Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Swansea

Arsene Wenger has pointed at the upcoming home fixtures as his side’s way back and marked December as the crucial month.

We will come back. Now we have six games, four at home, and if we do well in this block I think we have a chance to come back. But of course it is vital for us to do well in these games.

He’s not off the mark here, almost every team has struggled in the Premier League this season, but the top two have consistently found a way to put the points on the table.

In a way though, Wenger’s comments have officially made this a must-win game for the Gunners. Hopefully, that will mean we see the required urgency in play right from the start.

Having said that, I also feel the problem that Arsenal sometimes face – that issue where it seems the players are taking it lightly against smaller teams or don’t want the win desperately enough – is not as much related to desire and winning mentality as it is to confidence.

At the moment, it is difficult to assess the confidence levels in the squad. While the players talk a good talk, we haven’t seen enough inspiration in their play to completely believe that they are enjoying their football while being largely in control of games in a manner which suits their strengths.

As regular readers know, to me this is directly down to the system of play. The Gunners look relatively secure at the back and impressive in attack when the system clicks. They either look vulnerable at the back or bereft of ideas up front when it doesn’t, sometimes both. This season we haven’t seen the right balance in Arsenal’s football in most of the games. I think that makes the players hesitant and inhibits the natural expression of their creative and technical qualities.

In that regard, it’ll be interesting to see how Swansea line-up tactically. Not in terms of their shape or formation, but their intent when out of possession. Many teams have successfully pressed the Gunners in the central third to stifle the attacking threat while opening up avenues for quick transitions.

I’m not convinced Swansea have the same unrelenting desire to chase with boundless energy that Everton, for instance, displayed on Wednesday. This could give the Gunners a little more breathing room in the central third. But even if the visitors take a slightly more passive approach to defending, they will undoubtedly remain structurally strong and will focus on denying time and space in the attacking areas. It’s not by coincidence that they’ve conceded just 7 goals in 6 away games.

We might also see Laudrup using Michu as a central striker which will give them the luxury of picking another midfield player and thus adding to the technical ability of the side. We all know Swansea can defend by holding on to the ball.

So, the other interesting aspect of this game will be Arsenal’s tactics when they lose possession. The Gunners have struggled when they’ve pressed up the pitch but they just can’t let an accomplished Swansea side pass the ball around at the back. The visitors have enough technical quality and mobility to create good chances when offered the convenience of picking their passes without pressure.

In particular, I think their ability to quickly move the ball wide and work combinations with one-touch football will test the Arsenal defence. They also use the ball cleverly when delivering from the wider areas as they try to cross it back across the penalty box or to pick a man at the far post instead of just putting a hopeful ball in. This is possible because their quick combination play creates a bit of room for the man delivering the vital pass from wide. They might miss Pablo Hernandez but Routledge and Dyer – who troubled Arsenal last season – can be just as exciting on their day.

I’ll be very surprised if Arsenal don’t push their back four to at least halfway in their own half. But such a tactic will open room for some runs in behind that their pacy wingers could utilize. ¬†Nevertheless, it’s better than sitting on the edge of the box and inviting the opponents forward in numbers.

Wenger’s team selection will also have an impact on the patterns of play. Hopefully, he’ll be able to rotate a couple of players again but fitness issues and the factor of balance could limit his choices.

If Podolski is fit he should come back into the line-up. I’d like to see him given a game down the middle with Giroud taking a breather but I doubt Arsene will try that ‘experiment’ at this stage of the season when the stakes are high.

Cazorla is another player who could use a rest but this is also the kind of game where the Spaniard could get more time to pick his passes, particularly if he drifts wide.

Sagna could be a doubt at the back, in which case Jenkinson should get another chance to impress. The youngster has done well in a limited context this season in that he’s controlled his positioning and passing – perhaps a direct instruction from the coaches – to make his style of a ‘safety first’ variety. That has kept the right flank relatively well protected but it has come at the cost of attacking impetus from that side. Again, it’s an issue of balance. I have a feeling Wenger will risk Sagna if the inflammation isn’t serious.

Both teams have pace at their disposal and, at the simplest level, the one which is able to get it’s quick players behind the opponents is likely to come away with the points.

Possible starting eleven,

Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla – Walcott, Giroud, Podolski.

Wenger has said that he’ll put out a strong team against Olympiacos but I’m guessing we’ll see more players rested in that game than this one.

The following stat on the official website does not inspire confidence,

Arsenal have won just three of their last nine Premier League home games (W3 D4 L2) and two of those have been when the opposition have been reduced to 10 men.

There’s enough quality in the team to win this game. But it’s also not difficult to imagine another disappointing performance, it’s happened way too often. The margins are very fine at this level an we’ll have to hope the right factors dominate.

P.S. This is a link to an article I did for the Betting Expert blog. I was looking at goal difference stats and it provided some interesting insights.


23 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Swansea

  1. unni says:

    carzola no doubt requires rest. team looks knackered.

  2. Ahmed Adamu says:

    I think this lineup is a strong one but pls tell verminator & sagna to care enough

  3. olatunji says:

    i dnt want to knw wat happen to our team,bt today game,arsenal we won,dominate,i remain loyal

  4. Swazigooner says:

    What’s more critical is the hunger to win. The team show no urgency at times. Ramsey should be benched. All these players who are new the the prem should be rotated better to prevent burn out, which hasn’t happened! People can defend wenger all they want but when you have bought layers claiming a focus on quality, then they don’t play. Squlaci, chamakh, park, arshavin, I really hope we can turn it around because I’m hoping to keep wenger as long as he stays fit. But we undoubtedly in need of some change.

  5. Rejoice says:

    Desi, I don,t watch Arsenal with expectations these days. I have a terribly bad feelings about this match. Good enough, local govt elections are holding in my city (kaduna) and so I wont go to the studio for analysis. I hope they prove my feelings wrong.

  6. Gerry Lennon says:

    I certainly think we need to match energy levels with Swansea, Desi. Unfortunately if comes on the back of another hard fought game in midweek.
    On the plus side, the return of Poldi should gives a better outlet on the left, as well as drive with Gibbs alongside. Jenks filling in for Sagna is not as disturbing to the balance as when his opposite is out.
    The bad news is that Arteta and Cazorla have looked a bit ‘leggy’ recently. Now that may be down to opposing tactics of close marking, and this could be similar, if less physical. The way to combat that is for the whole top six to work together, create space, and above all move the ball quickly. If a side puts two players on one man, then it is up to us to get players into that gap they leave. If not to receive the first pass, but the next, and again move it on quickly. That only works if the passing is crisp, accurate, and keeps possession.
    If Walcott does not start today I guess it means bye,bye? but he will be key in getting the ball forwards at pace. The way AW likes to set up the team, my guess is he will try Ramsey in the CM role, with Wilshere and Arteta either side. This means Santi is wide or rested, Walcott central, replacing Giroud, or dropped to the bench(bye, bye), and Poldi on the left in the familiar 4-3-3 line up.
    Now this may suit Ramsey’s game quite well, as some have argued. But as was noted in midweek, he can get dispossessed if they tackle him quickly, which can open up the heart of our defence. I also thinks he gets drawn to where the ball is, and the team can lose shape. That would be my fear with that line up.
    Alternatively, but less likely, we have a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Walcott behind Poldi, and have Arshavin at the hub of midfield, thereby resting Santi, Wilshere as the ‘box-to-box’ runner, and have Coquelin in to support Arteta. His speed and tackling ability could work in this game. However, he needs to involve himself more, rather than just pass to a senior player and think job done. He must move to into space and be an option for the more heavily marked players to use him quickly. If he gets that right he could find himself with a starting position more often?
    An Arsenal win is not a foregone conclusion, as they found last season, but stick a few heads in a bucket of ice cold water so they come out looking like they are up for it, and it could be the start of something good?

  7. seedron says:

    Why will arsene try ramsey in the central role when he has the like of rosicky on the bench…or does he has a share from ramsey’s pay.if truly arsene knows what he is doing then he should cazorla is burnt out so hee should not start..let rosicky play as we all know what our senior modric(rosicky)’s capability

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      Hey, he is not my choice either. I am just saying that might be Aw’s thinking, given Rosicky’s lack of match practice after long time out?

  8. Ogbusu SKC, Nigeria says:

    Almost every pundit sees this match as a sure draw because of the laikadaisical attitude of the Arsenal players. However, somehow, inexplicably I see it as a home win. But there is a proviso here: Wenger should come to his senses by keeping Ramsey far away from the starting 11. Else, his post-match conference will be the farmiliar ..’They deserved to win(or draw)’

  9. Foolishgooner says:

    Great another match! These days i dread match days. At Goodison Park I counted over 20 passes in the final third btw Arteta/Cazorla/Sagna/Theo and mainly Wilshere then an errand pass and few passes later Falliani scores for 2 points lost. Arshavin/Rosicky must play and rest CaZorla, they both are more than capable to replace Cazorla. Arteta for Coquelin, Arteta is tired but Coquelin want to just air back because he is afraid. He needs to play without fear and move the ball and support defensively! Giroud should retain his place if not Podolski plus Theo up front will get us the points. Gervinho could start on the left should Giroud gets a rest. I think Sagna is out Desi and Karl Jenkins is more than amble RB. It is time Arsene play the squad and hold them accountable (Arshavin/Coquelin/Gervinho/Ramsey). They all are unique and useful! They need the manager to use them in the right circumstances/times and matches. But the same team from Everton match will play minus the injuries and subs will not come in before 71st minute if we are behind and 85th minute if drawing or ahead. Wenger is either lost faith with the squad or lost it. One more thing; I read somewhere that Arsene wants to add two players plus Henry Loan….. And he has the funds! If two players come mark my words they will be replacing Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna, we only do addition by subtraction. Cheers gooners!

  10. sergio chris says:

    Alsharvin should be given a chance, and wenger should stop stubon____”we have 3points today”

  11. Dianjuh says:

    Hey Desi, Swansea is a passing team, it will be very difficult if we concede first, very! What I have never understood with Wenger is why the same formation-different players August to May? We have a 4-3-3 not fully suited with the current Personnel. Arteta is not a DM, Walcot and Podolski are not wingers, Gervinho does not offer crosses thus underservicing Giroud, am not even sure what Ramsey is or is not. And you wonder how we ‘destroyed’ Arshavin…

  12. Nick from Portugal says:

    Win here I have no doubt. We can beat this lot and I would go with Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla, Arshavin, Walcott and Podolski up front, rest Giroud. Sub Ramsey for Arshavin late in the game, the defense picks itself now with the injuries. Gervinho for Podolski or Giroud. Come on boys, get behind the team, stop slagging off Ramsey and Gervinho. This is where we turn the season around.

  13. Silenstan says:

    You may have thoughts on tactics but wenger wont. He never does. Regardless of opposition the plan will always be the same. I expect changes from midweek, but still no central position for Walcott. I expect us to be out passed by The Swans, and bloody 5 heads to be boundless source of wasted possession. A scarppy win if luck is on our side

  14. Shafiu says:

    i think with the above team 3 point is under must. I prefer to rest Sagna and another to Jerkinson.

  15. Silenstan says:

    Nick, stop slagging Ramsey and Gervinho. Well how about they give us a reason. Both are the most dismally slow of thought and wasteful layers its been my misfortune to see.

  16. hottspring says:

    our arsenal is not afraid of swans
    our arsenal should win regardless on how we play,
    this is not our arsenal,
    we want our arsenal back to play against Swansea.

  17. hottspring says:

    in my opinion Ramsey is good player however his quality is below arsenal standards.
    let him be benched like chamakh(is even better than him) play rosicky , ox, coquelin or arshavin but not Ramsey (frequently backpassing and missplacing passes )

  18. pizzy05 says:

    Good analysis, desi.

    Looking forward to a good game in this. Swansea and Laudrup are a good game in which to test our team’s preparedness for 2013/14 season.

    Not saying we’re done for this season, I just see this team as our tonic for a Barca-esque renaissance. Either way, hoping for a good game, and three points to top it off…

    COYR!!
    PURPLE REIGN!!!

  19. augustine says:

    do you eat arsenal gerry? I dont want ramsey and gevinho on that pitch today. Ateta-wilshere,walcott-cazola-podolski,giroud-rosicky 4 saint.

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      See my earlier reply … and yes, I had brekky earlier, but it did not have and red, white or purple on my toast

  20. jeff says:

    unfortunately,rosicky is not yet match-fit,so i doubt cazorla will get the needed rest unless wenger wants to use arshavin which i think he should.. like wenger,many are eagerly anticipating the possibility of rosicky and cazorla combo.. but i dont think it’s going to happen today..

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