Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Manchester United

The champions-elect will receive a guard of honour at the Emirates on Sunday while Robin van Persie could receive something quite to the contrary from the fans. Those are interesting but minor subplots as the twists and turns in Arsenal’s quest for the Champions League places will surely take centre stage once the game begins.

Ferguson seems to have the formula for playing Wenger’s sides, particularly in the last few years. I probably don’t have to remind you that Arsenal have only won 1 of their last 8 Premier League games while losing 6 of those. In the same period the Gunners have also lost 3 cup games against the Red Devils.

At the simplest level, it’s said that Ferguson asks his players to get tight to their opponents and deny them any time or space on the ball to disrupt Arsenal’s passing rhythm. United’s usually secure defensive structure has also kept the Gunner’s out and limited the number and nature of chances they could create. At the other end, quick counter-attacks and clever wing play have caused Wenger’s defence a fair amount of problems.

United have scored 18 League goals in the last 8 games against Arsenal conceding just 7 in the process, which explains the results and bears evidence to the success of Ferguson’s formula. Even if the 8-2 score line is removed as an outlier, the Red Devils have scored 10 to Arsenal’s 5. They also scored 6 while conceding just once in the 3 cup ties between the two sides during the last four years or so.

Wenger will have to find a way to counter Ferguson’s simple-sounding but highly effective approach. It won’t be easy because the Arsenal manager always wants his teams to play the same way. The Frenchman’s belief seems to be that if his side plays as well as they can the opponent’s tactics won’t matter. Clearly, the Scot has got the better of him over a long enough duration to merit a reconsideration.

The way I see it, Arsenal’s biggest challenge in this game is to ensure they don’t conceded a goal. United have lost only 2 away games this season and both have been narrow 1-0 defeats. Arsenal’s only win in their last 8 League meetings against the Red Devils has also been a 1-0.

Needless to say, the first goal will be vital and could prove decisive. Both these sides have only lost 4 points from a winning position but the champions-elect have turned it around more often than Arsenal as they’ve recovered 28 points from losing positions to Arsenal’s 16. Wenger’s team might struggle to get anything from this game if they concede the first goal. Individual mistakes or structural looseness must be avoided at all costs even if means playing out a drab, low-risk first half.

United don’t have anything more to play for so their motivation might drop as the game goes on particularly if it’s a tedious midfield battle. They might not track the runners or mark their opposing numbers as diligently as they’d do in a game that mattered more. A vertically stretched game would suit their strengths more and keep the players excited as they’ll always sense a chance.

The problem for Arsenal is that they’ve not really been able to defend in the central third of the pitch this season. When the defence has worked, it’s usually been hard work in and around the penalty box with most outfield players pulled back. Ferguson’s side generally finds a way to beat this kind of defending through their excellent wing play.

Playing slightly deeper with a couple of quick players in attack could still work for Arsenal if they can find a way to get the attackers involved and thus keep the visitors in check through an offensive threat of their own.

In Giroud’s absence Wenger will have to tweak his system a bit. Walcott is the only other player who’s played some games in the central role this season. Podolski and Gervinho are other options. I’d have liked to see the German get more time in the central areas but Wenger obviously has his reasons to keep him wide or on the bench. It’s tough to say whether this is the game to make a major change.

Having Walcott down the middle and Gervinho on the right should provide genuine pace to Arsenal’s attack but we’ve seen the team struggle to bring Theo into the game in such a role. I’ve felt that Wenger often leaves his players to figure out the solutions for themselves and it’s often sublime when it works, but against opponents who’ve mastered the defensive side of the game the answers can be hard to come by. Having certain pre-planned attacking options can help but I will be surprised if we see such moves from the Gunners.

Wenger does have most of his players available so it’ll be interesting to see what he considers a balanced line-up for this game.

I’ve a feeling Wilshere will start with Rosicky moving back to the bench. The rest of the team, barring Giroud, is likely to be the same as the one that took field at Craven Cottage.

We might see,

Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal – Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey – Gervinho, Walcott, Cazorla.

Ferguson might give some of his fringe players a chance and the United squad might have a lower degree of motivation than they usually have, but the Gunners can’t count on it. I have a feeling this game will be decided by mistakes rather than great football. Lack of confidence or tactical confusion could prove fatal for the hosts whereas a lower degree of concentration might hurt the visitors. It’ll probably be decided by a one goal margin or less.

12 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Manchester United

  1. Wahooligan says:

    I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy your blog in the past, but your consistent analysis supported by detailed stats have made me a frequent to your establishment. Sadly, most of our losses are by our own hand. One thing, IMO its vital we play Poldi, switching outside to inside w/ Theo, especially because Poldi can hold up the ball better allowing the team to move and possess better. I always think its interesting that you don’t ever give your guess on the outcome explicitly, is that your signature or something else?

  2. jcloud says:

    Fingers crossed. Since I became an Arsenal fan in 2009 Arsenal have lost almost all games against United… with Ramsey’s goal that brought victory being an exception. I remember that awesome Arshavin’s strike… I miss the guy… he was the reason I became an Arsenal fan in the first place… I hope tomorrow will be the turning point and Arsenal will reverse the fortune and win next 7 games against United.

  3. edhen says:

    we will have enough time for a good dialysis of the game at the final whistle and, then we will thoroughly scrutinize your respective opinions.

  4. Happy sunday my fellow gooners.i ll implore wenger to deploy santi back to his most comfortable position (middle) rather than out play him on the wing like he did to arshavin which destroyed his game and career.ramsey should be sold and bring in better player to replace observation is that wenger has share in ramseys pay and other average team players he has brought to arsenal.giroud is not our type of player,he is as good as playing for wigan and the likes.arsenal fc is not surposed to been a breeding,the entire board and the rest should not only consider the profit aspect of it but also consider the fans that makes the club bcos without fans no line up are as follow;sezcney -sagna -per-kosc-monreal/gibbs-arteta-wilshere-carzola-ox-pold-gervias.thank u.

  5. Busie says:

    Desi to succeed Winger

  6. Busie says:


  7. T2T says:

    I’d try Podolski up front, he has both a great shot AND actually tries a few times. To counter ManU’s wing play, I’d deploy AOC and Walcott as their speed will influence Rafael/Evra and force them to be more conservative. An alternative is switching AOC with Gervinho as AOC hasn’t been at his best, but I’ll give him a start. As TW14 plays better when Sagna is behind him, I’d start with him as well. As LB, not much seperates Monreal and Gibbs, either one will do fine. As CBs, based on form, Koscielny is a sure starter and it seems like the combination with Mertesacker is the most defensively sound. Containing Welbeck’s speed and RvP’s movements are paramount. Picking up Rooney in the AM role to deny him the time to influence the game as well as hit his powerful shots fall on Arteta and Ramsey. Arteta has the experience and smartness, Ramsey the energy. Ramsey has played extremely well lately and deserves this chance. Cazorla is at his best in the AM role, he can drift around the field and have a shot with both feet.
    The tactics is as important as the team selection. We need to press hard, both AOC and TW14 need to track back to establish a 4-5-1 when defending thereby dominating the midfield.
    Wilshere; has been off form after his injury, that’s why I’d start him on the bench. Alongside him would be Rosicky, Vermaelen, Gervinho, Mannone, Coquelin and Jenkinson. If needed, Vermaelen can play as LB. I know Ramsey can play as RB as can Coquelin but I cannot see another striker warranting a place.
    My starting XI
    Sagan, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs/Monreal
    Arteta, Cazorla, Ramsey
    Walcott, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain
    Subs: Mannone, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Coquelin, Wilshere, Rosicky, Gervinho

  8. i think it will go well with arsenal fans next season,if they change this their stupid policy of bringing young boys to the team,wenger must find a room for improvement and slot in more big names in to the team,and gazidiz should change his weak strategy and call for big names…by powell adekunle smith?freetown

  9. Popoola413 says:

    Where is poldoski???

  10. JohnW says:

    Sir “F” once said of Arsene’s team, ” You can play Chess and still lose!”. So for him, we play Chess, all he does is to make the transition between defence and attack quicker. If you notice the way they score against us, it precedes a great team play from us, then we lose the blall near their defensive areas, then they use quick counter attacks/better wingplay to hurt us. Apart from the 8-2 loss, it’s difficult to pinpoint a game in which ManU played better than us. Even in that game, we were doing alright until Coquelin was substituted (we were losing 3-1 at the time). I wish in this game, Arsene starts Rosicky and the OX, both very direct, both have pace. I would like at left back Nacho for the experience, Carzola on the left, Theo on the bench and Podolski in the centre.

    • Cupsui says:

      I am also a fan of a different approach to this game. We need to adopt a high tempo and direct attack. Clearly our “as per usual” approach against Manure is not working. Play them a little at their own game. We have the resources for this. I would like to see an attacking trio of Poldi and Ox/Gervinho on the wings and Walcott up top (i would take poldi up top and walcott on the right too). That would push Carzorla back to AM (where he has proved most dangerous IMHO), Wilshere into the CM role and Arteta as DM. Whilshere really is crucial here as he needs to OWN the box to box role and play in his direct style; go past opposing midfielders. Arteta must be even more disciplined than his usual disciplined self as the players ahead are more attacking.

      People may feel leaving Rambo out is harsh, but tactics come before a players feelings and i see us doing more damage from direct play than from Ramsey’s style of controlling the ball that somewhat lessens our creativity.

      A fresh approach might throw Manure off and prove to be very dangerous for us. However to succeed our wing play (both attack and defence) must be exceptional

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