Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Sunderland

It’s all back. The League, the buzz, the anticipation, even typing that blasé headline has me tingling, everything’s back.

Arsenal start at home. Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland provide the first hurdle. Big games are just around the corner and the transfer scene is very much alive, but once again we’re at the time where the next game means more than anything else.

In his interview with Arsenal Player, Arsene said that Arsenal are not completely ready physically. Last week Lukas Podolski had said he’ll take two weeks to hit his peak. Given the amount of time spent in Asia where, as Vermaelen acknowledged, the club weren’t able to focus as much on training as they might have wanted, Arsenal will start this season a notch or two below their best.

The visitors might be in a similar situation themselves. Their pre-season took them on trips to South Korea and Sweden and has seen the Black Cats win only 1 game in 6.

The impact of physical preparation is not likely to be visible early in the game but could prove decisive in the dying minutes. It’s certainly something worth keeping an eye on. Substitutions might play a vital role if some players tire.

Broadly speaking, there won’t be any tactical surprises in this game. We know how Martin O’Neill likes to play and Wenger is not going to tinker with his approach significantly. Speaking with Arsenal Player Le Boss reiterated his side’s basic approach i.e. play the ball out from the back with clever movement and quick passing.

I expect Sunderland will form their first line of defence around the centre line and test Arsenal initially by applying some pressure. If the Gunners seem hesitant or sluggish with their passing the visitors will try to stay up the pitch and force a mistake through aggressive pressing. Quality ball rotation from the hosts will naturally push them back. This will be the first big challenge of the match for Arsenal. Will most of the play take place in the middle third (which could leave the defence exposed on a quick transition) or will it take place in the attacking third from Arsenal’s point of view? The answer will depend on Arsenal’s technical quality and also on the front four’s ability to find/create space.

We saw excellent combination play from the Gunners in Cologne but Sunderland will provide a tougher challenge to the midfield as they’ll be tighter on each individual and go in strong on each challenge. Arsenal have a number of newcomers who might find the intensity and physicality a bit surprising, at least initially.

Sunderland’s strengths are in their organization and work ethic which can negate Arsenal’s technical advantage while their threats are likely to come from counter-attacks (mostly down the flanks) or set-pieces.

It will be interesting to see the line-up that Arsene selects. It’s difficult to judge whether the midweek internationals and related travel will have an impact on the selection. For instance. Giroud played around 74 minutes with France. Does that mean he won’t be fresh for this game or did that just provide him better match practice and physical preparation? Similarly, Cazorla travelled all the way to Puerto Rico and probably arrived a day later than others who played closer to base.

I’d start with the same front four that played the first half in Germany last weekend. That means Giroud in the centre, Podolski on the left, Theo on the right, and Cazorla as the advanced midfielder.

With Song likely to leave, the midfield duo behind these four could very well be Diaby and Arteta, assuming the Spaniard has recovered from the niggle that kept him on the sidelines in Cologne.

Preferred line-up,

Szczesny – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Diaby, Cazorla, Arteta – Walcott, Giroud, Podolski.

In my opinion this is the most balanced starting eleven from the available options. Some people might point to the fact that Gervinho has had a good pre-season and already has Premier League experience but I prefer Prinz Poldi on the left. The German international is technically superior, has a better instinct for goals and gets into excellent positions, and he will be more adept at drifting between the lines and linking with Cazorla.

Gervinho is faster and is the better dribbler but he might not do so well in terms of ball retention and movement when marked tightly and consistently.

That said, I won’t be surprised if Arsene wants to take his time and introduce the new players gradually. There is also the possibility that Podolski will want the central role considering his relative seniority. So there’s a good chance we could see Gervinho on the left and Giroud on the bench.

Some Gooners might also have a view that Coquelin is the better option at right back but I think it’s best to have a specialist in the side even if he’s a youngster who has shown certain weaknesses defensively.

Ramsey is another player who’ll be hoping to get a start, especially after an impressive Olympics campaign with team GB, but he’ll probably have to be satisfied with strengthening a bench that will also include AOC and either Gervinho or Giroud. That should give the Gunners additional firepower in case things are going according to plan.

It’s difficult to see how this game will pan out as the key attacking players haven’t played in the Premiership before. It’s not difficult to see Podolski getting chances to score and Cazorla being the creative hub but space and time will certainly be at a premium and these players will have to produce a performance close to their best to make an impact.

The Gunners have a lot to prove defensively. So far there’s been a lot of talk about positional work being done in training but the words will ring hollow unless they can translate that into a solid performance on the pitch.

I’m looking forward to the game with an open mind and cautious optimism.


26 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Sunderland

  1. “I’m looking forward to the game with an open mind and cautious optimism” >>> Some things don’t change. Welcome back for the new season!

  2. davi says:

    I’m really looking forward to it, but this is a game in which focus will be massively important as Sunderland will be ready to pounce on anything we give them. IMO we really need a big performance from someone; either the new captain or preferrably one of the new signings. That will spread some positivity which would probably catalyse a victory.

  3. We are good to go, no fear! We are the Arsenal

  4. Kungfauxmaster says:

    Did I see Mertesacker in the back line, what about Koscielny? He is by far the better defender between the 2. Also Jenkinson looked out his depth big style last season, has something changed?

  5. tredo says:

    it will never be well with arsenal board that are rearing players like chicken…..wenger and kronke is a disgrace to football..almighty arsenal overnight turn to nothing….Manager just open e eye sell his best to his rival…..what a shame because of money..

  6. Nizam says:

    Martin likes to play it tight and hit on the break.If Arsenal lose the ball in the third part of the pitch,that’s the danger sign .A high ball over the gunners’ defence could be problematic.
    Make sure Arsenal have enough numbers to stifle the threat otherwise it could be the ball in the gunners net.

  7. stephen says:

    get rid of all the deadwood and bring in players how will give blood for the gunners . keep the faith Arsenal can still in the premiership.come on the Arsenal.

  8. Arsan Arsenal Hasadoy says:

    We are better,stronger and sharper dis season than dis tym last season.We can handle it,come on Arsenal

  9. segonice says:

    I can’t wait to see the dou of cazorla and podolski on the pitch at the same time.Today’s match going be a must-whatch and win match.
    Arsenal must win to show v persie what arsenal means.Good luck to all gunners 2day!

  10. Tope Adebayo says:

    Arsenal are good to go this season! I only pray against injury/bad luck. I Arsene should start Cooqline/Yenaris because Jenkison’s positioning needs to improve especially when Theo is on the pitch. Pls all Arsenal faithful let pray for the team as they kick start the season! Gooner 4 live!

  11. Tope Adebayo says:

    Arsenal are good to go this season! I only pray against injury/bad luck. Arsene should start Cooqline/Yenaris because Jenkison’s positioning needs to improve especially when Theo is on the pitch. Pls all Arsenal faithful let pray for the team as they kick start the season! Gooner 4 live!

  12. brighsmith says:

    If song goes..wenger is a fool

  13. Ramon alao says:

    Nice post indeed, but am sure gonners we will d match! Up gunners.

  14. Aussie Jack says:

    For me this is a must win game, it will set the tone for games to follow leading up to the big ones. I don`t see a big score but we need to keep a clean sheet. Two nil will do fine.

  15. kalu says:

    id prefer yennaris as he outshone nani during the emirates match last season.nico u ave my vote amg others.

  16. gunnerjam says:

    nuri sahin? not sure can replace song but would be good addition to squad should song leave. 4-0 prinz poldi to shine come on you gunners. cant wait to get started now

  17. Simon ekpe says:

    Why jakinson? Wenger is mad

  18. Arsenalizer says:

    Hahaha!!! I laugh because in all the previews i’ve read thus far, no one is talking of Arshavin. I personally want him to stay and i believe he still has something to offer. And for your information, Gervinho has never been, never is, and never will be faster than Podolski.
    My only problem with that lineup is ofcourse Jenkinson who is yet to prove his worth in Arsenal colours. He dosent have the pace, physicality and awareness of an Arsenal player, so i’ll be happy to see Yennaris, Coq or Djorhou there.

  19. ogali says:

    pold shld start wit d older players due 2 d strength n pace of our openents.gev,pold n theo.up gunners.

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