Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Aston Villa

There is a glimmer of hope amidst the sea of negativity that Arsenal have been swimming in recently. Some players are close to making their return after serious injuries. Of course, as we have seen with Wilshere recently and with others in the past, getting hopes up when it comes to injuries and Arsenal is not a smart choice. Nevertheless, when Wenger says Sagna, Arteta, Henry, and Coquelin have a chance to be involved on Sunday, it does give the tormented heart some respite.

This game didn’t have a midweek tie preceding it – and with the benefit of hindsight I feel it was just as well the Gunners didn’t reach the Carling Cup semis as those games would have really stretched the threadbare resources available to Arsene – but it does have two quick League fixtures soon after. With those in mind, I’d prefer to see the returning players eased back with caution. There is no point giving someone a start in this game only to lose him for a few weeks after that.

I’d like to see the same side that took the field against United in the second half.

Preferred line-up,

Szczesny – Yennaris, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen – Song, Ramsey, Rosicky – Walcott, RvP, Oxlade-Chamberlain.

There are a number of other options that Wenger will have to consider but most involve returning players and it’s really hard for us to judge their fitness situation without all the facts. For instance, Coquelin could come in at right-back or even in midfield. Arteta could return to the position he’s made his own in a short period of time at the club. That would be a particularly tempting choice for Arsene as his side have missed the technique, composure and defensive contribution of the Spaniard. Wenger might even stick with the experience of Djourou ahead of Yennaris, especially as Villa are not likely to have the same level of threat up front that United posed. Park or Henry could also have a case for starting but I’d go with Van Persie. Wenger could pick Park in place of Ramsey – who really needs a breather – if he thinks the Korean can offer the kind of work rate required in that position or that Van Persie could drop deep and play, at least partly, as a midfielder. In that case the wide players will have a much bigger defensive responsibility. These are just some of the choice Arsene will have to mull over.

With N’Zogbia likely to miss the game, we could see Agbonlahor on the left and Albrighton on the right of Bent. McLeish will probably start with a defensive approach and make attacking substitutions late in the game if it’s still winnable. That would imply a wall of five players in front of their defensive line and 70 odd minutes of long balls down the channels.

Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain can really have a field day in this game but for that the Gunners have to move the ball fast enough to find them in space. The tempo of the game will be vital and the hosts have to ensure they don’t allow Villa a chance to settle. In the recent games, Arsenal’s defending has buckled under pressure but it all starts when the side fails to hold on to the ball and endures sustained spells of pressure. If Villa manage that away from home they will deserve to win and Arsenal’s season will get much worse. Somehow I doubt that will happen but with a depleted squad and the air of negativity in the stadium, you never know how things will turn out.

Villa fans, players, and the manager cannot be faulted for strongly believing they have a good chance in this game. Hopefully, that will draw them out and they will leave spaces behind their centre-halves who can be caught by pace.

The Gunners, for their part, have to find a degree of tactical cohesion that we haven’t seen consistently in the last few weeks. Arsenal have to avoid the loop where two players are seen pressing up the field, another three caught in a no man’s land around the centre-circle, with the defence dropping deep. Such situations inevitably lead to a freakish goal and Bent has a history of scoring against Arsenal. Even on set-pieces, the players can’t afford to switch off.

Arsene must also ensure his team doesn’t ease off if they score an early goal. As we saw in the Swansea game, that give the opponents a way back into the game and that sometimes forces the tactical issues discussed earlier in the post.

Most other teams would probably be happy to return from such a fixture with a draw but Villa have surprisingly done very well at the Emirates and have been quite a disaster at home against the Gunners. It’s a different side under McLeish though, and the Scot probably has a much better record at home against Arsenal than he has away. In any case, I don’t think anyone in the Arsenal camp would want to see a replay. It’s important to settle this at home. The draw does not have that many big names any more – although given the luck Arsenal have had I will be surprised if they get anything other than an away draw against Liverpool or Chelsea in the next round –  so this game has to be seen a big opportunity.

I expect a tough game for Arsenal and one that won’t be settled till late in the game. The side that makes fewer individual mistakes and one that can impose it’s tactical will on the game over large periods should walk away with the result.

31 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Aston Villa

  1. Jamal says:

    Good post, keep up the good work

  2. Pete says:

    Walcott will struggle again he never fancies it against tough tackling left backs he will run scared of Warnock

    • Alexei says:

      That maybe so but Warnock always struggles when up against wingers with genuine pace. If Walcott is on his game he will destroy Warnock, and this is coming from a Villa fan.

      • Charlie says:

        If Walcott had been on form at all this season we wouldn’t be in the mess that we’re in now. I wouldn’t pin any hopes on anything coming from his wing.

    • Run from the warlock Waldo says:

      Thats ok-as long as he runs with the ball clean through the viila net!

  3. Fruss says:

    Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen – Song, Arteta, Coquileen – Walcott, RvP, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
    touch wood i got it right

    • santori says:

      I certainly hope we will see Sagna! If not at very leasy le Coq.

    • Dhruv says:

      Would play Ramsey and see what kind of form is he right now, because if he is not playing well, then probably he should be benched in the next EPL game. Also would give chance to Yossi, if not as a starter then at least a substitute. Need to handle Arteta carefully so will start with Rosicky.

      And when is that super-croc Gibbs back, dont want to lose TV playing as LB.

  4. Shahr says:

    If Wenger endorses Ox for Euro 12,I see no reason why he shouldn’t play against AV.

    • santori says:

      Yes, unleash the Ox. But he has some deficiencies in his defensive game still (as to be expected with someone his age). Therefore important to have someone solid behind him. I think Le Coq is better at sticking to task (Yennaris has been reasonably good but is still green)

      I still think Arsharvin has a thing or two to contribute to the cause. Granted he seems universally disliked these days by the fanbase, he has weighed in with a number of crucial assist. His service can be impeccable (never mind his finishing which has been wayward much like everyone-else bar RVP)

      The question is whether it is better to start him (get him use to the pace of the game) and sub him on the half (or before if deemed ineffective) or bring him on later.

      • Dhruv says:

        I would like fans to grow up and not boo Arshavin if comes on. However, in this match I would prefer some other players given chance.

  5. JJ Pittman says:

    Recent results have shown how important Arteta has been. IMO he is 4th midfielder for Spain and number one for us. As a Gooner for over 40 years, may I humbly submit his presence is as important as Cesc was last season. If we can get a win tomorrow, we are only one of 16. Champions League is still more important. Scouse will be occupied by both domestic cups, so we must pass Chel$ki and/or Spuds in Premieship. Would like to win tomorrow, but will still need 4! More for FA Cup. Premiership is more important, so will not be shattered if we lose to Villa. Should win, but would not risk any marginally fit players. Psychology of losing 4 straight would be horrible, but only psychological CL and premiership top 4 are much more important.

  6. I wud love 2 c tiz formation,
    Nicolas, koscielny, vermaelen, sagna.
    Arteta, rosicky
    Walcott, rvp, Aoc

  7. T2T says:

    If we assume he will not start with any of the returning players, I’d go with
    Szczesny – Yennaris, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen – Song, Rosicky, Arshavin – Walcott, Park, Oxlade-Chamberlain
    With Ramsey needing a break, I’d start with Arshavin in his favourite position. I would also start with Park in place of RvP to allow RvP a breather have him on the bench.

    • santori says:

      Yes when are we getting Park out of park and onto the park?

      I think he is the sort of sub to throw on in lieu of captain vantasitc IF we have the game comfortably sewn up and early.

  8. santori says:

    I rather fancy le Coq at RB.

  9. Shahr says:

    Today’s game aginst AV aint going to be easy.McLeish is a pragmatic manager .He was the Blues manager in 2008 when Eduardo was cruelly injured.Don’t be surprised the gunners face robust tackles ,including two footed lunges.Ijust hope the ref rc a two footed lunge whether with intent or not.If you see a prowler ouside your garden with atool it’s obvious he is intent on causing mischief. There are no two ways about it. Similarly with the two footed lunge.
    I just hope the gunner win . I shudder if they were to lose again.Every team must help in defnce.If you watch the Brighton Newcastle game,you will have an idea.The moment a magpie had the ball,he will be hounde .Hopeully the gunners can play this way.

    • Dhruv says:

      You forgot to mention CC final last year where McLeish was so geared up. I think he has an edge over Wenger tactically, he knows how to stifle Wenger’s plan.

      Players need to keep watch for that psycho Hutton, if he is playing.

  10. ekstien says:

    When Ʊ‎​ say “†̥ђ‎​ε̲̣̣̣̥ experience of Djourou” i wonder what that really means. Yennaris, even though he’s inexperienced fit into that possition a hundred times better that djourou. I really won’t want to see †̥ђ‎​ε̲̣̣̣̥ horror i saw against man utd. I think he should be on †̥ђ‎​ε̲̣̣̣̥ bench Fø̲̣̣я̅ this game

  11. myicke says:


    coquelin, kos, tv5, miguel
    arshavin arteta
    ox-chambo, rvp walcott.

    Subs:fabianski,sagna,met4,ozyakup,rocisky ,park,henry

    • spurs_idiot says:

      where the hell is benayoun…..when is he gonna play again….damn u wenger…..U make us too reliant on our 1st team players…..

  12. Salees Osman says:

    Walcoot didn’t deserve to be in the squard

    • Dhruv says:

      Yes, but we need to play somebody on the right. Also, Walcott gels well with RVP and has second highest goal tally in the current team which is again due to the fact that this team is very poor finishing-wise. I agree we need better options on the wings.

  13. Redcore says:

    Good work Desi. As Villa are more likely to park the bus and try to hit us on the counter in the initial part of the game,this might be our best chance to give the overworked Ramsey a breather and play some of our more creative players there. Rosicky could be an option there and he definitely has the speed of thought to link up well with Van the man. Arteta can fit in there seamlessly but there is no one else who can do the ‘Arteta role’ better than him so I think we can rule that out.Has Park ever played there? Lets hope that AW does something different this time. But I have a feeling that we will win this one with ease.

  14. Gerry Lennon says:

    I love this bit when we get to play Championship Manager … without any consequences if we get it wrong?
    I think your team is the most likely Desi, but also what McLeish will expect?
    He’s my more hopeful line-up:
    SAGNA(60min),KOS, TV, YENN(Need pace to deal with Albrig)
    ARTETA, SONG(strictly defensive)
    AOC( with licence to roam -75mins), Arshavin,
    RVP, PARK.

    Risky one, because the probable need for 4 subs? However, barring any other injuries, subs as follows;
    COQ(for SAGNA-poss switch Nico to rb, and Coq on lft)
    ROSICKY(for Arteta, if needed? -if not, then AOC)
    WALCOTT(for Arshavin/Park?- if still level)
    HENRY(for Arshavin/Park? – if winning by 2+ goals)
    MERT(hopefully not)
    SCQUIL/DJOUROU(double ditto!)

    Reasoning – Kos and TV are the quickest pairing to keep Bent quiet. If Arteta (fit?) and Song cover the fullbacks and don’t stray forward, it should nullify chief threat on the wings? With Arshavin in the central link position, he should have plenty of options to keep play moving(Sagna, AOC, Nico, RVP, and Park), and be involved himself(imp!), as well as getting forward for assists (and score???). Hopefully, without the tracking back he can last the 90 mins(and a MOM standing ovation!), AOC should love this role? If Park can occupy their fullbacks on the opposite wing to AOC, allowing our backs to overlap when they move inside, and RVP to orchestrate in and around the box, it could be the making of the remains of the season?
    3.0 up at half time will do nicely?
    I can dream can’t I?

  15. Vamel says:

    Asene shul b more concern wit d f.cup cuz it wil gv d playerz nd d fans confidence. Up up up gunarz

  16. couldn'tmanageclowns says:

    There are nutters on this site. Ramsey desperately needs someone with an engine in the midfield with him. Song, Arteta and Rosicky are lazy players who play without passion. Add crap wide support from fullbacks and Wallcott played wide out of position and you can see why he can control a midfield for Wales but not for Arsenal. Give him someone to play with for God.s sake!!

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      I could agree with the general premise that better players would make some of our players play better … but I’ve lost you on how Ramsey comes into this equation.
      For a start, his own engine has a burn out around the hour mark, when he cannot make even the simplest pass stick. He can usually do one or two good things in a match, but for the rest of the time it is his slowness to ‘see’ a quick pass that makes the likes of Walcott and Arshavin look bad. Precisely the point you are making, only in reverse?
      You criticise Song, when not only does he have to try and make the defence splitting passes, because Ramsey, most of the time, is incapable of making, but also be a rock in defence.
      Arteta is being played out of his natural position, but as his absence showed, does at least make a difference.
      Rosicky I think most accept is behind the ideal first 11, but again, but a big shift in last time.
      To criticise our fullbacks at this moment in time is rich, given we haven’t had any for the last month or more. Young Yennaris did a grand job, albeit out of position, and likewise Coquelin before his injury. Without any injuries we would have had, and soon will have? the best right back in the league, in Sagna, and with Jenkinson a promising deputy, both of whom cross exceptionally well. Gibbs was on his way to being England’s future at left back, prior to his string of different injuries, and is excellent going forward. Santos, despite looking out of breath after the first ten minutes can still put a 90 minute shift in, and was looking like one of the best attacking left backs for some time.
      Least said about Djourou the better really, but another who has been playing ‘out of position’ Even the experienced Vermaelin found that beyond him?
      Walcott needs someone of Fabregas ability who can play the ball which he can run onto, IN SPACE, not have it delayed so long two defenders can go across to cover him. He has pace, not trickery.
      Arshavin needs to be involved more in the game. Out wide he is most often ignored, or just used as a one-two passer. His talent is being wasted right now. People look back to when he looked a very good signing, and wonder what has happened? No mystery, we had some quality players that he could interact with, which is a bit lacking now, particularly the interaction?
      RVP, for all his superb qualities, he has got to be the most difficult player to build a team around because he is not a conventional No 9. Gervinho is the first for a long time that actually compliments his game, and the latter’s absence has seen RVP’s goal-scoring touch go down a notch?
      So, YES! Most of the above would improve with a couple of better players to bring the best out of them, not least because the squad could rotate more, so players like Ramsey, Arteta, and Song are not over-played. Not to mention our reliance on a fit RVP? But please, look more objectively at all the players, not a rose-tinted view of just one?
      I feel much better for that rant!

  17. irish gooner says:

    no walcott and djourou hopefully,,oxo and yennaris are better,id start henry out left if he is fit,ive got a bad feeling about this one,,1-0

  18. Chikezie Chinke says:

    Well its obvious i’m making this write up after the game, but i will still like to point out some issues. Just like you rightly pointed out, the first goal was as a result of switch off from a set-piece. Right from when the corner-kick was passed to when it was crossed and to when it was nodded, the concentration level was 10%, as if nothing was going to go wrong. I don’t understand why Mertesacker will be at the centre post while Aston Villa tall players where at the far post when the corner-kick was taking.

    The second goal, was as a result of being a goal down which made the two fullbacks playing on a high line, pressing upfront for an equalizer and creating a loop, while Rosicky and Ramsey were lost in the middle and the centre-backs were playing deep. This gave room for Bent to run on the defenders and the goal was created and scored. Song did well tracking back but his movement was not convincing. If he was moving with focus and determination, he wouldn’t have paused and later continued the movement. He would have been able to stop the goal. All the players played well except for lack of concentration for the goals.

    Never the less, they still got a victory and i strongly believe Arsenal should attack with confidence, stay close to each other, close down the opponents as fast as possible and past the ball faster especially at the final third (preferably one touch).

  19. Kushagra India says:

    Some interesting points from Alex Fynn..the author of making of Arsenal a modern super club…… dis podcast from Le-Grove…

    [audio src="" /]

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