Thoughts On Tactics and Starting Eleven Against Olympiacos

Arsenal are visiting Greece for the final group game with top spot secured. Such games can easily become an unwanted, tiresome chore but they can also be an opportunity for the some of the players to show what they are capable of with a chance to perform in a pressure-free environment.

Of course, we don’t want the team to be frivolous and roll over but I feel the squad that Wenger has taken to Olympiacos is full of professionals who respect the badge on their shirt and the game/competition. All-in-all it should be a very exciting performance from a promising bunch.  Given that it comes so close on the heels of the Carling Cup tie, the players should feel some sort of continuity and be motivated enough to avoid back-to-back defeats (considering only the second string).

The home fans will undoubtedly create a raucous atmosphere but that should help the youngsters if they approach the game with the right mentality. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine tyros like Frimpong, Coquelin and the Ox being daunted by the occasion or the crowd. For the youngsters it should be about enjoying the game while expressing themselves with real belief and desire.

Interestingly, it’s just under two years since a similarly young Arsenal side lost against the Greeks in a dead rubber (this game is only half-dead). This time around I feel both sides will have greater quality and the game should be more of a spectacle.

Picking the starting line-up will not be easy for Arsene. He has a bit of a shortage at the back whereas Le Boss might have to leave one or two deserving players out in midfield/attack.

Vermaelen and Santos are in the squad but I will be surprised if either of them starts. Last time around Wenger fielded Kerrea Gilbert and Tom Cruise at full back positions. Yennaris and Miquel should be able to do the job in this game. Squillaci and Djourou can provide the experience in the centre of defence. The upcoming period is hectic and it’s important to rest first choice players whenever possible.

The aforementioned trio of Frimpong, Coquelin, and AOC should be in the midfield ahead of them but it will be interesting to see if Arsene retains the 4-4-2 from last Tuesday. That would mean Benayoun on the left with Chamakh and Park leading the line.

I am not against retaining the shape and these players but Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yenanris on the right might not be a good idea defensively. In that case we might see Djourou moving to the right with Vermaelen in the middle, or Miquel in the middle and Santos on the left. It won’t be ideal but will depend on the kind of confidence the manager has in his younger players.

Then there is the option of playing three in central midfield with Rosicky back to fitness. An extra midfielder could  compensate for the inexperience on the right. Such an option would see one of Park or Chamakh missing out.

Arshavin is another player who needs/deserves a game but Arsene will find it hard to fit him in the starting eleven. One option is to play him on the left with Benayoun in the middle as the third midfielder. Rosicky has just returned from (another) injury so starting him might not be a smart move.

A tweak to that side could see Arshavin drop into the hole with a four man midfield behind him and a striker in front. This would be very similar to the formation against Bolton.

As you can see, there is no shortage of options for Arsene but finding the right balance in the starting eleven and resting key players at the same time will not be easy.

Preferred starting eleven,

Fabianski – Yennaris, Squillaci, Djourou, Miquel – AOC, Frimpong, Coquelin, Benayoun – Arshavin – Park.

It will be harsh on Chamakh who has been working hard and is desperately in need of match-practice but I feel the incisiveness that Arshavin provides will be critical. The Korean captain makes a number of runs and having a teammate capable of finding them can work for the team and for the confidence of both players.

Olympiacos have a chance of qualifying and will give their all in this game. I expect them to press high up the pitch and put the Arsenal defence under pressure. They won’t ease off as City did, albeit tactically, in the Cup tie last week. The Gunners might have to play on the break and having a quick passer with vision, like Arshavin, behind a runner like Park can provide interesting counter-attacking opportunities. Chamakh and Park in tandem might not see enough of the ball. The Russian’s creativity can also benefit Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Given the performances of the hosts thus far in the tournament, it’s safe to assume this won’t be an easy game for any side that Wenger picks. A win will be an extraordinary achievement but is not impossible. A draw will be commendable while a defeat can also be respectable as long as the players prove they are willing to fight for the cause.

It’s not often that Arsenal are the only English side to qualify on top with a game to spare while the others have serious question marks over qualifying and/or getting the top spot. It’s genuinely an occasion to enjoy.


13 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics and Starting Eleven Against Olympiacos

  1. Thierry's Right Foot says:

    Thoughtful. Let’s get this ‘first’ rubbish out of the way

  2. terry says:

    since we gona only play 433 i think this is how we should line up:
    flappy
    Yennaris, Squillaci, Djourou, Miquel
    coq frimpong
    rosicky
    AOX arsahvin park

    more like arsahvin dropping little deep.we would look something like this on attack:
    coq rosicky frimpong
    arsahvin
    aox park

  3. santori says:

    1) Defense : Much rather see Djourou-Squillaci-Miguel-Santos at the back. Not sure when Gibbs returns but think the Brasilian could benefit from continued games.

    2) Midfield : Definately want to see frimpong/Le Coq. Ox our wide will also be a plus. Benayoun should start as you say. He has been picking good passes, just a fraction off timing-wise.

    3) Striker(s) : Like to see the return to Arsharvin in the hole (as suggested and so effective in tandem with Park). But perhaps, Chamakh could/should make an apearance with the big man with either of AA or Park making way later on (or maybe a switch to a 4-3-3 with Chamakh leading if 4-4-2 is not working)

    Olympiacos will have to come out so we should be set up for the quick counter and the 4-4-2 (with AA in the hole) sounds the best option.

    As you have so mentioned, it is a game to savour and enjoy without any squeaky bums. 😀

  4. Rick Jones says:

    Always insightful anda interesting. We appreciate you over here in the USA!

  5. cupsui says:

    Desi i totally agree with your starting line-up it the sort of game arsharvin needs and thats his position so if he wants to show what he is made of no time like the present. He should prowl around in the hole and the two young mids will give him perfect defensive foothold. They should be able to support the fullbacks a bit if they have been watching song, with one coming centrally and the other drifting a bit wider if the greeks have the ball on either flank…
    i look forward to watching the ox again…he plays la joga bonita!!
    keep the momentum flowing young’ns

  6. kycee says:

    Go gunners! Liverpool loss 3pts on Monday, Chelshit may drop 3pts or 2pts against Man-money then we climb 4th.

  7. T2T says:

    desigunner, spot on except I prefer Mannone to Fabianski. I’d choose the same starting outfield players though. Arshavin playing behind Park will create havoc in any defence as both are very intelligent players capable of making the right choices. The midfield with 3 youngsters should be strong and Benayoun as a calming influence. Rest Vermaelen and Santos unless absolutely necessary. Rsoicky and Chamakh can come on after 60 minutes.

  8. Sammy says:

    Excellent Post as usual. Great opportunity for the lads. Tough game and a win would be an extraordinary feat

  9. OBA says:

    Best line up from you
    From the squad in Greecem
    I don’t see Arsenal losing
    This matchm
    Refreshing.

  10. I would prefer to see the 4-4-2 played against city in the carling cup with a few changes to your line up. Mannone Djourou Vermalean Miguel Santos Arshavin coquelin Frimpong oxlade-chamberlain park chamakh. the 4-4-2 worked well at city and we were unlucky not to score and it gives us a chance to work on a plan B if plan a does not work. looking at our december fixtures season past we avg 14 points in the league. We have to play city villa and everton this time around as well as wolves and qpr so a twelve point return would be good though to challenge for a top four a sixteen point return would be even better.

  11. Wrenny says:

    Olympiakos need a win and should go for it, so it makes sense for us to set up hit them on the counter (they lost their only league game a couple of weeks ago 2-0 with both goals scored from quick breaks, so it’s a vulnerability). Arshavin behind Park in a 4-4-1-1 is our best chance of doing that out of the personnel available.

    If we go behind and Olympiakos retreat and get men behind the ball to protect their lead then it makes sense to bring in Chamakh as a physical, aerial option as Park may struggle against a more compact defence which won’t allow him to utilise his pace in behind as easily.

  12. richie says:

    Tonights game was something we were supposed to enjoy? One would’ve needed to have sever Masochistic tendancys to be a Gooner and have enjoyed that game!

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