Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against West Ham

The vacation was great fun for us but it seems the Gunners have had a tough week. I did have a feeling Arsenal were going to struggle in the big games as this analysis, done for the betting expert blog just before I left, showed the impact certain big wins had on Arsenal’s numbers in the table.

After returning I updated some numbers and created the table in the following tweet. It doesn’t make for pleasant reading but it paints a truer picture of Arsenal’s struggles this season. Obviously, if you take out four of any team’s best wins, their numbers will lose some gloss. But as that article shows, the drop for Arsene Wenger’s side is particularly sharp.

Throughout the season there has been a problem of balance. The initial 4-4-1-1 approach – presumably, Steve Bould’s brainchild – didn’t last long. It is a somewhat archaic system more suited to the smaller defensive minded teams that rely on long balls and counter-attacks. The defence was fairly strong in those games but it came at a noticeable cost of attacking potency. Another, possibly related, problem that has plagued Wenger’s side is their inability to consistently and effective press higher up the pitch. It’s quite possible that the initial tactic of dropping deep has confused the players and they can’t start on the front foot, so to speak. It seems to me they’re only able to dominate possession in the opposition half when the opponents ease off and allow them to. The big wins have also come in games where the opponents just haven’t competed in the midfield.

As the season has progressed we’ve seen the Gunners push up a bit more but a number of old structural problems are now coming back as a direct result. The ease with which City and Chelsea scored their goals – refereeing decisions are only part of the equation – has to be a major concern for Wenger.

Anyway, I don’t want to make this a broad discussion of the season so let’s return to the upcoming fixture. Arsenal’s performance at Upton Park was one of their better ones but even then the game wasn’t as comfortable as the 1-3 score suggests. West Ham were in it for long periods. It could be the same in the reverse fixture.

I doubt anyone is expecting too many surprises on Wednesday. Both managers have their preferred styles and they’re very likely to stick to them.

West Ham’s aerial and physical qualities will pose a constant threat to Szczesny’s goal. The Gunners did well in the reverse fixture with Arteta playing a superb role in front of the defence. But the Spaniard will be missing in this one and Wenger will have to find a replacement. Diaby, too, had a good game away at Stoke against a similar style of play. He could again be a vital player. Of course, as Wenger mentioned, he’s played a lot of minutes soon after a long injury lay-off and the risk of losing him again cannot be rationalized easily.

The thing that could work in Arsenal’s favour in this game is that West Ham’s game is very vertical. They rely on defending deep and narrow. If they don’t compete in the central third of the pitch and allow the Gunners to build from the back, Arsenal should get opportunities to score. Then again, they could have a game like they did against Bradford and do everything but score. Nevertheless, the odds will favour Wenger’s side if Allardyce sets his team up in a defensive manner and relies solely on long balls.

The former Blackburn and Bolton manager will hope that Arsenal are just as chaotic and disorganized at the back as they were in the first half against Chelsea and City. Rugby tackles, crowding the centre, dozing at set-pieces, and other such antics will give West Ham a fair chance of scoring. Kevin Nolan in particular will be a genuine dangerman for the Gunners.

Arsene Wenger’s choices for the starting eleven should also be interesting. After returning I saw the changes in Wilshere and Cazorla’s positions. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to but it might not be ideal if the Spaniard loses form in the second half of the season – something we’ve seen from Mata and Silva in the recent past.

I also saw that Walcott has moved back to the right in the last couple of games but has been given the license to stay higher up the pitch on a consistent basis. Again it’s an approach I agree with but it is going to put greater strain on Sagna for sure.

Then there is the problem of the central striker. Giroud was an average finisher in the early games and it seems he’s only worsened in the last few games. The Frenchman’s propensity to lose possession is annoying and breaks many attacks down. But where are the options? Podolski through the middle has been Wenger’s best bet from the start of the season but he seems reluctant to use the German in that role. Will Cazorla’s move to the left give Arsene the chance to play Poldi centrally?

Injuries have also limited the options. And that thing about Arsenal struggling without Arteta isn’t just a series of random coincidental occurances. He’s the team’s most tactically aware player and his absence clearly weakens the defence as well as the side’s ability to hold or bring the ball forward.

We might see,

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

I’d like to see,

Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Diaby, Wilshere, Ramsey – Walcott, Podolski, Cazorla.

Giroud’s presence is useful while defending set-pieces and could be handy in the West Ham box if they sit back, but I think he brings too many weaknesses to the side. Ramsey hasn’t had a great season but he brings something different to the side. His energy could help ease the burden on Wilshere and Cazorla while also creating an opening in the middle for Podolski. That said, I’ll be genuinely surprised if Wenger does go for such a line-up.

This was one of the five eminently winnable games. Just because it was postponed doesn’t change that. In games against clubs currently above them, the Hammers have P12 W1 D4 L7 F10 A21. Of these, five have been away games which have resulted in a solitary point with one goal scored and ten conceded. Their away attack is by far the weakest in the League as they’ve scored just five goals in ten games. The visitors’ current form isn’t great either with just one win in their last seven games.

Arsenal already have serious problems and not winning a game of this nature will only compound their worries. If normal service resumes, it should at least be a strong win even if it isn’t an emphatic one but, based on current form and confidence levels, it’s not too hard to imagine points being dropped.

15 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against West Ham

  1. […] The vacation was great fun for us but it seems the Gunners have had a tough week. I did have a feeling Arsenal were going to struggle in the big games as this analysis, done for the betting expert blog just before I left, showed the impact certain big wins had on Arsenal’s numbers in […] Source: Arsenal   […]

  2. Dale de Ruig says:

    Would be very surprised if Diaby starts.

    It would be short term gain for very possibly a long term catastrophe.

    I would give Frimpong a run in the holding role with Jack next to him and Cazorla furthest forward again.

    Frimpong was very close to the first team two years ago, surely he hasn’t regressed to the point that you force a super injury prone player to play his 4th game in two weeks?

    Jack and Caz continue in the positions they have played for most of the season, Podolski on the left, Walcott right and Giroud down the middle.

    Might be wrong about this but I doubt Giroud has started more than 4 games in a row. He needs continuity as frustrating as he has been.

    Jenkinson at right back as well. Sagna needs a break.

  3. Nizam says:

    Tactically,as we fans all know,Wenger has lost it.It’s attack 100% of all games. He doesn’t park the bus against believing his way will work. Unfortunately it hasn’t and the gunners are losing games against the top 4. I know Ladrup is an unknown quantity but knows when to attack and play anti soccer. As a result Swansea are reaping dividends in the games they have played so far.
    The gunners have been conceding goals from similar defensive blunders. To concede once or twice all the time is ok but more than twice is simply unacceptable.
    Until Wenger varies his tactics,get ready for the season when the gunners will finally fail to get in to the cl competition.The game against WHU is a crucial one. Lose it and the voices calling for Wenger’s head will reach fever pitch.

  4. AP says:

    I remember noticing that putting Cazorla on left and Theo on right in the last match was leading (in the first half) to a situation where the center was overcrowded and both of them were moving in and trying to play centrally. A worrying aspect of Theo’s play (esp when on wing) is that he is becoming increasingly selfish. There were a few opportunities in the last few matches where he could’ve passed to people in better positions – the most glaring one in the Chelsea match being when he shot with his weaker foot when Cazorla was open and right in front of goal.

  5. against wenger's policy policy says:

    i dont understand the reason as to why wenger is not talking of the reality.the fact remains we need to purchase players and splash many inorder for us to corp up with steave competition in EPL.

  6. nico says:

    Cazorla can’t play on the wing…
    Ramsey either…

  7. Gerry Lennon says:

    @Nizam … I think you make a bold assumption in your opening line. First you imply that ALL fans think Wenger has ‘lost it’ tactically. Secondly, you adopt a superior knowledge about tactics than a manager who has kept this club in the CL for the last 17 years? Perhaps you ought not to compare with other managers in only their first season either?
    Lesson one on tactics. It is not a simple case that you tell the players that X is the way to beat such and such a team.
    The players need to be capable of following that instruction.
    The players need to be capable of of playing out that role.
    When you have a squad of players you have to manage their fitness, their confidence levels, and have the knowledge to know when a change is either desirable, or borne out of necessity.
    Too many changes can disrupt the understanding that the others have built up. Settled sides are the ones that win most games.
    I have no idea what your knowledge is concerning the above, but I would guess it is far less than our current manager? And that goes for all of us armchair pundits, myself included.
    It is very easy to slip into the other argument over why replacements have/had not been, brought in before now? That is another argument. Tactics involve working with what you have, not some fantasy computer manager game where you can press a couple of buttons, and in an instant you have a top class replacement. Real life means making difficult decisions, and they do not always come off.
    Back to the Desi blog … Good morning Desi, glad you are back.
    Looking at your alternative starting 11 highlights the difficulties I have pointed out.
    One, Diaby’s fitness? He may play out of necessity, but it is a big gamble.
    Two. Podolski in the middle changes the whole dynamics of the side because he is a different type of player to Giroud. Where does SZCZ clear the long ball to? The overworked Sagna? Ramsey and Pod are not that good at controlling a high ball with their backs to goal? Cazorla???
    Ramsey in the advanced CM role? It would not take West ham long to work out that if you put two men on him, he will spill the ball. Possession lost in the middle of the park can quickly turn a promising attack into a scramble to defend? We are not that good at defending in those circumstances?
    Which is why I think you are right to think AW will not risk that.
    I agree with @Dale De Ruig, Giroud needs a run of games. His defensive headers should not be underestimated. So I see the front three as Pod, Giroud, Walcott. Midfield is the tricky one. I have a fancy AW may rest Cazorla for a last 30 mins when he will get more space(as in the Chelsea game?). Much will depend on Diaby playing, or not. If the latter then their are two options as I see it; Frimpong alongside Jack. A more likely late sub option? The other would be to play the three centre backs, with Kos playing in front of the other two. Worth a try in this game, with some heavy tackles going in? It would allow for Jack to be his side-kick to bring the ball forwards quickly. Jack could be partnered by Diaby, Cazorla, or even Arshavin? Yes, I know he did not exactly shine against Chelsea, but he hasn’t had much practice lately, has he? Give him 90 mins in that CAM role, it might be a different story?
    But that is the thing about being an ‘;armchair manager’, we don’t have to suffer the abuse when it all goes wrong. Do we Nazam?
    The bench might be more interesting, with the FA Youth Cup being cancelled? And Arteta might just be there, although that would be another risk in this particular game I think?

  8. Fidelis says:

    Giroud is more frustrating than Gervinho.I d’like to know(statistics) how many EPL games the gunners have won this season with: a) Giroud leading our attack, b) Walcott leading attack, c)Gervinho playing in the same position.In the last 2 matches we, ve been playing well the second halves. Had we someone with great eye for goals we ‘d have run away with the three points.Unfortunately, Wenger has faith in Giroud and I can’t see the old man buy another striker this month.

  9. Ozzie says:

    Big Sam will have his plans all ready for Arsenal’s slow and predictable 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 so why not surprise him?…Kos looks a natural DM to me and his disciplined positioning would allow much more freedom to the rest of the midfield. Neither Theo nor Poldi are comfortable on the wings so why not play them together up forward?..Ox and Jack would have to help cover the fullbacks but the team shape would still be much better when possession is lost.

  10. christqx says:

    Pls wenger shuld go 4 the beta of the club

  11. Ferdinand masinde says:

    @nizam,i totally agree with you!wenger tactically lost it..we hardly see much changes each game,same system of play every game whichever their style of play.i wld rather have giroud as a stricker than walcott in this game coz the latter cant dribble neither cant head and with west hams style of play we will need a player who will hold ball with back to goal and can have knock down balls to advancing mids/wingers..also rest diaby or lose him for another 4 month

  12. Kushagra says:

    Manure Mancity play 4-4-1-1 sometimes ??

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