Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Bradford City

There was an interesting detail mentioned during Arsene Wenger’s pre-match interview on Arsenal Player – Arsenal haven’t won at Bradford for 90 years! It sounds staggering but most of it is down to the fact that the teams haven’t played each other very many times. That said, Arsene Wenger did take the Gunners to Bradford twice – both in the year 2000, but in different seasons – in the Premier League and returned with just a point out of those two games.

The League Two side has beaten Championship and Premier League opposition in the competition already and have shown good form in their league which has put them in contention for promotion.

In the Capital One Cup their wins have come late. Against Wigan it was a scoreless draw even after extra-time, but the Bantams won their 7th successive penalty shootout. It was a commendable achievement away from home against a team playing three levels above them. Their win against Championship side Watford was a result of a dramatic late comeback with the winner being scored deep in injury time at the end of the second half. Prior to that, Phil Parkinson’s side beat League Two opponents Burton Albion and League One side Notts County in extra-time.

Bradford have beaten opponents from all divisions above them in their run to the quarter-finals and it’s safe to say they are fighting hard till the very end. Their home record in League Two is also quite impressive as they’ve the most points (23 having scored 18 and conceded just 6 goals in their 11 home games.

All signs points to a tough battle despite the difference in the levels the teams compete at routinely. League Two sounds a far way down but players like Zavon Hines and Stephen Darby have gone to Bradford after being on the fringes of Premier League clubs in their youth. Cup ties have a way of levelling the gap between teams and this should be no different.

Tactically, this is unlikely to be very different from many of the battles we’ve seen against lower division opponents. For Bradford, it’ll mostly be about remaining organized and denying opportunities to the Gunners while looking for chances to counter-attack and/or win set-pieces.

Two factors will have a major bearing on the game. Arsene Wenger’s team selection will determine the technical quality, tactical balance, and experience that Arsenal have out on the pitch. The support of the home crowd and Bradford’s energy levels will have an impact on how effectively they prevent Arsenal from building their play.

Phil Parkinson will also have to decide whether he wants to play for penalties or go for a result in normal time. We’ll know his choice based on the aggressiveness of his team. If they sit back and soak up pressure I’d venture to say they’re holding out for a penalty shootout, or at least trying to stay in the game till late. Seeing as their wins have all come late in the game, it could be the right option.

The risk for Bradford City would be that Arsenal can settle the game early if they’re not challenged. Although the Gunners have struggled to score in some games, many of their problems seem to be linked with the opponent’s ability to press them in the middle of the pitch or in their own half.

Arsene will have to find a good mix of youth and experience for this one. It’s not as easy as it would seem to some. I expect Coquelin and Ramsey will get a game. Jenkinson should come in at right-back. Apart from that none of the choices are clear cut.

Mannone might get a start if he’s fit. The other places in defence are up for grabs but neither Yennaris nor Miquel are fit. Meade at left-back could be an option. In the centre Squillaci could have another game. I don’t know if Djourou is fit or even in the manager’s thoughts. All three together could make the defence a tad feeble as they haven’t played many games. So, I’d like to see either Gibbs or Vermaelen selected in the starting eleven.

Up front, Podolski could get a start if he’s recovered. He deserves a go down the middle. Wenger could also put the German on the left and Chamakh central. Rosicky and Eisfeld should also be in contention for a starting birth. Arshavin is another option but considering the fact that he wasn’t picked for the dead-rubber against Olympiacos, it’s not clear whether the manager wants to give him any more game-time.

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho haven’t played many minutes, and the Ivorian will likely be going away to the African Cup of Nations in January, so picking one of the two could give the team greater bite.

I’d start,

Mannone – Jenkinson, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Meade – Coquelin, Ramsey, Rosicky – Gervinho, Podolski, Eisfeld.

Having a couple of senior players on the bench would be a good insurance policy.

A win in this game will take the Gunners into the semi-final of the League Cup. It could lead to some positive news cycles and help build on some of the positive sound bites that came after the win against West Brom. In contrast, failure to progress will pile on the pressure on the five straight Premier League games in the coming weeks.

Will this be another tennis score after 6-1, 7-5 wins in the previous two rounds of the competition?

31 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Bradford City

  1. 9jagunnerdoc says:


    You’re not actually serious about Squillaci, are you? If he plays we’re definitely gonna lose. That guy is bad luck personified!

    Come on you gunners.!

  2. segun ade says:

    mr wenger go with the right people we realy need dat cup

  3. segun ade says:

    mr wenger go with the right people we realy need dat cup use our normal players coz dis pple are record breakers

  4. abba pires says:

    I totally not agree with u b/cos we want to win trophy and this is our chance and i’m in shock with bradford

  5. gjo@malawi says:

    Playing squillachi is no big deal, provided h is partnered with an agressive partner like our band man. I for one like the above squad and believe it is a good mixture worth delivering. I would also opt for serge as he is quick and direct, thus in place of Gervais.

    • Foolishgooner says:

      Gervias? No one called Gervinho by that name since birth! Lol. I like the Team, it gives Podolski chance to get closer to the goal, Ramsey will perform better in central mid because he get to sit and watch Wilshere/Rosicky do the magic.. Jenkins is a given Mannone needs the game and Woj the rest. I will actually start Per if rest is needed is the captain who should get it.. Not sure who will play for him though, so why break up per and TV.. Ramsey/Coquelin/Rosicky/Podolski must do the running and closing down of Jack and co did Saturday. Podolski/Gervinho must convert chances early on. And Mannone must be alert.. Woj made the biggest difference in anticipation… Cheers gooners.

    • 9jagunnerdoc says:

      Fact is, with Squillaci, we’ve only 38% win record and 33% loss record, which is very poor. Above all, he is culpable in most of those losses. I fear for us if he does play tonight.

  6. louis chiemelu says:

    Bardford should not be underestimated. Arsenal have had a very big problem of lossing to lesser opposition teams this season. I do hope we take the game to them and get 2 or 3 goals up before half time.

  7. Aussie Jack says:

    Play a second grade side against this lot and there`ll be riots if they lose. (but what`s new?). Wenger has to be serious.

  8. Spec says:

    Desi since the next game is monday night and hence more recovery time, i’l except many first team players to be in the starting line up bar OG and Sagna who are nursing bruises. A win tonight will take us close to at least winning something even if its the Capital One cup and i’l be surprised if wenger takes a gamble on this one with selections like ‘squilaci’.

    • santori says:

      Yeah, I think Wenger alluded to bringing a relatively experienced team.

      I agree with Desi that Gervinho and Chamberlain should be played on account of impending ACN and Walcott returning shortly.

      I think we may see Ramsey again albeit I hope he is played in the middle and not deployed wide. Eisfeld may also feature in lieu of Ramsey.

      Not sure if Gnabry is still carrying a knock but would be great to see him too.

      But for his height (no fault of his) Meade has been good and should deserve a spot.

      Likely Coquelin and Rosicky should team up in midfield ahead of defense, the young French man plays better in a restricted screening role and with able support of experience.

      Squillaic frightens me.

  9. santori says:

    I cannot for the life of me why Wenger would not play Arsharvin over the likes of Squillaci. Perhaps there is some agreement to a sale pending in January inked.

    Otherwise we are simply neglecting a very useful asset.

    • JohnW says:

      Arshavin and Squillaci do not play in the same number! Arshavin WAS a useful assent, now he’s past it. He nolonger has any conviction playing for Arsenal, his mind is already away from the Emirates. So I say, leave him out, release him in two weeks time and that’s the end of it.

    • Scott (USA) says:

      I think your right on Arshavin. Probably will not play until sale in January.

  10. Nizam says:

    I expect BC to let the gunners have 90% possession and indulge in merry passing .Then a sudden counter and the gunners could be a goal down.
    Teams know the gunners play in a one dimesional attack style and a quick brea k out from defence will catch the guuners off guard.If MU and Chelsea can do it,why not BC.
    If this scenario were to happen and the gunners get knocked out,then Wenger has lost the plot. Of course the long odds make it unlikely.In football never say never.

  11. Anum moses says:

    I wish d gunaz a hapy n@t, a clear win 4rm bladford city. Gunaz 4eva.

  12. gjo@malawi says:

    On the other hand, squilachi has to be given a display to the market, who knows we would get a 2mill bid for him. Playing ramsey slows our midfield, while I acknowledge his marking and had work in that position. I would field the ff;
    Jenks. Squash. Verm. Meade

    Le coque

    Oxo. Rosicky. Elsfield. Serge


    This would give us a very quick game from defence to front and goals. I miss Theo but ox is as good as the damn, we Must win this game, we nid this cup for confidence sake and scale off the shame for 8shit years!! Gunners for life

  13. paul says:

    I feel we will be a little frustrated with the team he puts out tonight as I belive his thoughts will be focussed on saving players and keeping energy levels up for the PL. Must be hard getting paid loads of money to play a game of footie and have to be rested but there you go!:-) I reckon it will be a team based around the reading squad and we will get chased and harrassed around the park by a bradford team on form at the moment having gone five games unbeaten. It will be a test for the boys and those out of form to stand up to. Can they get through this? it depends on their mentale attitude to take the game by the scruff of the neck as if they dont they will get beaten.

  14. gjo@malawi says:

    Mate, squillachi is a defender and arshavin is a CM/winger as per wenger

  15. nicky says:

    If only the morons among the socalled fans would get off Squillaci’s back, he would do OK. If Wenger selects him that’s good enough for me.

    • Scott (USA) says:

      Squid will not have a problem against Bradford City. Lets be real here people. Premier Teams? That is a different story.

  16. Gerry Lennon says:

    Desi, I think your last line is the worrying one? The bit that includes ‘tennis score’ and ‘Reading 7-5’ …. We were 4-nil down in that game! Do you think we could recover from even half that against a side playing with the freedom of nothing to lose?
    For that reason alone Szcz has to start. The only downside is the chance of injury?
    ‘Your’ back four does lack a bit of height against a side that plays set pieces well? For that reason I think we need Giroud up front and for his defensive headers, sore back not withstanding. Give Poldi more time to fully recover hamstring injury .. maybe another run out late on?
    Oh Nicco where are you. This game is made for you?
    Sadly, Yennaris, and a crop of Next Gen boys are injured, so a lot rests on Coquelin’s shoulders, but I need he needs better support than offered by the above line up? Take it serious AW, show you mean it, start with Arteta, and take him off when the game is won?
    Better than bringing him on to rescue the game later?
    I like the idea of Gerv and Eisfeld switching around, Giroud in my team, as marking could prove tricky, and leave openings for Rosicky to pop up at the right moment …?
    I don’t see many kids on the bench because the seniors may be needed; Mannone(if fit?), Per, Gibbs(?), Ramsey, Jack(?), Ashavin(?), and Poldi(?), and that does not leave many spots for the likes of; Charles-Cook, Angha, Ansah, Akpom, Olsson, Gnabry(if fit). All of whom could get a run out if things go well? The maximum of 4, plus GK, would be risky, even with a strong starting eleven?
    Yes, it should be an exciting game, but not one we can afford to go into thinking it is ‘not our top priority’ … THIS time it is is!
    Go for it!

  17. sapiman says:


    Jenkinson, Djourou, Vermaelen, Miquel

    Rosicky, Eisfield, Ramsey, Arshavin

    Chamakh, Gnabry

    Let AOC rest, we need him to feature more in premier league games

  18. Nick from Portugal says:

    Rest Arteta, rest Cazorla, rest Mertsacker, rest Wilshere, rest Scz. Sagna and Giroud injured, so….Mannone, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Squid, Verm, Rosiky, Elsfeld, Le Coq, Ramsey, Ox, Gervinho. Now the obvious missing player here is Arshavin but he is replacing Mozart from minute 64. We want to win this. Come on you gooners.

  19. Scott (USA) says:

    When does Wenger figure out that Ramsey is crap.

  20. James says:

    Hey Desi,

    Great job as usual even though I’ve not kept up with you blog this season based on my resigned feelings about the state of our team but really don’t you accept that it’s probably time to move on completely and move away from Arsene since it’s very likely over for him.

    I don’t want to go into the usual rants though I think most of the general points are right but I’ll harp on one thing- isn’t it obvious that just like RVB last year and several canned managers, AW has lost the dressing room. For me, I really don’t see any way he’s inspiring the team especially since he’s lost anything that one can refer to as tactical sense this year. How do you inspire a player to play well or fight for the team when he sees that trash is continuously allowed to fester in a position he’s fighting for. I’m talking about both Theo and Podolski and Ox and several other players: Ramsey has been trash yet he’s almost guaranteed a spot before The Ox; Gervinho has shown he can’t be trusted yet Podolski isn’t allowed to ‘fail’ for 5 consecutive games playing directly as a CF. This dude has not made a formation change all year and I stare at my screen wondering why on earth he’s decided to die on some stupid cross, is it just to be stubborn and hopefully prove everybody wrong that the Emperor is indeed wearing ‘skin-colored’ clothes???

    This is 1 season where I feel he’s not been rescued by his so-called ‘genius’ players- RVP last year and varying mixtures of Cesc, Henry and others over the past half-decade and the absolute bevy of disgraceful, inconsistent and frankly deer-in-headlight performances seem evident of the fact that he’s probably lost his coaching marbles.

    I can’t wish for the worst cos I’m a fan through and through but I can’t honestly trust him not to do what he seemingly did with Arshavin, regardless of those lazy rumors we always heard, with any player he’s given money to purchase. I’m now optimistically looking forward to his resignation and gutted that he might do the same thing he did in Monaco and leave with bad-will and bull-headedness that someone like Fergie always uses only to his advantage.

    When you continue doing the same thing over and over again and you fail over and over again, it’s hard to say your methods are not the problem. Wenger’s coaching method is sadly outdated.

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