Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Reading

Away games are generally tough and more so in Cup ties where the smaller teams feel they’ve a good chance of causing some upsets on their way to glory. There is no doubt Wenger would have favoured a home game in a CO Cup tie that he’ll use to rest his first choice players, but Arsenal travel to the Madejski where Reading will feel they’ve a fair shot at going through.

By now most managers know Arsene Wenger’s priorities. It seems safe to assume Brian McDermott will be prepared for a second string Arsenal side so it will be interesting to see how many changes he makes to his eleven. I don’t think the Royals have too many youngsters vying for starting birth so we should see at least half their first team from the kick-off.

That will make this a noticeably tougher game than the home win over Coventry in the previous round. Reading are a team with noteworthy quality in the final third. Most smaller clubs struggle for goals but the Royals have scored 11 goals in the League – only Southampton have more among the bottom 8 clubs – and a further 3 each in their two CO Cup games.

Strikers like Pogrebnyak and Roberts are ably supported by midfielders who make clever runs and provide a genuine goal threat. They’re also strong in the air and have the ability to link intelligently on counter-attacks. The hosts are not averse to shooting from outside the box either. Reading will test any defence that Arsene Wenger sends out.

Their problem has been at the back. in 7 out of the 10 games they’ve played in all competitions, Reading have conceded 2 or more goals. They’ve not received many thrashings like Southampton or Norwich, for instance, but McDermott’s side has been leaking goals and chances on a consistent basis as they do tend to leave gaps at the back through some basic errors in positioning, judgment, or execution.

I am tempted to say there should be three or four goals in this one but with a much changed Arsenal side it’s going to be difficult to predict the patterns of play. Will the Gunners be able to dominate the midfield as they usually do? Will they be able to generate and sustain a tempo fast enough to upset the defensive rhythm of the hosts? Will Reading be able to impose their experience and physicality on the relatively inexperienced Arsenal side? Will Wenger’s side have the ability to soak up pressure if the hosts do get an upper hand in midfield? Can Arsenal use their pace and skills to score on the counter-attack or will be see a session of hoof-and-defend?

Wenger made 11 changes to the starting line-up in the previous League Cup fixture and he could do the same again. One would think Djourou, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Coquelin, Arshavin, Walcott, and Gnabry are almost certain to start given how close they’ve been to the first team. Frimpong, if fit, could also be in the starting eleven. Martinez will probably line up in goal as Wenger mentioned Szczesny was still some way away from full fitness. That leaves two positions up for grabs. Miquel could be the preferred player at left-back.

The final choice could have a big say on the way this game shapes up. For instance, Wenger could pick Chamakh up top and start Walcott on the right with Arshavin through the middle and Gnabry on the left. Or he could pick someone like Yennaris in midfield, as he did against Coventry, and start Walcott in the central role he covets.

In the latter choice, Arsenal will have greater technical balance to the side and a relatively stronger collective defence. With Chamakh in attack, the Gunners will have a better reference point going forward and a player who can link the wide players with the midfielders, but the team will miss a body in midfield.

I think, given the fact that this is an away game, the wiser choice will be to start Yennaris in midfield. Wenger could pick him on the right or through the middle. This would make it easier to give Arshavin a free role with marginal defensive responsibilities. Furthermore, it will also liberate Walcott of defensive duties on the flank and make him a constant source of concern for the Reading defence. The hosts will have to push up if they want to impose themselves on this game and that could be the ideal scenario for Theo. Of course, if Walcott plays down the middle and the Gunners are pinned back to the extent that they can only hoof the ball forward, his obvious weakness in the air could be detrimental. In that case, Wenger can always bring Chamakh on at some point.

Preferred line-up,

Martinez – Jenkinson, Djourou, Koscielny, Miquel – Yennaris, Coquelin, Frimpong, Gnabry – Arshavin – Walcott.

Notionally, this would be a 4-4-1-1, but really it could be any variant of the 4-5-1 depending on the way the game shapes up. The basic idea is to give Arshavin and Walcott as much freedom as possible. This system will test Gnabry though, as he’ll have a heavy defensive burden. The German youngster will have to take care of the ball better and can’t afford to give it away cheaply like he did in the build-up to Schalke’s second goal. The game could give him some lessons in decision making in order to find the right balance between attack and defence.

At the back Djourou and Koscielny will have to produce big performances to keep Arsenal strong. Martinez will be tested in this game and it should give us a good idea about his potential.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Wenger selects any of his senior players on the bench. Against Coventry we only saw Chamakh and Squillaci on the bench but AOC and Giroud started that one. Injuries have weakened the squad somewhat and some key players clearly could use a breather so they’re not likely to be involved, but Wenger knows he might need a comeback in this fixture if the club are to progress to the next round and that means he’ll need quality on the bench. The absence of players who can make a difference will clearly put the CO Cup in its place and is likely to disappoint some fans, but the manager is in a tough spot with a couple of vital away fixtures coming up in the next few days so he’ll have my sympathy.

All-in-all this should be a riveting game with plenty of action in the final third.

22 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Reading

  1. Dianjuh says:

    ” he will have my syampathy” ……hahaha awesome I like that one. CO cup games (or carling in the past) are games to be enjoyed win or lose, why? Its the least of our priorities. So its a game for me I watch with no tension whatsoever. So am sure I will enjoy!!

  2. Foolishgooner says:

    Nico, Frimpong and Coquelin in the middle… Arshavin and Theo might not see enough off the ball to make an impact! I think we need Ramsey in the Box to Box MF spot, the youngster is always a willing receiver of the ball despite his other shortcomings, probably most fit player in our squad now! Incredible engine. You heard it here first, he will come good. … My Team…
    D Martinez
    Carl Jen. Johan. Koceilny. Nico

    Frimpong Coquelin
    Theo. Chamakh. Arshavin

    Hopefully no injuries….
    Cheers you beautiful bastards…

    • santori says:

      Ramsey isn’t box to box IMO.

      He recovers too slow when he loses the ball.

      Rather Coquelin is the closest we have in becoming a Flamini-esque player.

  3. Muleli Atse~arsene Modgel says:

    Is this game live?Any streaming links?

  4. Bhydemibrainz says:

    I reckon Thomas eisfield wud start, and I prefer walcott over Chamakh in the striker role

    • santori says:

      I won’t play Walcott or Andrei up top. Effectively, we will be snuffed out. We don’t have the fluency to have 3-4 small men weaving through the middle. Likely one of the big men maybe needed.for a bit of presence.

      Like to see what Chamakh can do since Giroud isn’t exactly putting them away either. May as well give to Moroccan a viewing/audition.

  5. Arsenal should better not joke wit any trophy cuz dis season is war…a do or die affair

  6. defo says:

    Eisfield to start.

  7. Tomas eitsfield should play,pls.

  8. Aussie Mick says:

    Yeah EISFELD not Eisfield or Eitsfield should start……

    Id go:

    Gnabry – Walcott – Arshavin

    Eisfeld – Ramsey – Frimpong

    Miquel – Kosh – Djourou – Jenk

  9. Chris mamman Zaria Nigeria says:

    Wenger pls let arshavin start again man utd

    • santori says:

      Probably not because he will likely play him LW and it will heap pressure on our already brittle LB Santos.

      Likely as a sub (maybe).

      The player I think we should be using his Walcott RW against United. We will need his pace to watch YOung and give us threat from RW with Sagna (a useful combination last season if you remember)

  10. Gerry Lennon says:

    Desi, I like your idea of Yennaris playing, but perhaps not at LB? Rather Miquel there, perhaps as a rehearsal for Saturday?
    Shane Long is a danger player and supplies a lot of stuff for their strikers, so perhaps the 4-1-4-1 could work to keep him quiet?
    Jenks – Djourou – Kos – Miquel
    Eisfeld – Yennaris – Arshavin – Coq
    Balls played quickly to feet, Plenty of movement across the middle, as well as the occasional runs from Frimps. More to the point, plenty of quick defensive cover from Nico and Le Coq.
    It also means that the likes of Walcott and Giroud could be held back until/if necessary, given they are more likely to be involved on Saturday.
    Alternatively, play Giroud and Gnabry with a view to that pair starting against Man U? That would mean Eisfeld dropping to the bench, which is the most he can hope for at the weekend.
    I would like to see Mert on the bench just in case we are hanging on a single goal lead. … as well as checking his partnership with kos … TV5 note!

  11. Pierre says:

    Gerry, Shane Long signed for West Brom a few seasons ago 🙂

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      Yeh, I knew that …. but not at the time of writing.
      I must have watch snatches of both WBA and Reading and confused the two. I still think our flanks need cover from counter attacks though.
      p.s. Thanks for the polite way of pointing out my error … others would have called me a senile old git! … a state I feel I am approaching too rapidly. Cheers.

  12. santori says:

    Like to see Chamakh get some time. January is coming round and it will be a great sales pitch if he shows some life in his career but there may also be an off chance that we may need him before then.

    Also Giroud IMO should get at least 15 minutes for his own progression. A goal or two will further help his composure and keep the confidence bubbling away.

    Eisfeld should come on for Arsharvin if the Russian plays (pref in the middle as CAM).

    Walcott may be of some use for us over the weekend seeing the way United are playing with a lot of pace out wide. May see him withdrawn at some stage and someone-else come on for a run around.If Andrei is fit and firing, could continue with him switched out L, Eisfeld in the middle and Gnabry switched RW. If not a straight swap for Yennaris RW (particularly if we are protecting something slender)

    • Scott (USA) says:

      I think to get rid of Chamakh we should hide him. If we play him to showcase and he gets the ball and never looks at the goal( he is a striker) it might not be a good selling point. I think the less teams see him the better. JMO. Santos isn’t as bad is everyone is making him out to be. He has great skills, hasn’t really played much has done ok job. QPR scored 0 goals so all this talk about getting torched down the left is a little empty. They did beat him to the corner flags I grant you that.

    • Scott (USA) says:

      Santori you were right on Chamakh.

  13. Scott (USA) says:

    I hope to see some young guns today. Gnabry, Eisfeld etc…….should be fun.

  14. Scott (USA) says:

    That was a crazy F%*@ing game!!!!!!

  15. […] in my preview of the Capital One tie between the clubs, I’d noted the fact that Reading are capable of […]

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