situation… although, i think wenger never played arsh down the middle, but i’m not sure… and if arsh goes in the middle than ryo covers left wing… no doubt… kid got what it takes… and jenk plays LB… + we know that we play a rotation of wings, i think that something similar happens in the middle… for example, in this case frimpong plays DM steady, while ramsey & nasri (arshavin) play more attacking and switch places… so what i’m saying is:
    sagna – koscielny – vermaelen – jenkinson
    ramsey – nasri (arshavin)
    walcott – arshavin (miyachi)
    van persie
    i’m not sure that wenger (or you) will agree with me, but that’s my opinion… great blog btw, enjoyed reading it (except that squillaci thing)… all the best everyone…

    • cupsui says:

      Imagine Ryo and Walcott on the wings…their fullbacks better have their a-games! that is two players that run 100m in under 11secs

  18. Segzygunn says:

    Sczny, sagna koceny vamin jakins
    …….ramsy nasri fripmg……..
    sub..wacot/rio, chamac, bent, scolci, oxc,lunbr, fanbky
    the bench should be strong cos any thing can apone 2 d starter so al d best shuld not stert..2nd halv is mor crucial…remenber newsct gam

  19. el bizarron says:

    I’m still not quite sure of that formation can be kept. Without Fabregas in the middle, the attack looks toothless.

    I know it’s not popular, and it will probably never happen, but part of me wants to see Wenger trot out all the kids for one match and just let them loose.

  20. nasfir says:

    our defence was solid for last 2 games..
    Try something new in the midfield..
    And dont even put that traitor nasri on our bench..

    “In arsene we trust”

    • santori says:

      …although traitor Nas is good to have as a back up. otherwise it’s Lansbury.

      Of course, there is a chance we could play RVP as Desi suggested but I would prefer a 4-4-1-1.

      However being that this will be a massive switch for RVP in a big game, I would avoid it.

      Someone like Arsharvin in the middle ochestrating will be more ideal. He plays effectively for the motherland in the middle where as he has struggled to find speed out wide in recent time (prob due to age)

      Plus will need speed out wide to counter Young and Downing so Walcott and Miyaichi for me.

  21. santori says:

    Squillaci? You’re having a laugh!

    Anything other than our best Cbacks in the middle against Carroll and the tricky Suarez.

    Jenkinson is not ideal our left but it’s better than sacrificing our best CBack for the role and leaving us weak in the middle, particularly with the midfielders available(Remember how Udinese cut through our midfield like butter?)

    Here’s my pref :


    Frimps will have to cover either left or right reinforcing Sagna or jenks.

    Ramsey can drop back to help making it more of a 4-3-3.

    We’ll have to sit slightly deeper but AA in the middle with Ramsey to release us down the wings (Since Young and Downing will expectedly push high up)

  22. G4L says:

    Squillaci works well with Djourou but not with Koscielny. Can’t say why but there is enough evidence over the last few months to back this up.

    Arshavin can play in the creative role but he needs freedom on the pitch which means others have to be more disciplined. Why drag him back to defend when he can’t do it even when he tries?!

    I am worried this will be a walloping but hopefully it will be the worst game of the season. If it gets any worse we will be out of the top four. Can’t believe I am saying that but the writing is on the wall. From here on in it has to onwards and upwards.

  23. chris from Cambridge says:

    You seem to forget … Wenger doesn’t do tactics.

  24. alphiekenya says:

    superb post desi…

    i like your reasoning concerning the balance of the team and the possibilities are endless but your last paragraph captures my mind perfectly coz irrespective of our new signings there will be a change in play whether wenger intends it or not

  25. Londongooner says:

    Although this is a crucial game for us, AW will surely also be thinking of our biggest game of the season vs Udinese on Wednesday, and for that reason any player who is not 100% fit, such as Djorou is unlikely to play. Will he rest some of our better players also…..we shall find out shortly.

    In an ideal world, Nasri would not be considered since I do not believe it sends out a good message to the rest of the team that a wantaway squad player is in the starting 11, and there would also be genuine concerns that fans voicing their displeasure at Nasri, may affect the whole team’s performance.

    Szczesny – goal

    Sagna right back to deal with Downing

    Vermaelen and either Djorou (if fit) or Ignasi Miquel as CB. We need a tall CB to deal with Carroll and both Djorou and Miquel are 6ft 4. Vermaelen can deal with the pace of Suarez.

    Walcott on the right, Frimpong, Ramsey and Arshavin in the middle and Ryo Miyaichi on the left.

    RVP up front.

    This is the team I would like to see, however AW is unlikely to blood Ryo in such a high profile game. Whatever happens, lets hope the fans get behind the team and we have an enjoyable game of football with no more red cards for our team!

    C’mon you Gunners!

  26. Phil23 says:

    I am reasonably surprised by these line ups. If Djourou and Traore are fit I would expect both to play, pushing one of Vermaelen or Koscielny forward and pushing Jenkinson out of the line up. Other wise:
    Szcesny, Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Jenkinson, Ramsey Frimpong, Walcott Arshavin Miyaichi, Van Persie

  27. Londongooner says:

    On a lighter note I read this on a blog and found it quite funny –

    ” Arsene Wenger has gone to France and just signed a super sperm and an egg on a 22yr contract as part of his latest Project Youth. The sperm is believed to be from Fabregas and the egg from Nasri”


  28. coob23 says:

    oxlaide chamberlain shoudnt be converted to a striker, he plays loads in centre mid, as well as on the wings due his his passing and 2 footed ability, so to play him as a striker would use much less of his creativity methinks, plus we have theo to run and shoot, and others to pick out the pass… his vision would be wasted as a striker, and our midfield atm is piss, so we need him to stay there… also, please lets hope these fresh rumours surrounding hazard are true… goonerstilwedie

  29. coob23 says:

    also santorti, good point, except young will not be playing… just a guess

  30. Arsene wenger should pick samir nasri for d first time to face liverpool it will be a very hard game both team want to collect their first three point the arsenal starting lineup should be suzce,sanga,vermae,kosc,jacke,frim.ramsey,nasri,walcott,rvp,arshiv

  31. Arsene wenger should pick nasri for d fist time,and he should pick a good team 4 liverpool because teams lookset to have their first three point.the arsenal starting lineup should be Suzsce,verm,kosc,sanga,jackis,frim,ramsey,Rvp,walcott,nasri,walcot,arhiv.

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