Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Wigan

Congratulations to Wigan for their FA Cup success. Regular readers know they’re one of my favourite teams from among the so-called smaller clubs. Martinez is an impressive young manager and his players have produced some entertaining, high quality football over the years. It’s good to see their work rewarded.

Cup ties are inherently of a knockout nature meaning both teams have to go for a win. But in the League it’s rare that both teams face an absolute must win situation and that too at the opposite ends of the table. You might argue that the Gunners would still have a chance of finishing in the top four if they didn’t win this one, but in my opinion the team that doesn’t win this game will see it’s League hopes crushed. For Wigan, that would mean relegation, while Arsenal will more than likely miss out on the coveted Champions League spot.

This is another game where the view you take is likely to depend on your mentality.

The Latics are renowned for their late comebacks to survive in the League (they’ve won the last two games of the previous two seasons) and a win at the Emirates (something they achieved last season) will give them a genuine chance of pulling it off again. One could argue the Cup win will lift them and the players will find extra energy and motivation. Momentum can be a strong positive force in football.

Someone else might say they’ll be tired and could suffer from a hangover of success and celebrations whereas the Gunners will come into this game feeling revitalized due to a noteworthy break in schedule.

I think we’ll see a committed game from both sides and any side-effects of Wigan’s weekend heroics will only be visible in the later stages of the game, if at all.

There is an interesting pattern to the games between the two sides. Apart from Arsenal’s 0-1 win earlier this season at the DW stadium, the Gunners have not won against Wigan by a single goal margin going back to 2009. Either Arsenal win big (1-4, 4-0, 3-0, 0-4) or they drop points. Wigan have won with scores of 3-2 and 1-2 in this period while also picking up a 2-2 draw. In other words, either Arsenal win relatively easily or they drop points, even lose the game.

The win in the reverse fixture bucked this trend somewhat and Arsenal’s recent tentative but resilient performances suggest that it could be another close encounter. Wenger will hope that his side can scrape together enough goals to win this one. He’ll want a clean sheet but I doubt he’ll get one.

It could be a question of who makes the least defensive mistakes and which side takes its chances.  Arsenal’s problems against the Latics have generally resulted from individual or collective defensive weaknesses. Whether it’s counter-attacks like last season or set-pieces from an earlier time, the visitors will provide multiple offensive threats that have to be dealt with in a consistent and reliable manner.

Martinez has built a side that can retain possession and build attacks. That doesn’t mean they’re likely to match Arsenal’s possession or passing statistics but they will be able to pass it when they win the ball back. This gives them a chance to construct more meaningful attacks compared to the kick-and-hope outfits. It was visible in the FA Cup final when they spent a lot of time in front of their own penalty box but always looked a threat when going forward.

Kone is an intelligent striker who shows for the ball and can hold it or lay it off quickly. He makes useful runs into the channels and can get on the end of crosses or through-balls. The youngster McManaman provides guile and pace on the flank. I like the way he shifts his weight to trick defenders with numerous feints.

Martinez also seems to get the best out of Maloney who can cut inside and join the striker, particularly when McManaman goes in behind. Gomez is inconsistent but has an eye for goal. Espinoza has been a handy acquisition and adds to the threat from their left flank. Their midfielders are steady players who can occasionally step up and make a difference with shots from distance or on counter-attacks.

The Gunners will have a tough time defending their flanks on quick transitions and the full-backs will need a fair amount of support.

I find it hard to categorize Wigan defensively. They can have anywhere from 2 to 6 defenders in a line. 3 is the usual number, but when they drop back and the ball goes wide the defensive line can have as many as six players, thus cutting out spaces. Some of these players push up when the attack is through the middle and that way they have layers and covering players to protect the vital central areas. In such cases the gap between their lines is almost non-existent.

There are mistakes in their defence and Arsenal should get chances if they can play at a fast enough tempo but the Gunners will need greater lateral movement in front of the Wigan backline and more penetrating runs in behind. Otherwise it could again be a case of a lot of possession at one end and the dangerous chances at the other. An early goal for Arsenal can open the game up but it could also leave the Gunners in a tactically confused state, not knowing whether to push forward or step back.

Wenger has most of his players available. It’s tough to predict his choices for this game but I have a feeling it will be the same team that started against QPR with Gibbs coming in for Monreal. The Spaniard struggled against Townsend and it’s not difficult to imagine McManaman running rings around him. Hopefully, Gibbs will be fit. If nothing else, he has greater pace to recover.

Fabianski is fit again but I doubt Wenger will take Szczesny out of the starting line-up.

We might see,

Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Ramsey, Rosicky, Arteta – Walcott, Podolski, Cazorla.

I’d be tempted to find a place for Gervinho or Oxlade-Chamberlain because having a player who can dribble is useful against a deep-lying defence. But both those players bring their own set of weaknesses to the side and affect the balance. As I’ve noted before, there isn’t an obvious correct answer here and the result could vindicate a choice or make it look stupid.

Finding a way to use Podolski’s skills and getting him into scoring positions or areas where he can play penetrating one-twos could be vital.

This is probably not what you want to read but I expect the Gunners to drop points in at least one of their remaining two fixtures. Unless Wigan crumble, Arsenal will need two, maybe three, goals to win this game. They’ve not scored more than once in their last four fixtures…


15 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Wigan

  1. […] Congratulations to Wigan for their FA Cup success. Regular readers know they’re one of my favourite teams from among the so-called smaller clubs. Martinez is an impressive young manager and his players have produced some entertaining, high quality football over the years. It’s good to see their work rewarded. Cup ties are inherently of a […] …read more […]

  2. cougar says:

    Why did you have to spoil it at the end.

  3. Muleli Atse-Arsene Modgel says:

    Desi you scare me sometimes.I think it would be a good idea to drop TR7 to the bench and let Carzola play her usual CAM coz it thing the starts have been good,that is average of 2goals per game we’ve won.That would also mean bring in Gervinho to have a front three of Gervinho Podoski Walcott.I think this would help us end the goal drought bcoz both the 3 have played as a striker this season &at least have an idea of how to get us goals.Another good deciding factor for me is Wether or not Sagna is ready 4this game or not.I think the game will be decided by Who takes their chances rather than who makes more mistakes.Hope we will get it done &dust today.

    ~With love from~ *Kenya*

  4. emmanuel says:

    Did u av 2 ruin it at d end? Anyway, it was a post well written as usual!

  5. Dianjuh says:

    @ Muleli

    Good to see a fellow Kenyan on Desi blog, Desi is by far the best right?

    Moving along….

    Hi Desi,

    Two games six points Champions league spot guarantee, summer signings, take the winning momentum to Next season, and without Mancini and Ferguson, I would say, well, we should be in with more than a shout!
    But back to matter in hand, at least in priority, Most teams come to the Emirates knowing the only way to get something is defend deep, get clinical with counter-attacks and set pieces. Am sorry but this Wigan game looks to be playing right into our hands. They want the win, so do we. The omly way we loose is self distruct!

    Go gunners!

  6. kelvin says:

    I hv d confidence we’re goin to com out flying colours tonight!

  7. Kay says:

    Well written Desi, except for the last paragraph, we have to be positive about our team. This is a game we cannot afford to drop point. We must not hand over the advantage to Spurs. We should play at a very high tempo for an early goal. Gibbs will be a better proposition than Nacho because of the pace of Mcmanaman and he will need assistance from whoever plays in front of him.The effect of FA cup game will not be seen until towards the end of the game.Arsenal must take their chances in this game.
    Hopefully, we will take our desired three points from this game.
    Guns out!!

  8. femzo says:

    I really don’t understand your stance anymore ,I think you think too much about being objective and end up slating the team u claim you support

    I don’t agree with u ,playing dribbling players aganst deep sitting attack is not wise, they need space to
    run what u need are players Who can pass the ball effectivly in tight areas ,trust me Gerv isn’t one of them,even though I would want him to play For a diffrent reason.

    Lastly ..way to support your club ,you essentially said the only way we beat wigan is if they collapse .so on a good day if they play well and we play well we can’t beat them, right? common ,Desi we are at least better than u give us credit For.

  9. Stan the crook says:

    Mike Deans officiating. That’s all you have to say Desi… I feel fucking sick.

  10. ozed says:

    Desi, good analysis.
    However, you give too little weight to three factors, first they must win to stay alive, two they are certainly more tired than arsenal at this point, three arsenal’s single goal victories have been against teams who had no real need to win Fulham, QPR etc. Even without these factors, coming to emirates is tough for everyone. With these factors it becomes even more difficult for them.
    Am afraid their charmed run in the EPL is over. They will lose by more than one goal.

  11. hardndg says:

    @ Desi
    Good article, but I see u more as an analyst not as a fan cuz u talked as if u don’t care. Weldone

  12. Induct says:

    Nice post but i refuse to share ur sentiment abt Arsenal dropping points. I believe City hav been a sinking ship all season long,Wigan supposed to win d PL match both teams playd a few wks bak if nt 4inexperience n overelaboratn of such certain moments. Arsenal on d other hand ar better towards d close seasn n i believe in Wenger n d squad nxt seasn. If d core of d attack who has bin new to EPL performd dis much i believe in them to perform even better nxt seasn nw dat d period of acclimatizatn was dis gud n over

  13. Ashwin Gunner says:

    Well written. Good statistics. But for me the best combination would be

    scceznny
    Sagna Per Kloscieny Gibbs
    Ramsey Arteta
    Cazola
    OX Walcott Poldi

    I have my reasons. First Carola is the best when is he behind the striker. He can pull strings between the mid field and striker.

    Poldi is not being utilized to his max in central strikers role. He is better at the wings.

    And OX will give pace on the wings. If Walcot is on the wings , he tends to go centrally and leaves Sagna exposed. With him being striker atleast we can be sure that OX is there as a winger.

  14. David says:

    Arsenal make me nervous. They haven’t been decisive in dealing with the lower table teams in the last few seasons. Even when playing at the emirates the home advantage rarely counts. Watch out for the early warning signs- across field passes, triangular passes , safe passes back and forth , lack of pace , fear to shoot at the goal – if you see that within the first ten minutes then you know that it will be a nerve wracking evening. Am I the only one feeling this way…….?

  15. masinde says:

    I totally agree with David.arsenal make me nervous too..we lack steel in must win matches,i think it is leadership that is missing on the pitch… plus mike dean is the ref!kwisha sisi.

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