Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Olympiacos

The best way to get over a big disappointment is to follow it up with an uplifting performance that reinforces the quality of the squad and puts three points on the table. But this can be a double-edged squad as successive disappointments can have a multiplier effect on morale of the players while testing the faith of the supporters. In that sense the game against Olympiacos has taken greater significance than it might have had the performances in the admittedly demanding last couple of league games been stronger.

The two teams are well known to each other having met in the group phase twice over the last three seasons. In each of the four games the home side won but Arsenal had to do it the hard way last season with Arsene Wenger banned from the touchline and some key players missing through injury or given a breather.

The patterns of play in this game could be very similar to the last one. It will be a midfield battle where the Arsenal will have to earn the right to play their preferred style of football. Diaby will be a big miss, literally and otherwise, but Arsenal will really have a fight on their hands if Arteta has to miss out. I have a feeling Wenger will put the Spaniard in the starting eleven if there is any chance he can play. Leonardo Jardim showed respect towards Arsenal and said his team will try to be “very compact” but that should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Inability to handle the pressure and dominate the midfield will give the Greeks a real sniff.

Olympiacos have a terrible record in England but those who saw their performance at the Emirates last season, you can rekindle memories by watching the highlights again, will know it’d be naive of Arsenal to take them for granted. They’re champions in their league and have the habit of holding on to the ball, creating combinations plays and counter-attacking moves, applying pressure on opponents, retaining their shape, and fighting till the end without significant lapses in concentration. Unlike Southampton or Coventry, Wednesday’s visitors will not roll over. The Gunners might benefit from the fact that the visitors themselves are missing a few players through injury.

Jardim will have noted that thus far this season Arsenal haven’t really troubled deep-lying defences as consistently and decisively as they need to so his side will hope to frustrate the Gunners by making it hard to pass through their lines. At the other end, it’s tough to miss the fact that Arsenal have been insecure on set-pieces. The visitors could bide their time if Wenger’s side dominate possession as they do have a history of troubling the Gunners through cleverly worked free-kicks and corners. Interestingly, last season Arsenal did not look comfortable while defending set-plays despite Mertesacker’s presence in defence.

Broadly speaking there won’t be many surprises in this game. Whatever side Wenger selects will try to go out and play the only way they know. Olympiacos will start with their first line of defence around the centre line but will push up or drop back depending on the speed at which the Gunners are able to move the ball. This will essentially determine the territorial aspect of the game i.e. will the game be fought in the middle third with a constant threat against the Arsenal goal or will it be played higher up in the Olympiacos half with the attacking opportunities limited to counters and set-plays.

Arsene’s selection will obviously have an impact. Part of me wants to see how a midfield without Arteta and Diaby copes with such opponents but the other part is worried this isn’t the right time for such a test. Hopefully, the Spaniard will play because he is fit and not just because he is needed. Coquelin could come in to play behind Arteta who could then move back to his last season’s role of linking the midfield with the attack while providing defensive support when needed.

Such a system would be a good test for the youngster who has to prove he is ready to step up and can handle the pressure of such a game. That’d mean showing for the ball as often as Arteta does in that role and providing reliable distribution even when the opponents are biting at his heels. Certain mistakes and weaknesses are excused when a player is seen as a youngster learning the ropes but when he starts demanding greater responsibility and trust from the manager he also has to put in displays that back up his claims when the chance arises.

In defence, Mertesacker will probably come straight back in at the expense of Koscielny.

Up front Wenger has the chance to mix things up. I’d like to see Giroud given another start as his movement and presence can be a factor in troubling the Greek defence. If the Frenchman is picked I’d also like to see Gervinho moved to the right. Other players will probably retain their places.

Preferred line-up,

Mannone – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Arteta, Cazorla, Coquelin – Gervinho, Giroud, Podolski.

There’s a school of thought that says Vermaelen or one of the other defenders could be moved into midfield if the experienced players are missing. This would add greater physical and defensive qualities to the starting line-up but it’s not easy for centre-backs to move into midfield unless they’ve trained there and spent time understanding the role. We saw these players struggle when played at full-back positions over a long period of time so the manager’s reluctance in picking them for crucial midfield roles is understandable.

Last year Wenger rested Van Persie against Olympiacos. It seems likely that he’d be more inclined to rotate players in such home games as it’s much harder to get results in the away games with younger players.

With Diaby out Arsene might not want to rotate players in midfield but he could give Podolski or Gervinho a rest. As such there are many possible combinations from the available players that could put up a strong performance. Hopefully the chosen side will have the right balance and won’t be in a charitable mood.


17 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Olympiacos

  1. Gerry Lennon says:

    There is now a doubt over Arteta for this game, which really throws this midfield into question? Coquelin looks certain to start, but whether he replaces Arteta, or just Arteta’s defensive role will be key. Gnabry is included in the squad and could be a suprise starter. He may lack the experience but he has the bulld and power to drive forwards – Diaby-like – to open up defences. This may be a calculated gamble to hope to score more than Olympiarcos, but pressure to keep possession will be great?
    Let’s hope AW gets it right, and everybody is okay for the West Ham game.

  2. Jeff says:

    I don’t think wenger will take the risk to start arteta.. So I expect Ramsey to play alongside coquelin.. However,should arteta deemed fit to start,then I wish it’s coquelin who’s paired with him.. I believe arteta-coq will provide better balance than Ramsey-arteta combo.

  3. Hannington says:

    Can AW draft Kocielny in defensive mid field to play in front of our backline??!!!!!

  4. Valentine Ifeanyi says:

    I don’t think Arsene will start Coquelin, he might prefer Ramsey to boast the mid field because of the absence of Diaby. I believe that will be better.

  5. k says:

    Arteta fit or not, we should endeavour to rotate a bit . We have West Ham away in the weekend and I think we ought to keep our players fresh. We all know the Allardyce approach to the game. Our players will need to be at their physical best in that game. We’ve been talking about how decent the squad looks in terms of quality and quantity, this is the type of game we just have to prove that.

    Mannonne; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos; Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Podolski, Giroud.

    Gibbs, Cazorla, Gervinho, Arshavin, Arteta(?) should be on the bench.

  6. Dianjuh says:

    Forgive me for asking, but sometimes I wonder whats worth taking some of this gambles that Wenger takes, and whether there is historical proof that they are worthwhile? You wonder what am getting at? Here is the thing; First, Arsenal has been plagued by injuries for as long as I can remember and this has mostly been what stands between us and a trophy, I have never questioned the quality of 1st eleven, I just get worried when we start losing players to the treatment table. Our 1st three in midfield (assuming Wilshire is to be slowly intergrated back) is Arteta Diaby and Cazorla. Apart from the latter, Diaby’s and Arteta’s injury record is below dependable. So I ask all of you, would you put your faith in Ramsey and Coq to get you points in the premiership and Champions league whenever the other two are injured? or was it better to quit the gamble and fetch just one of M’villa or Capoue as back up (for injuries, not quality)? We have four competitions, so I dont think gametime for the youngsters was a problem at all? I dont mean to question the manager’s intelligence, just expressing a normal fan’s worries when you so badly want your team to do well.

    Here is to Ramsey and Coq getting us three points today!!

    • desialpha says:

      As Wenger said before, “This squad is the most balance he ever had.” I think it’s time for us to prove our squad depth!!

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      Regards what might have happend in the transfer window, and having a defensive midfielder. Imo, the former would have added quality in that role. Ticked all the right boxes, except the one I cannot know – how well he would fit in the dressing room?
      But gambling now with what we have, we can afford to lose this one in the hope we have a stronger side later. Whereas, West Ham we need to beat them just to stay in the top half of the table? But taking Arteta out, along with Diarby, does leave the midfield exposed. Ramsey played very well for an hour last time, but that puts a lot on Coquelin to cover when he goes forwards.
      The alternative might be to go with 3 centre backs, and leave Coquelin to do the box to box stuff, depending on whom you are saving for the weekend?
      Lined up lie this:
      Mannone
      Mert – Kos – Verm
      Jenk – Gibbs
      Le Coq/Ramsey
      Caz – Gerv – Pod

      The subs would be Gnabry for Caz; Le Coq for Ramsey; or Le Coq for Kos(if we are ahead)

  7. Boss Gunner says:

    @ k, See how young ur midfield is: Ox-Ramsey-Coquelin. We’d get trampled on by the greek Gods. If Arteta n Diaby are def out, den we could do Cazorla Coquelin n Ramsey( even dat isn’t strong enough)

  8. Terry says:

    Walcott Giroud Gerviniho
    Carzola Coquellen Aoc
    Santos Kozzer Djouru Jenko

    we have 2 very pacy winger we should always look to release them not play the ball at their feet, they are not mata, Harard type winger… they are very one dimensional.

    Giroud i amazing at winning arial ball jenko and santos both have very good crosses on them.
    Kozzer needs game time and what batter than today, also its time to give Dj a chance, lets see how much he has improved under bould.

    today is the time to play a proper 433 with 3 strikers.

  9. k says:

    We’ve made our bed, we should lie on it. We didn’t buy an extra midfielder because the boss felt he had decent options there. United rotated their first choice midfield last night and they managed to get the job done.

    I don’t think we need Arteta to get injured first before we try out other combinations. Diaby’s season will be stop and go, Wilshere needs to be utilized with caution, Rosicky isn’t fit yet. We can all give valid points as to why every league and european game is important, if we have a squad, let’s maximize the squad potential. This shouldn’t be too much of a big deal in a game at home.

  10. olaking says:

    I do hope Wenger get it right this time around, on the part of the players they need to convince us that they can rise to a big game from a defeat at the weekend with that will can look ahead of what the season have for us.

  11. manamongst says:

    I wouldn’t mind a Ramsey sighting if I knew he would just play his damn position. And before his lovers start clicking the thumbs down, go to the Guardian’s opta heatmaps and take a look. It literally reads like a ‘chicken-with-head-cut-off’…or like an Edgar Davids or Gennaro Gattuso except WITHOUT the balls-won or tackles-made…literally. His teammates if you watch carefully they loath giving him the ball most areas. If he played all-out in his area of play he would turn the corner. But for now place Ox and Coquelin together…and hell give Gnabry and Arshavin a runout please.

  12. Goonerbeall says:

    Oh my, a surprisingly wonderful article.
    Where have you been all this time son?

  13. Alex says:

    good work

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