Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Stoke

So it’s Stoke on a warm Sunday afternoon. Will it be any different? The scenario might not match the cliche but the football most certainly will. This is a classic battle between two diametrically opposite philosophies where both sides understand the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. It just boils down to the execution on a given day.

Stoke are a physical side but they tend to up the ante even more in the early minutes of games against Arsenal. Their tactic usually is to prevent Arsenal from striking any sort of a rhythm. Following that, it’s mostly about getting the ball into advanced areas in search of set-pieces and throws. This simple approach has worked for the home side as they’ve taken the lead against Arsenal on all five occasions the sides have met at the Britannia. In four of those games the lead has come inside 11 minutes.

Mertesacker talked about switching on quickly. Clearly, the players and the coaching staff are aware of Stoke’s early impetus. Whether they can deal with it remains to be seen.

Typically, Tony Pulis’ side tends to ease off after the initial burst of pressing, especially if it results in a goal. Their game subsequently relies on organization, coordination, and hard work in defence while constantly looking for opportunities to break forward. They make clever use of their physical strengths and the flanks to create decisive moments on counter-attacks. It’s a real challenge for the central defenders and the midfielders covering them. Arteta and Diaby can prove they’re good enough to play in deeper positions throughout the season if they can consistently challenge for and win the second balls. They’ll also have to sweep up in front of the back four particularly clearing any square balls that are played across the penalty box.

The issue with Stoke’s style is that it often relies on the leniency of the referee as it results in a melee in the penalty box or when the duels start resembling a wrestling bout. Lee Mason was extremely card shy in the midweek Chelsea-Reading fixture and that could work in favour of the hosts.

Arsenal’s new signings will be surprised at the intensity of the physical challenges but they’ll have to adapt quickly. Wenger wants his team to adhere to their game and passing the ball under pressure is one way to counter Stoke. For that to work though, every player has to be on top of his game and they have to show the ability and willingness to take a few knocks. The new players should be prepared to play on under challenges that might be considered fouls in the leagues they’ve come from.

Wenger also has a team selection headache. Playing two quick but technically limited wingers has not been working for a while now. Arsene has to find a better balance. He has some choices but none of them seem ideal.

For instance, Wenger could put Podolski on the left with Giroud down the middle and one of Walcott or Gervinho on the right in front of the same midfield that started against Sunderland. However, it seems to me that Arsene sees Podolski as a key played in a central role so he might not be so keen to shift the German to a flank. Secondly, Stoke are stronger when attacking down the right and one could wonder just how diligently Poldi will track back to support the full back.

The other option is to put Cazorla on a flank of his choice while bringing Ramsey into the midfield to offer greater energy and work rate along with improved technical balance. In such a scenario, only two of Gervinho, Walcott, Giroud, and Podolski can start. Arsenal might also lack pace on the break, which can be an issue if Stoke press cohesively and assertively.

With a similar playing eleven as the choice above, Arsene could also put Ramsey on a flank if he wants to keep Cazorla central.

Szczesny is scheduled for a late fitness test and there might be doubts over Fabianski’s fitness as well. This could prove to be a major source of concern for the Gunners.

Preferred starting eleven,

? – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Diaby, Ramsey, Arteta – Cazorla, Giroud, Gervinho.

I don’t know who’ll start in goal. The back four and the two deep lying midfielders should retain their places from the Sunderland game.

I’d like to see Ramsey in the middle for his work rate and ability to move the ball around with Cazorla on the right having the freedom to drift around the pitch when Arsenal get the ball forward. Giroud seems like a better choice to me upfront as he’s got the kind of physical presence that can be an asset in both penalty boxes. He also has the ability to pull wide and become an outlet for the side when the opponents are pressing effectively. The big Frenchman can also be a target in the box if the Stoke defence plays deep and narrow. Gervinho can provide pace and decent defensive cover on the left. The width will have to come from one or both full-backs.

For Arsenal, the key will be in their ability to hold on to the ball for long periods. By accomplishing that the Gunners give themselves the chance to break Stoke down. It won’t be easy, certainly not if the pace of passing and movement is similar to the opening fixture, but that’s really the only way the Gunners can get any points from this game. They can’t take the hosts on at the physical battle. It’s about bringing the game to your comfort level rather than fighting on the opponents’ strong points. In order to achieve this, the players will not only have to suffer through the physical challenges while maintaining control over the ball, they’ll also have to maintain their composure and avoid retaliatory fouls that could lead to dangerous set-pieces, bookings, and red cards.

Given the fact that Arsenal have won once in five visits to this ground while losing thrice, it’s obvious that any result will be a commendable achievement. A defeat will not be surprising but it can be demoralizing given the opening day draw and the tough fixtures in the upcoming weeks. A win, in contrast, could be the perfect tonic before the big fixtures.

30 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Stoke

  1. karki says:

    Poldi on the left for me. And Gervinho on bench like last time. Midfield is fine. Ramsey could do better with Cazorla

  2. kaypeenator007 says:

    Podolski will struggle in the central role imo never convinced there for Germany or Bayern , Pod Giroud Gerv, Ramsey to come as a sub

  3. Emma says:

    I pray we loose today! Wenger should sign players!

  4. Mano Johnson says:

    It will be a good formation. But jekinson no, what about yeneris or coqouelin the will be fit for that position

  5. kieran says:

    “Playing two quick but technically limited wingers has not been working for a while now. ” This seems more of a problem from the first game which needs to be solved quickly.

    I love Theo, but I don’t think he should have so many minutes in these style of games. I prefer Gervinho out wide, and I see Podolski as more rigorous on the left. This leaves other balance issues, but that’s why some ppl get the big bucks.

  6. Anshuman says:

    Arsenal can do really good by trying to keep long spells of possession – but just to wear them down, we should not try for our intricate midfield play as its going to be stifled down and is not conducive to this kind of game. counter attack seems the best option and for that I would wanna go for playing both Ox and Theo on either wings. Ox as a right footed Inside winger on the left flank while Theo as traditional winger. the two along with cazorla can set up play for giroud. Mikel Arteta and Diaby at the back can provide quick long balls and be the link between defense and midfield. Santos instead of Gibbs for overlap. We can win this by scoring goals coz attack (or rather midfield) is our strenght. If we try to play defensive or the passing game, it’s gonna be tougher to win. Thats why I m going for a more direct style like last season

  7. Farxanco says:

    Let boldi start in fron,ramsey on the bench,gervinho in the left side

  8. santori says:

    No mention of the larger pitch…which Stoke feel will work to their advantage but could be made to ours.

    In which case using the flanks with pace to stretch their middle out should be paramount, particularly to create space for Diaby and Santi in the middile to maraude through.

    I wouldn’t use Ramsey. Whilst good at creating chances, he is easily pushed off the ball. We’ll need Santi in the middle where he can be most effective and where he can control/retain the ball in concert with Arteta and Diaby.

    Up front, Giroud should be a good bet, given Stoke’s physicality.
    Tempting to use two quick assets in Gervinho and Walcott on either flank but could also start with Poldy out left to cut in (with Santi allowed to drift wide left if necessary)

    I hope Diaby and Arteta hold fast. We have lost an asset in SOng with these sort of games.

    The Sahin issue may work to our benefit in that we may now be faced with no choice but to bring in a no nonsense type. Capoue and MVila…either or. Which lends the question, why did we not just sew this up early before the let go of Song in the first place?

    Otherwise, Affelay apparently available still. Even IF Walcott signs a new deal, I should hope Wenger gets him. We need more technicality in the squad (considering what Chelsea have loaded up with) Affelay will give us yet another option in the forward midfield BUT could also possibly be depployed as a striker with his speed and technciality in tight space.


    • Dhruv says:

      I dont think there is any benefit in not signing a talented player like Sahin. Arsenal’s injury record is bad and we will need creative players even if the midfield looks more than adequate right now. And Jack and Ramsey could learn from likes of Cazorla and Sahin. But Alas, Mr. Wenger has some other great designs in his head.

  9. Akanbi yussuf says:

    I think the best optiomn is to put ramsey in the midfield, coz of d energy

  10. sam says:

    forget Ramsey, pot the ox in the middle with A
    rteta and Cazorla , have Theo and Gervinio out wide with Giroud starting up front.

  11. swaleh says:

    ramsey need anather loan.he is not yet ready… he always destroy da rythem of da passes

  12. steww says:

    Just one small point ref your comment on Poldi. One of his strengths is the defensive work or ‘tracking back’ that he does during the game. Very noticeable at the Euros, so I’m a little mystified that you seem to imply it might be a weakness. Otherwise very good piece.
    The most telling comment – “players should be prepared to play on under challenges that might be considered fouls in the leagues they’ve come from.” it happened to Per last season, can’t recall the opposition but he was fouled from behind, fell over and they went on to score. Not his fault and the rules are supposed to be the same all over the world. Of course the morons at the BBC,Sky etc all said he wasn’t strong enough.

  13. Foolishgooner says:

    Massive game in terms of morale… I hope we come out of it with no injuries. I think the back 4 will do ok, will the combo of Diaby/Arteta/Cazorla/Ramsey/OX/Coquelin be physical? Will the midfield miss Song’s strength and tenacity? Arsene already mind games with the fans “Core of British players that will grow and stay at Arsenal” signals lack of believe in this season. He sounds like defeated man one too many moves backfired (One too many core players jumped ship). Nonetheless Giroud must start, we will strong bench no matter who starts on other 5 out field spots. Cheers!

  14. says:

    arsenal 2 stok 1

  15. wenger go 4 market. the goal of rvp yesterday was fantastic bt no replacement have been made. right now we dnt hve good striker. having watch them playing only garzola is agood signing wenger make. go now buy jovetic or spain liorrente cz they r good.dnt stress us this season. look at chelsea they r 8 more pounts ahead in 3 games and once we 2 amistake we shall not compete with them. that’s the lasting solution

  16. yinkami says:

    ramsey in the midfield?! Seems you dnt want arsenal to start winning matches…very lazy and visionless player

  17. Gerry Lennon says:

    I would like your team more with one alteration, I would have the Ox in midfield, not Ramsey. Quick passing and movement will be the key to this game, neither are Ramsey’s strengths. The interchange with Cazorla, both positions and with the ball will enable the front plenty of opportunities with better understanding between them. Save Walcott for the tiring legs second half, and if we are a couple of goals up, Gnabry to make a dynamic start. He’s a big lad and wont be fazed by the Stoke tactics. With Arteta and Diaby supporting the defence, and Giroud to help out at set pieces, I think we are less vulnerable at the back now?
    Now will AW see it that way?

  18. david says:

    It shld be possible to see triking force stable when likes of cazorla,ramsey&arteta shifting aball through wingers.bze theo & ghervino thy are not sleeping guys on the wing.

  19. Kingsele says:

    Wenger we all u but buy players for us. We need players like Jesus, Tiote, Afelay, Llorente, pls try

  20. Roland C Rozario says:

    Its at Stoke’s cauldron of fire where The Ox will need to be on the pitch and not Ramsey!
    He has the physical aspects, speedy runs to handle Stoke and to partner with Carzola …. which I think will may just be a good partnering with Arteta too.
    Hope Wenger plays him from the whistle!

  21. Jimmy says:

    conqueln, metersaker, verminator, santos.
    Walcott, arteta, carzola, ox.
    Giroud, podoski.
    Bench . Diaby, gervinho, jekinson, fabiansk, ramsey

  22. Manchai says:

    U guys are insane,if ramsy starts arsenal lose.coquelin,arteta,cazola and u all will see the magic.

  23. Henry Moka says:

    Wenger is a fool if he did not sign any midfielder, bcos that is what arsenal lack nd in this season he should forget about Ramsey nd Diaby if he want any tittle.

  24. jack says:

    dat formation iz ok,but instead of ramsey 2 cum in let chamberlain show up,coz we nid physical minded players 2dai

  25. sylvander chebii cheburet says:

    they r going 2 play attacking football if they dont ramsey first

  26. Paul says:

    Given the fact that Arsenal have won once in five visits to this ground while losing thrice, it’s obvious that any result will be a commendable achievement

    That’s your problem desi, no ambition, no vision, no stones, just like your idol wenger.

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