Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against QPR

After two straight losses where his team has failed to score and barely created any chance of note, Arsene Wenger will have to find some solutions and fast. The conundrum is not helped by the fact that Le Boss seems just as perplexed by Arsenal’s struggles as Bould was when speaking after the loss against Schalke.

Wenger expressed his inability to explain the defeats/performances while speaking at the AGM,

We hit the wall in the last two games in a little bit of an unexplainable way.

Then he reiterated this point while talking about easing Wilshere back in,

We were flat physically a little bit on Wednesday night. It is difficult to explain as Schalke had a harder game than us maybe at Dortmund [at the weekend].

Finding a solution to complex issues is rarely easy but it gets tougher when the problem isn’t clearly understood. Everyone knows Arsenal need to get back on the winning track but first we need to know just what is holding the side back?

You could say half the team is just not good enough but the personnel are not going to change any time soon. Has the injury to Gibbs been such a big factor? Most of the attacks in recent games did come down the left so that could be a possibility. Again though, the full-back won’t be back for this game so there isn’t an answer to be found on that path.

The problem with personnel might be partially solved if players of the calibre of Wilshere and Sagna became available. Infusing some freshness into the starting line-up is not a bad idea but at what risk? I strongly believe players returning from long term injuries need to be eased in at this level and should not come on for more than 15-20 minutes. Wenger might start them and they could put in a solid shift, but the odds of long term complications, those of picking up niggling injuries are much higher if they’re rushed back in desperation.

The other option could be to tweak the system a little. For instance, Wenger could try moving Podolski to the middle. I tend to believe the German was signed with the intention of playing him in a central role. Indeed, he started the first game down the middle, but it didn’t work quite as well and over the next few games he did seem more useful on the left so that’s sort of become his de facto position.

Podolski is probably the only natural goalscorer in this squad. Wenger himself has pointed out his finishing qualities in the past,

He has experience, he has 100 caps for Germany. You see that in a game, he is calm and when he gets a chance you think it will be a goal.

And again,

You like to see him in front of goal. He doesn’t get there many times per game, but when he gets there, you always think we have a good opportunity to score because he is a fantastic finisher.

If you look at [each] chance, he looks at the keeper first. He takes care of his control, and after he will not mishit, he will finish.

That’s been one of the problems for Arsenal, Podolski hasn’t found himself in front of goal as often as everyone would like. Playing him down the middle could change that. Of course, that’s not an ideal solution as moving him from the left can break the balance on the side that has been the most productive for the Gunners thus far this season. Furthermore, the German hasn’t really played for the big teams through the middle so it’s not a role he’s entirely familiar with, which automatically implies a degree of inefficiency is likely to be seen in his movement and decision making when playing as a central striker.

Ultimately, it’s Wenger’s job to weigh the pros and cons before taking the decision. I doubt anyone will know for sure until we see Podolski as the main striker for a few games.

Moving the German will vacate a berth on the left. The simpler option is to move Gervinho there or bring Oxlade-Chamberlain in. But I feel it’s time to give Arshavin another go. The Russian has tried hard in the few minutes he’s got as a sub. More importantly though, he’s the best creative brain in the squad at the moment. Cazorla has superior technique and greater industry but hasn’t quite racked up the assists. He’s another player who’ll need a few games but if he can hit the kind of form he had at the start of the 2010-11 season – in the absence of Cesc and RvP, Nasri and Chamakh were the chief beneficiaries of that form if memory serves – he can help Arsenal rediscover their creative mojo.

Arshavin is excellent at cutting inside into space and the right-sided attacker can really benefit from his movement and vision just like Nasri did a couple of years ago. Gervinho’s pace and movement will nicely complement the Russian’s incision if the two can read each other’s game. Walcott’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Gunners but that’s just an inescapable part of life.

In the midfield, Wilshere is a mouth-watering option but I’d like to see Wenger pick Ramsey once again alongside the two Spaniards. Wilshere could get 20 odd minute later in the game if deemed fit but starting him would be just too big a risk. The Welshman has not impressed many with his recent outings but he’s a very hard working player who can perform a role if given clear instructions. He needs to curb his instincts to contribute to the attack and focus more on keeping things simple. Bring Arshavin and Cazorla into play as quickly as possible and keep an eye on supporting the defence. Late runs to the edge of the box can be useful but he shouldn’t drift into the wide areas or venture higher up the pitch than Arshavin and Cazorla on a regular basis.

In defence, some people have suggested the option of picking Vermaelen at left-back. Santos has his share of weaknesses, and the left side could be really vulnerable if Arshavin starts, but the Belgian wasn’t very convincing in that role last season. Let’s not forget Arsenal’s results when the full-backs weren’t available and Vermaelen was filling in at left-back. Santos can do the job, he just needs some help from the midfield.

At times in recent games, the Gunners have crowded the left flank and have run out of space. Moving Podolski into a central attacking role and with Arshavin drifting in, Santos could have greater space to run into. The Russian might also find his runs better than other have done.

In any case, with such a line-up, it would be imperative that Arsenal take good care of the ball. It can’t be given away cheaply through passes that are easy to read and intercept exposing the team to the threat of the counter-attack. Starting Arteta on the left side with instructions to cover the flank would be helpful.

Preferred line-up,

Mannone – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos – Ramsey, Cazorla, Arteta – Gervinho, Podolski, Arshavin.

There is no denying the element of risk inherent in that starting eleven but Wenger needs a calculatd gamble to get his team out of the rut they’re in. If it clicks, this could be a very potent attack.

QPR have a lot of very good players but they’ve not performed as a team yet. They’ll try to follow the blueprints set by Norwich and Schalke, although there was hardly a surprise in either. It will be interesting to see how high they press and whether they go for an extra defensive midfielder or an attacking player like Hoillet. Their organization has made it hard for the Gunners in the past but this season they’ve displayed some weaknesses from set-pieces. Will Arsenal be able to exploit them?

The visitors also have a fair amount of quality in attack. Taarabt could start on the left but take a free role as the game goes on. Arsenal’s defensive players will have to keep an eye on his movement and pick him up when he drifts into their zone. Giving him time and/or space in the final third could be expensive.

The Gunners have to show better discipline at the back. Conceding goals because the back line is all over the place two games in a row is amateurish. Individually and collectively the players have to perform at the level we’ve seen from them before. Without that, any tactical changes will prove fruitless.

I honestly don’t know what to expect from Arsenal. Whatever we get, hopefully it won’t be lacking sharpness!

38 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against QPR

  1. Sunnem says:

    Wilshere need to start this match!

  2. Frankln kimori says:

    Replace santos with sagna and Ramsey with Jack

  3. Miguel says:

    I prefer vemaelen in ur left back. CB koscelney, matersaker, RB Jenkinson. In ur DM arteta nd coquelin . AT. Cazorla flank gervinho nd chamberlain. CF Podolski or Goroud. Thats fomation is 4 – 5 – 1 . Arsenal 4 real

  4. ODY SUNNY says:

    PLS, help us Replace santos with sagna and Ramsey with Jack.ABLE ODY

  5. Roland C Rozario says:

    Santos should be left out he is horrible in his back tracking to aid the defence!
    Miguel should replace him.
    Jack should be given playing time this evening and Gnabry!

    • chris says:

      Why did you buy Santos, M. Wenger, knowing he is not really a defender ? (Oh yes for your beautiful attacking crusade.) But play anyone at left back (including Gibbs) and he will have a bad time if left isolated as Santos was in ECL.
      And next time, M. Wenger, allow Bould to make essential tactical changes and substitutions in your absence. No of course not … that won’t happen will it !

  6. Aussie Jack says:

    Well, Desi I have admired your analysis and predictions for a long time now but for once I have to go another way. Wilshere has been tuned for this game and we need a good start even if he only lasts for 60 minutes. Not knowing who is available in the defensive line I would have to play a reserve grade left full back or shift Vermaelen.
    Probably the former. Santos is not a full back, but if you want to flirt a little try him on the left wing….he`ll love it.

  7. wawerujosiah says:

    …..oh no, what you British people see in Ramsey….. I would need a thousand years to see! Replace him with the Coq, he is so laboured in his movement & always keep the ball too long when he clearly doesn’t have what it takes to fend off challenges! for me…………, Manonne-Jenks-BFG-Verminator-Santos-Arshavin-Coq-Arteta-Carzola-Podolski-Giroud……& victory is guaranteed!

  8. Muleli Atse~arsene Modgel says:

    If we r to take a risk then it’s better to start Arshavin in Carzolas role &move Carzola wide.To that will at least bring balance btwn the defence & the attack as Arteta&Ramsey can be instructed to remain defencive&cover for the wingers.Pick Gervinho or Giroud down the middle even if i was the one i would have gone for Giroud as he would help us in physical battels&may be he is still fresh as he did’nt play in the mid-week,Gervinho to me looks tired.My first eleven would be
    with tha line up carzola&arshavin can interchange positions depeding on the way the visitors line up their defence.

  9. Zaidovski says:

    The fact you’ve still named that welsh twat Ramsy in the line up means you’ve kept the same useless team !
    Anything with Ramsy involved is an equation for failure !
    Why any manager keeps playing such garbage is a mystery.
    Ramsy presence until now in arsenal and the fact he hasn’t been sold to a fifth division team is direct proof Wenger has lost touch with reality and is in no way fit to keep his job.
    Ferguson would have sold Ramsey years back.

    That’s a fact.
    Such wasted over paid garbage should never play football.

  10. Toye says:

    Ramsey again for what, you want to loose again, maybe you are nt even an arsenal fan.

  11. Ogejohns says:

    I thought wenger believes in youth, and since he likes to gamble, he can play Gnabry instead of gervinho. Ramsey should not at all be seen in that starting line and miguel should replace santos.

  12. Nini Wise says:

    Hi Desi,
    Thanks once again for this lovely piece. The QPR game is something I don’t really know what to expect. The last two game is nothing to write home about maybe because Gibbs didn’t play. Santos was alwz not in position and that make our asset a liability. The left back has alwz been our strongest link with the attack but with Santos there, the team just fell apart in the last two games.
    I Wenger and Bould will able to fix this with a little tweak and get the team back to winning ways.
    I love to Wilshere play some part in this game.
    I love my team and want them to do well.

  13. jesse nyah says:

    wat was santos doing in dat o4 match? Defending, am nt
    shure. Put jack in place of Goat ramsy n sagna in 4 jack n ver in 4 santos. 3 : 0

  14. insyder says:





    I expect the line up to be this way.With Martinez my prefered goalkeeper but that will not happen.Plus on the subs bench want to see likes of Nico, AOC, Eisfield etc.Ramsey after his recent games should be on the bench but given time to look for the real Ramsey who we bought not this impostor who has been playing the last 4 games.I think the Wales coach was correct in taking his captaincy Prof should give the reserves captain band let him say there until he rediscovers himself.

  15. azhari says:

    just use 4-4-2, while giroud and podolski plays as a striker.

  16. Alexgunner ethio says:

    Oh oh my lord am praying for not c ramsey in arsenal shirt, is his salary paid by spurs or manutd? Pls tell me he killed us. Pls giv his chance to andre arshavin u will c what he can do in 2-3 matchs.Last season When Z little rusian poor he hav 18 asists more dan any other player in EPL..

  17. Alexgunner ethio says:

    Oh oh my lord am praying for not c ramsey in arsenal shirt, is his salary paid by spurs or manutd? Pls tell me he killed us. Pls giv his chance to andre arshavin u will c what he can do in 2-3 matchs.Last season When Z little rusian poor he hav 18 asists more dan any other player in EPL.

  18. manilizy says:

    ramsey should and giroud should not be even on the bench couse are not good enough to play for arsenal. giroud is so lazy while ramsey is like he is been forced to play for us.

  19. dude says:

    You must be bonkers to want to start with ramsey again

  20. dude says:

    wenger that clueless old cunt is killing the players

  21. dude says:

    buying players at a bargain is wenger’s forte ,tactics wise not so much

  22. Cupsui says:

    I really don’t believe ramsey is the right man for the job in the CM mid role…

    He has a good work rate but seems to run around a bit like a headless chook neither here nor there. For me he is effective as a technical winger or off the bench but not in this role. I thought Le coq was much improved last game out. So i would start him if Whilshere can’t go…BUT

    I would go with whilshere. He has had like 4 games now…IT IS TIME! we need him…real bad

    I like the idea of TV5 playing LB. Kozzer deserves a game and santos is struggling, but i don’t blame him for everything. He got no help from podolski in the last game, but i think thats cause Prins Poldi was real tired. He needs a rest…I like your idea desi of giving Arsharvin a run and Gervinho has been most dangerous on the left…he needs to perform this game…

    I would go with:

    Jenko Fett…Merte…King Kozzer…TV5

    p.s. (please Vito’s last game…he ain’t good enough)

    p.p.s Xmas wish list: GK to give Woj a run for his money w/ experience
    DM: Capoue
    ST: Lopez or Falcao the likes…

    I would still like theo to stay but dude…100k/week come on the world is on the brink and you expect that theo!?

  23. Emmanuel says:

    Giroud is not in your analysis.

  24. Henry Ebuka says:

    They should not let us down this time

  25. thompson says:

    I suggest to use varmerllen on the left side instead of santos who always prefer playing on attack left side

  26. Pat Rice says:

    Did anyone even watch Santos before we bought him for 7 million?? I have seen better defenders over hackney marshes. Ramsey will not make team when players return but Wenger must take responsibility for Schalke defeat. He played Ramsey out wide and surprise surprise there was no threat to their left side whatsoever, it was embarrassing we had the young kid and arshavin who both would offer a threat. Questions need to be asked.He did the same against Chelsea at home and handed them the initiative, it reminds me of the dark days when he played Denilson out wide. If he starts out wide today then as big a fan as I am of Wenger it will be time for him to resign.

  27. terry says:

    gerviniho arteta coquellen santi
    vermy kozer mert jenko
    4411 giroud as the target man..

  28. jake says:

    I really like the idea of arshavin and canola sharing roles. I think doing so will really provide confusion for the QPR defense. With quick minds like Cazorla and Arshavin playing I’m sure one of them will find the net or give 1+ assists. Ramsey should not start the game though, maybe coq or Wilshire if he’s ready without gamble. Good article though. 3-1 to the gunners!

  29. Spec says:

    Desi i’d go with Coq beside Arteta for this one. The lad looked lively on wednesday. Also playin Andrei in the AM role with Cazorla out on the right flank could give us extra creative threat. Gerv or Poldi out left, and Giroud leading the line as he should be fresh. Don’t know what to expect from this game but hoping to see Jack in the last 20 or so minutes.

  30. Philip says:

    Arshavin and Carzola are our most creative players. I would love to see them share roles and interchange against QPR. They could be dynamite together. Both players can unlock defences and score goals.

  31. Mysticjack says:

    Giroud is a dull player just like Martesaker last season……i think he needs time… The role of Diabi cannot be overlooked(we miss him) jack would hav been a perfect replacement(he needs time to be perfect) i think coq should be given a nod….as for Ramsey he’s not an option…. Let Verm start the LB…i’m disappointed at Santos…. I prefer a line up like this
    jenks mert kos verm Arteta coq santi/asharvin gervinho(left) podolski santi/asharvin

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  33. Nini Wise says:

    On a second thought, I will consider the option of starting Wilshere even if it’s for an hour and I’ll go for 4-4-2 formation with Podolski and Giroud spear heading the attack. That means we will have Cazorla-Arteta-Wilshere-Arshavin/Gervinho.
    In defence, I will go with Jenkinson-Mert-Kos-Vermaelen.
    Mannone should still retain his position in goal.

    My sub: Martinez, Sagna, Djourou, Chamberlin, Ramsey, Gnabry.

  34. I prefer podolski upfront and chambo wings so my propable line ups must be mannone,sagna,santos,mertesacker,vermaelen,wlishere,arteta,cazorla,chambo,arshavin and podolski with this squad arsenal will win.

  35. Nas says:

    Would love to see us line-up like this…..

  36. Dianjuh says:

    Hi Desi, I love your articles, said that numerous times. But I cannot believe against QPR you couldnt even mention Giroud? Surely is he that bad? Play Arshavin, Cazorla and Podolski all supporting Giroud and in your match thoughts you will apologize for not believing in him. He will be the difference today!

  37. Nick from Portugal says:

    Just seen the team. Well this lot may struggle, not sure why he has got Ramsay in there, don’t see a position for him. Brave to go for Santos with Wright Philips on for QPR, brave or stupid…feel sorry for Jenkinson, actually feel outraged for Jenkinson. Coquelin must be upset too after a great game against Shalke, Arshavin, the forgotten world class player. Good to see Walcott on the bench, hope he brings him on. I think the team is a gamble and we shouldn’t have to gamble against the bottom team in the division.

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