Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Aston Villa

I will be surprised if anyone reading this doesn’t know Arsenal have now won 6 in a row in the League. Most will also know that only Barcelona can match that winning streak on current form in the top 5 leagues across Europe. That’s impressive. And it looks even better if we see that only 5 teams have had better runs throughout the season. Inter, Manchester City, and – this might surprise some readers – Levante have managed 7 game winning runs earlier this season while Dortmund got 8 and Madrid 11.

With a win against Villa at home Arsenal could go joint third on that list and retain their top spot in the current hot streaks category. But the interesting point to note here is that few teams can sustain a winning run. It ends sooner rather than later. The last time the Gunners won 7 in a row was in October 2007. Unbeaten sequences can go on much longer but getting three points game after game is much tougher. Just as a side note, the longest unbeaten streaks of this season are 28 games (Real Madrid) and 20 games (Borussia Dortmund).

So the question is, how long will Arsenal’s winning streak last? At the moment we don’t need to look past the next game for the answer. The question can be posed again if the Gunners get the three points on offer.

On the face of it this should be a banker. Villa are in 15th place on the table and have won only 3 away games all season. They’re without Darren Bent and Richard Dunne, arguably their two most influential players at either end of the pitch. Agbonlahor hasn’t scored in 13 league games. Yes, Villa have picked up the most points at the Emirates than any other visiting side but this team is quite different than the ones that have troubled Arsenal. More importantly, on current form, this Arsenal side does not seem comparable to the ones that lost points at home.

But we all know football is rarely so cut and dried. There is a reason winning streaks are not very long. Many reasons in fact. The games at this level are so close that a refereeing decision, or a momentary lapse in concentration, or a heroic effort from the opposing Keeper, or even a fluke pinball goal for the opponents can convert a win into a draw. A team could perform really well for the majority of the game and walk away losers. Just ask Liverpool. Aston Villa have only lost 3 away games thus far so the Gunners will have to produce a performance that 11 other teams failed to do.

As far as the specifics of this game go I think it will be very similar to the Everton game barring a few minor differences. Villa have greater pace and individual skill on the ball in the attacking areas. But they don’t have the same kind of physical presence as Everton do. This means their threat will mainly come from players like N’Zogbia taking defenders on. If they succeed they can create higher quality chances and will have a better chance of scoring. That doesn’t mean they won’t be a threat from crosses or set-pieces. Just that they have a better chance of getting in behind Arsenal than Everton had and a higher probability of scoring if their players can get service in the final third. Ireland and Petrov have the ability to play some defence splitting passes. Villa will also be a bigger threat on the counter-attack and with shots from distance.

In defence they will be just as well organized and committed as Arsenal’s other recent opponents have been. The Gunners have found a way to score and win those games and should be able to do the same in this one if they can sustain a high tempo or find a few bursts that are hard to defend against.

Villa have relatively weaker players in the full-back positions. Hutton, for instance, is prone to making rash tackles and can be troubled in one-v-one situations. Warnock too can struggle for pace and positioning. McLeish will try to get them support from the wider areas but the wings can be Arsenal’s big creative channel.

Their central defenders could dominate the box in the air but Van Persie can trouble them with his movement as they are on the slower side.

Due to their Bolton game being postponed, Villa have had a midweek break and will be fresh. Arsenal, on the other hand, just won a gruelling tie at Everton and some players will surely be feeling the effects of that. Wenger has been tweaking the tactics in the last few games and his selection for this fixture will give us further insight into his thought process.

In an ideal scenario rotating a few players would help. Arsene does have some choices for his team selection. Santos could come in for Gibbs. I am not in favour of that as the Brazilian hasn’t had enough minutes on the pitch since his recovery to start a game. Gervinho and/or Oxlade-Chamberlain could light up the flanks with their energy and pace. There is some merit to this but that would mean leaving out Ramsey and/or Walcott, or even Rosicky.

Since Arsenal don’t play again till next Saturday one could also argue the players don’t need that much of a rest. I’d go with the same players that did the job at Everton,

Szczesny – Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Song, Rosicky, Arteta – Walcott, RvP, Ramsey.

But something tells me Wenger will have a surprise or two in store for us. At home he might go with two quick and direct wingers. That could mean a start for Gervinho on the left. Certainly from the point of view of attacking the full-backs this would seem like a positive choice. Let’s see if Arsene wants more technical balance or greater thrust.

Broadly speaking, I expect goals in this game, at least three. Depending on when and who scores the first there could be more, but I will be very surprised if there are fewer. I don’t wish to dampen the spirits of anyone but Phil Dowd is in charge so fingers crossed.


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

  1. Karipko james says:

    I will go for santos and gevinho,rest

  2. lance says:

    Ox or gervinho in for ramsey. Ramsey very dissapointing

    • Dhruv says:

      I found Gervinho disappointing against Newcastle when he missed that chance. At least Ramsey was involved and made contribution in the Everton match.

  3. Aussie Jack says:

    It`s a shame when a referee has to become the `X` factor in an otherwise simple equation. I for one will welcome new technology.

    On team selection I think he just might go for Ox-C over Ramsey to begin with.

    • Dhruv says:

      I liked the idea of Ramsey starting on the wing in the last game. This time around Wenger has to start Gervinho to get his confidence back. Ox can come as 2nd half substitute. Ditto for Ramsey who can replace Rosicky when he is tired because this is the 2nd match in 3 days so we might have some tired legs. Santos is another option on the left side. Lets see what Wenger decides but this looks 3 points for the taking.

  4. Kayciey says:

    Szczesny – Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Santos – Song, Rosicky, Arteta – Walcott, RvP, Ox. Ramsey should not start. He slows our game, cant score and is not good enough for Arsenal. Gibbs, Benayoun and Gervinho should come in for Ox, Walcott and Rosicky later on. My predictio;- 3 – 1 to Arsenal. COYG

  5. Young dozzy says:

    We dont care who score or how many goals all we need is three points but surly RVP must score atleast two goals

  6. Am one of dose that enjoy ur critical and all- encompassing indepth analysis.Kudo man. Gunners for life

  7. Gideon says:

    Wenger should give Chambalin a try. Arsenal fans would not be happy to hear tha guy would ever live for he is a true STAR and should be given big opportunity please.

  8. adi says:

    Ramsey is likely to be dropped, but the criticism he’s received over the past few weeks is something i can’t understand. Other than that miss, which was poor, he had a decent game. Remember that he forced howard into a fine save in the second half. He’s a young squad player at present, and he’s good off the bench. What else do you want from a 21 year old?
    As for the game, i’d like to see gervinho and ox start on the wings. Theo can take a day off, gervinho can take some confidence. And we’ll still have great attacking options off the bench in ramsey, walcott, santos and benayoun.

  9. Kamal says:

    Let’s go 4 winning

  10. Bradster says:

    I think let’s not tinker too much. Exploit the defence, so back to 4-3-3 will be good. Walcott didn’t do too much against Everton so he needs a big game. Rosicky, Arteta and Song should do in the middle. I feel Gervinho needs a start to get some confidence back. Ramsey and AOC subs for Rosicky and Gervinho or Theo depending on how they play.

  11. samson says:

    ramsey not starting is a plus.always losing the ball,making wrong decision and cant score.i long to see santos again, i favour Ox on the right and gervinho.

  12. Ade David, a Nigerian Gooner. says:

    Desi, as usual, superb pre-match analysis. We need to win today’s match and by the grace of God, we shall win. With our present form and the 12th player ie the home crowd solidly behind the team, Villa is in trouble. Phil Dowd or no Phil Dowd, we shall triumph. Today, our rivals for 3rd and 4th places are playing against one another. One or both must drop points so we need to take the chance to increase the gap. For the line up, l ‘ll prefer that we use both wingers. Theo should start with either Ox or Gevimho. Ramsey start from the bench. Up Arsenaaal.

  13. kc says:

    replace ramey with gerv

  14. kc says:

    nice write up….3 :0

  15. Dhruv says:

    This seems to be a good match to have after the Everton battle. As Desi mentioned, Villa are without couple of their key players. So lets go for it and get all 3 points. My prediction is 3-1 to Arsenal.

  16. Chris says:

    Ramsey is rather slow and does well when he comes in as a substitute.Ox should start

  17. Kunle says:

    I will drop ramsey,play either oc/gervinho to put pressure on d flanks.play rosicky as d playmaker.

  18. Gerry Lennon says:

    If AW were to spring a surprise it might be to rest Rosicky and play AOC in the middle again? In which case I think Gerinho instead of Ramsey, just because his pace against Villa defenders without Dunne.
    Expecting it is to be another early assault to grab goals and worry about the fatigue factor later. Also, on just who’s bruises need the greater break? Certainly attack will be the best form of defence, so I would guess the AW select 11 will be:
    SZCZ
    SAGNA – KOS – VERM – GIIBS
    ARTETA – SONG
    ROSICKY
    AOC – RVP -GERV

    Subs; Walcott and Santos, but depending whether we are holding on or comfortable, then Ramsey or Ozyakup(he needs some game time if he is not going on loan, and this would be his type of game?)

  19. Gerry Lennon says:

    Gibbs, even?

  20. Beekeeper says:

    Gervinho needs to start.

  21. Mitchel says:

    Based on our current form, this should be 3points in the kitty

  22. georgerodger says:

    It seem Ramsey is the new Arshavin.

  23. RedCore says:

    AW has been reluctant to use Rosicky twice a week before so it is likely that Ramsey will start and TR7 will be on the bench. Gooners really should start supporting AR instead of slagging him off by comparing him to Rosicky who is a much more experienced player.

    I think the starting 11 will be the same as the one against Everton with TR7 replaced by Gervinho.

    • pedantic george says:

      I agree.
      Rosicky is currently the form AM in the league.Anyone will compare poorly to him at the moment.
      We are lucky to have a player like Aaron

  24. nickinportugal says:

    Ox to start, Ramsay on the bench, relieving Rosisky after 65 minutes. Gervinho ditto for Ox or Theo. Simple they have suspect defenders on the flanks we have two dynamic wingers, lets just go for them. But we need to put the early chances away or we might be caught as in the Cup. I hate the way McLeish sets up his teams, they are going to defend from the kick off. Podolski is a great buy, we are already set for next season.

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