Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Manchester City

Going to a ground where the hosts have been undefeated in the last 31 games, winning 29 of those, is always a tough ask. Despite all the off-pitch debate, there’s no doubt Mancini has assembled a stellar squad capable of providing multiple threats while keeping it solid at the back. Their performances and results on the pitch provide clearly visible proof.

Interestingly, the vibes I’ve seen in the media seem to suggest it’s been a weak start for the defending champions. Those for Arsenal have been much more positive. Curiously enough, both teams have the exact same points with the Blues unlucky not to pick all the points against Stoke. The slant in various stories and the perception of some fans has again been affected by expectations. Not many foresaw a strong start from the Gunners, especially after couple of goalless draws in the first two games, so the recent results have brought along a wave of optimism. The hosts started the season as holders and questions are asked every time they drop points.

That said, recent games between the sides, particularly last year when the results over the course of the season were so different, have been gripping but cagey. Both teams have very similar technical styles and the midfields tend to cancel each other out which makes it a tight encounter decided by the player who makes the most of half a chance.

This one could be different though, as both teams are playing much deeper than they’ve done in the last couple of seasons. You probably noticed just how deep and narrow Arsenal were against Montpellier on Tuesday. Even in the two league wins before that there were phases when the Gunners dropped back to the edge of their box and defended with two banks of four.

According to Mancini, City’s defeat against Real in midweek was down to the fact that his side went too deep,

When you score two goals here and are 2-1 you should pay more attention. I saw the [Ronaldo] goal … the mistake was we went too deep, only this. We should have had more courage at this time.

This wasn’t a one-off, the Manchester Blues haven’t been on top of their defensive game this season letting in 10 goals in 6 games. Arsenal can punish teams that are not fully focused at the back.

There is a possibility both teams will take a cautious approach to this game, although the onus is more on the hosts to take the initiative. Wenger’s team’s usually go out to play football but I won’t be surprised if they rely more on counter-attacks in this game.

Mancini’s team selection will also be a factor. He could pick Milner on the right flank along with the more reliable Zabaleta ahead of Maicon, who’s still in the process of settling in at his new team. This could negate Arsenal’s left flank, which has been their major source of creativity and goals.

If the Italian is cautious, he could pick Garcia and Barry in the midfield behind Toure. This would leave the central attacking role and that on the left shared between Tevez and Aguero (Balotelli?). Their combination play, pace, and individual skills on the ball could provide a stern test to Jenkinson and the central defenders.

The hosts could also be more adventurous in midfield and pick an additional skilful player like Silva ahead of one of their defensive players with Toure moving deeper. This would certainly make the game a lot more exciting as they’ll pose a greater creative threat while giving the Gunners a bit more space to attack.

Wenger will also want his side to defend a bit higher than they did against Montpellier. Belhanda and company might not have taken their chances but City will not be as generous. Arsenal will not keep a clean sheet if they spend an entire half or two on the edge of their own box.

For both teams, the midfield’s ability to handle pressure will be vital. It’s interesting that two players, who had virtually identical stats last season, are being used by the managers in different ways. Mancini is pushing Toure higher and higher whenever possible whereas Wenger has pulled Arteta back into a deep-lying role. At some point the two could come up against each other and the result of that battle might decide the game [This is an excellent interview in which Arteta talks about playing against Toure and many other topics].

On the other hand, if Toure plays deeper he’ll have a very similar profile as Diaby. It’d be fascinating to see how both go about influencing the game.

Arsenal will have better balance in midfield if Mancini takes a conservative approach. Silva’s inclusion would make the two sides more even in the centre of the pitch. However, the Gunners will cede that minor but useful advantage if they drop deep and invite pressure.

Both teams have pace and trickery in attack but City have players who’ve done it more consistently in the Premier League. Tevez and Aguero have troubled all defences. Arsenal will have to hope Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain (Walcott?) put in consistent performances to support Podolski and Cazorla. Giroud also has a lot to prove and it will be interesting to see whether Wenger picks the Frenchman to lead the attack or the Ivorian. I think the pace of Gervinho would be helpful if Arsenal are going to rely on counter-attacks.

Arsene will also have a tough choice to make in goal. I’d continue with Mannone.

Preferred line-up,

Mannone – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Arteta, Cazorla, Diaby – AOC, Gervinho, Podolski.

Depending on the manager’s choice of tactics, Theo might also have been  a viable option down the middle but there have been some rumours Arsene won’t start him till he signs a contract.

A bit more rotation would have been helpful but I’m not sure this is the game to make many changes.

A point will be a good result for the Gunners. Three will make a statement.


25 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Manchester City

  1. AnonymousGun says:

    The Pole is out for 3 weeks.. so Don Vito will continue on goal.

  2. your analysis on this encounter is quiet appreciated, but let koscielny start ahead of mertesacker.

    • Aussie Jack says:

      I have to agree that Koscieiny would be a better choice for this game. City may be too slick for Mertesacker.
      Not being much a a statician you`ll excuse me if I change the formation a little, like 4-1-3-2. Diaby playing in front of the back four, Arteta, Ramsey and Cazola in the mid and Gervinho and Podolski up front. Ramsey may not be everyones favourite (including mine) but he`s a grafter and a box to box player.
      Yes, it means playing without wingers but the full backs seem to have adopted that role. The other consideration is Walcott is in the `dog house` and ,OMO, I don`t think Ox is really up to this yet.

      • DocBrody says:

        Why suddenly play Diaby in front of the back 4? Arteta has been serving in that role beautifully this season – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

      • Aussie Jack says:

        @Doc Brody…I`ve obviously been watching a different game. Arteta is playing deep but not as central as a sweeper positioned for counter attacks.

      • Valentin says:

        @Aussie Jack, you are the one who has been watching a differentvgame than everybody else. In all game, Arteta has been playing the deeper of the two midfield players. His role has been of pivotante. Defending the back four and acting as a fre pivot when in possession.

  3. allboyz says:

    In this game, AFC, we need to be tactically alert for 90mins, take our chances and hence I’d prefer Gervinho (form), Poldi, OX / Theo upfront.

    At the back, maybe Kos for Jerkinson, but on a good day, I leave Jerk to continue at), Per + verm gives perfect understanding, gibbs to continue play.

    Diaby needs to dominate his role and cancel out Yaya for aerial balls.

    3-1 to the Gooners! Poldi (2) Diaby (1)

  4. Rowland Felix says:

    I strongly believe that gunners will come back victoriously

  5. GoonerB says:

    The starting eleven is ok,tho I think I would go for Koscielny for this game rather than Mertesacker because today we are playing a team that can counter attack very well and is full of pacey and tricky forwards and that could be a pain in the neck for our big german.We need koscielny for this game.Not to take anything from Mertesacker coz he has been terrific so far but I think he could struggle today with the pace,trickery and strength of the Manc’s forwards.

  6. Denver says:

    Arsenal will win i just would prefer geroud to lead the attack because of his movement of the ball

  7. Ryan says:

    Koscienly should start instead of Per

  8. DocBrody says:

    Iw we are really going to play the counter, then I think you’ve got to go with Walcott at right wing, not Oxelade. Say what you will about Walcott, but he has a history of showing up for big games and he is basically the ideal counter attack forward.

    But I don’t think we will play the counter. We’ll play possesion and try to work our way into their box.

  9. Gerry Lennon says:

    I just wonder if AW/Bould might have been experimenting with a back 3? Or that should be a back 5, at the expense of having either the Ox or Theo on the right? It could be a flat back 3; TV – Per – Kos, and Gibbs and Jenks slightly in front and not quite so much freedom to go forward as of late. Alternatively; Kos in the middle, allowing Tv and Per to play a little wider to cover for attacking wing-backs higher up the pitch? This could be an option if Gerv plays as centre forward, counter-attacking pace, as has been said coming from the pace of Poldo and the skill of Santi, plus the overlapping Gibbs and Jenks.
    Just a thought, but right now I’d settle for a point. It will be interesting to see what AW decides. These next two league matches are real ‘6 pointers’, and it is only September!

  10. David Andreassen says:

    I agree with alot of other comments about Kos instead of Mert. The whole idea of having great options at the back is to use the right ppl at the right time and there is noone, not even Verm, better in our defence at cancelling out big name players like Aguero/Balotelli/Tevez.

    If you go back and look at the last meeting the pairing of Kos n Verm kept them quiet the whole game and it’s not the first example of Kos cancelling dout a big name forward completely (Zlatan, Rooney…even Messi to some degree).

    Also, I don’t believe Mancini has the balls to go at us enough to let us play the counter attack, usually they play a very csutious attacking game against us, atleast as long as the scoreline is 0-0.

    As far as Walcott is concerned, he can stay glued to that bench for all I care. It’s time for the club to make a long overdue stand.
    If used however, it should be in the capacaty of a impact sub (but one given enough time, say 40 min if needed, and not the Wenger classic of 10-23 min.

    Good post as always Desi, keep it up.

  11. Nizam says:

    Arsenal have won just one game when Dean was the ref. Be prepared for robust and intimidating tackles on our Spanish puppet master. That’s where the ref comes in. I have never trusted these guys since the days of one bald eagle who gave MU a penalty when Campbell tackled the ugly brit bull dog outdide the box ,confirmed by tv cameras.
    For today’s game ,Dean may ignore muscular tackles on our players
    I believe the gunners have what it takes to smash the Blues unbeaten home record.Records are meant to be broken.The Blues defence aint as solid as last season .
    Expect our Spnish maestro to be heavily and man marked.
    ..

  12. JohnW says:

    But Martesacker has been an International player for a long time. He will do well, even against Tevez or Aguero. The match is 50:50, I think it will be a score draw.

  13. NKC says:

    I am quite impressed with how rsenal fans have been able 2 analyse this game and with all that has been said I concur with most; kos shld play 2dy; 1. Because he needs 2 play and get his confidence up and 2 he can track back especially on counter attacks unlike our BFG walcott shld also play; despite his contract issue; he is still an arsenal player for now and I think ox shld sit this one down and jus learn the man city game; walcott will come very handy especially in in our counter attack and I feel oli g shld play as well I jus have a gud feeling abt him 2dy. Prediction; we win 3-1 pod-goal-ski (1), verminator (1), Oli G (1) up gunners

  14. We did it with real madrid, ac milan and breaks many more records both on clubs and player level. Do the manchity today and trust me liverpool will get the devils behind us. I see 2 points between us and chelshit before we overthrown them next weekend. Koscielny for Mert., Giroud for Ox in Desi line up and that will do me. COYG!

  15. Enes thomas says:

    Arsene wenger should use giroud to adapt.

  16. Moses says:

    lets not forget that Mertesacker has played against tricky opponents,in the world cup against Argentina,england(wayne rooney is kinda tricky) even against Spain he did well furthermore they have dzeko who in my oppinion is a threat in the air so have faith in Mertesacker he’ll be good. nyce analysis as always desi i love your work,keep it up.

  17. Enes thomas says:

    Arsene wenger should use giroud to adapt, ksn will preffer to mts.

  18. jamaican gunner says:

    na na na nah
    na na na nah
    win win win
    arsenallllll

    come on gunner

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