Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Blackburn Rovers

Clearly, every game is a very tough one for Arsenal on current form. Will the team get its first League win of 2012? Doesn’t seem like it if we look at the manner in which Arsenal have dropped points in recent games, or the way Blackburn came from behind to win at home earlier this season, or the fact that Steve Kean is yet to lose against Wenger or Ferguson in the Premiership (2W, 2D)!

The other way of looking at this is to see it as another opportunity, and they’re running out fast, to get back on whatever little is left of the track. On that there can’t be many arguments.

I honestly don’t know how this game will shape up. Arsenal have been fairly good at home and the recent games haven’t been that bad in terms of performances. It’s the details that have caused problems in attack and defence. Can the players and the manager get it right this time?

Blackburn will be without Yakubu (suspension) and Samba (not in the right frame of mind according to Steve Kean). That weakens them in attack and defence. The patterns of play are likely to be very similar to the ones we saw in the previous game against Bolton. Arsenal will have a lot of the ball while the visitors sit back and get bodies between said ball and goal.

The visitors’ main threat will come from the pace of Hoilett and Olsson down the left. Apart from that it’s about the physical presence of players like Nzonzi in the box, shooting skills of David Dunn, and the poaching instincts of Goodwillie. It’s worth nothing that after Yakubu’s 12 goals, Blackburn’s next best is 3 from Hoilett and Formica followed by Pedersen, Samba, and Rochina with 2. As they showed against Newcastle, even when they did dominate possession and create a lot of chances, they don’t have quality goal-scorers at the moment. That will not prevent Arsenal from conceding a bizarre goal or two though; only unwavering focus and discipline, not only at the back but from all the players, can stop that.

The Gunners will have to double up on Hoilett whenever he gets into the final third. Failure to do that will allow him to get into the box and/or put the ball into danger areas. Song will have a big defensive role on the Right side of midfield. In this game he shouldn’t push up as often as he’s done in the past.

In attack, I sense a massive opportunity for Arsenal to trouble a centre-back pairing of Gael Givet and Scott Dann (or, for that matter, whoever Kean picks). But for that to happen Arsenal need to get bodies in the box and show the ability to penetrate down the middle. And of course, finish the chances once they are created.

Against Bolton, Arsenal created a number of gilt-edged chances when the hosts were lax with their defensive tactics but failed to trouble their goalkeeper after they got tighter. The wide players didn’t really have the technique to join RvP in the centre of the box and the midfield didn’t have enough creativity.

In this game Arsenal will have to produce much improved combination play. Essentially, one wants to see quick passing moves involving four or five players in the build-up. When the attacking team is limited to the man on ball looking for a runner and the runner looking to finish, the defensive side’s task is easier. Instead, if they have to contend with a number of runs, dummies, cut-backs, disguised passes, etc., they are more likely to leave gaps at the back that can be exploited.

Talking of ability to penetrate and the need for link-up play high up the pitch, this game should see the likes of Rosicky and Arshavin get a game. It’s coming too soon after the previous one to start with the same eleven. Arsene said Oxlade-Chamberlain will be given a late fitness test for a jarred knee. I think he should be rested for this one as his energy and skills will be needed in upcoming games. Little Mozart should come in place of the jaded Ramsey.

At the back I don’t think many changes are possible. Sagna is just coming back so his fitness will obviously be a concern. If he is fit Arsene could rest Song and play Coquelin. But if Sagna needs a break Le Boss will have to play Song.

Preferred starting line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen – Song, Rosicky, Arteta – Walcott, RvP, Arshavin.

Coquelin could come in for one of the players if Arsene wants to freshen it up some more. But given the desperate need for a win it’s hard to see too many changes being made.

The atmosphere in the stadium will also play it’s part but I don’t know which side is likely to benefit from that.

Despite my prediction for goals in the previous game falling flat and the fact that the previous home fixture against the same opposition also ended in a goalless draw, I am again going to predict a number of goals in this one – at least three. Don’t ask me which end they’ll be scored. Let’s just hope Robinson adds to his record of conceding 53 goals against Arsenal – more than goals conceded by any other Keeper against any other Premier League side.

Before ending I want to link to this excellent post on the January window by ArsenalVision. Strongly recommended reading for everyone who hasn’t already read it.

10 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Blackburn Rovers

  1. GbG says:

    The football wasn’t bad in the last game. More of the same and some finishing will give us a 3-1 win. Arteta strike sandwiched between an RvP brace. Blackburn to score from a penalty or freekick. Don’t be surprised if Junior Hoilett is brought down in the Arsenal box by a clumsy tackle.

    Rest Walcott and Ramsey who are clearly out of form. Start the Ox and Rosicky. No Arshavin. Henry in place of RvP if the Dutchman is “in the red”. Coquelin for Song.

  2. RedCore says:

    Nice work Desi. I too think that Wenger will start with Little Mozart this time. Guess that’s why he rested him against Bolton. With him and RVP we have enough quality up front. I think we will get our first 2012 win this time.

  3. Chinke Chikezie says:

    I don’t want to write much. My preferred line up will be Szcsesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen – Song, Arteta, Rosicky – Chamberlain, RVP, Walcott, were the wing players runs flat behind the defenders and the players keeps the ball on the ground and passes it fast, while playing closely together. Arsenal should always press the opponents at all times.

  4. VanTheManPersie says:

    Am not sure how much support the fans will afford to arshavin but hopefully no jeering if they are smart enough. I would want Wenger to start coquelin. I know a win is needed desperately but Song looks out of sorts with the number of misplaced passes and needs a break. Playing RVP 3 games in a row is a risk in my opinion. Another draw/loss and arsenal is looking down the barrel. But an RVP injury and arsenal’s season is over. Alot of people have questioned arsenal’s squad depth and or rather the lack of it. While that is true, the major problem has been that almost whenever we have had somethign close to our strongest side, they have underperformed and we have dropped points. Then wenger who has taken the gamble of playing stronger side in the hopes of a win has been forced to over play players in the subsequent game out of fear of droppign points. The boss says the last two games have taken a lot out of the team in terms of effort. WHile that maybe true, it was only brought about by defensive errors against villa and nervy finishing against bolton. The strength of the invincibles era was arsenal started games off well adn finished teams off early. We had a smallish squad even then and heavily relied on Henry,Pires,Lyunberg,Viera,campbell, We started eeking out results when we changed to a 4-5-1 so to speak when Adebayor came to the fore with gallas and co frequentlys coring late goals. If arsenal played the first half well in both the earlier games, a number of players could have been rested. This has also panned out into less games for PARK. How many times hav we heard even people on this blog say, “Park should be given a run out if we are up 2-0 at 60-70 min”?. The problem is it never happens and has not happened for quite sometime. We need to start well and finish off blackburn early. The younger players could have been groomed (Ox ,Yennaris etc) earlier in the season if the first choice eleven finishes the other team off early but that has not happened. That coupled with injuries and we have overplayed many players and Wenger will be in a tight spot again. Does he start RVP and take him off early or put him on the bench for later? Does he risk Ox? Rosicky and arteta will start. Coq can come in for Song. If Ox ix not fit, walcott will start as wenger would not tinker too much considerng the points lost earlier in the season.

    BTW am pretty happy with vermaelen at left back. Sure he doesnt get up and down as much like a regular full back but the cross for van persie’s first chance was better than any of our wingers,full backs in recent memory. Of course this means, he doesnt get a crack through the middle to run with the ball like Kos is doing and possibly score one of his screamers. Hoping for a 2-0 to the arsenal.

    • santori says:

      You make some excellent points as usual but it’s extremely hard to read what you’ve put down in massive blocks. More paragraphs please?

      I’m also of the opinion that Le Coq may be a reasonable option to start in lieu of Song. He is a tidy enough player and should do well alongside Arteta. Rosicky should add a little more bite defensively than young Ramsey.

      Arsharvin is worth a start. People castigate him for his finishing but Walcott isn’t any better (considering Andrei has had games in fits and starts)

      RVP to start. Word is that he will be rested but our margin is so slim right now that we can ill afford any gamble. Rest him when we’ve tucked two awayand put Park or Henry on.

      • VanTheManPersie says:

        well Arshavin doesnt cut for me any more. In games liek these, maybe, but he loses possesion far too quickly when under pressure. Walcott is not great, but slightly better than arsh retaining the ball at the moment and of course defensively he offers much more. At the moment Ox > Gervinhino = Walcott > arshavin

  5. jeff says:

    I believe that wenger will rest ox this time.. But I’m not sure if song will be rested as this game may not be very tactical but a combative one. In my opinion,he might start Park instead of arshavin to put some power in the air.. But surely,Little Mozart will start today.. Some people make excuses for ramsey’s poor displays with age and exhaustion.. But they forget dat koscielny,song n arteta also play in almost every game.. Age is not an issue either.. People say he’s only 20.. But people forget dat jack and ox ain’t older than him.. As wenger always says “one can still be stupid at the age of 30 and one can be good enough at only 18”. 🙂

    • santori says:

      OTOH, it is duplicitous to compare Ramsey with Ox or Jack. People mature at different rates.

      Song was hardly the player we know him to be now @21.

      My issue with Ramsey (much like Walcott) is that they play too ‘nice’ and without enough of an edge.

      Ramsey has good vision and isn’t afraid to shoot from distance. But he seems to give up easily when the ball is taken away from him. He needs to be 5% more competitive and we will see a very different player.

      At the moment he delivers a lot of out put but is not the most efficient. This will come with experience.

      • jeff says:

        Well.. To compare song and ramsey is,indeed, irrelevant.. At the age of 21,song didn’t play on our starting 11.. In this case,wenger’s right as song at that point of time was not yet ready.. Song only started to play after gilberto silva and subsequent flamini departure..
        Ramsey,OTOH,is starting in almost evey game although it’s clear that he can’t cope with it,at least at this point of time..
        And to say that he’s good vision is a liitle bit off the mark,in my opinion.. If he has good vision then probably it won’t take a very long time before he makes a pass..

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