Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Aston Villa

This summer has flown by so quickly I’m finding it hard to digest the fact that the new season kicks off today. But based on previous experience it’s not hard to understand that for most fans competitive action involving Arsenal could not begin soon enough. Let’s get straight to the game at hand.

It’s nigh on impossible to predict just how either side will perform in the first game of the season. Pre-season form is hardly a reliable measure and estimating the impact of transfers, especially the kind that Villa have made, is going to be a hard task even for Paul Lambert.

The Gunners are in a familiar boat, regrettably you might say, so it’s a little easier to anticipate the patterns of play we are likely to see. I haven’t had a chance to note the outstanding observations from the previous season but one of those was the improvement and importance of the collective defending.

Since the start of last season many players talked about working on the ‘shape of the team’, and we did see the results in the form of a compact display in many games, which, while it came at the cost of offensive potency, did result in vital points. On the other hand, the search for balance between an incisive attack and a stable defence was a season long quest that didn’t really end on any sort of a definitive note.

This pre-season I saw the team express it’s offensive qualities in patches that produced enthralling football but those were also marked with defensive lapses. At the same time there were periods of composure and control at the back (long periods against City for example) when the team seemed at ease without the ball.

The question is, what will we see at the Emirates today? At the time of writing I honestly can’t decide what mood the players will be in. If they are really confident we could see them coming out with greater offensive exuberance and that in turn will undoubtedly give Villa a few chances on the break. A more conservative mentality, that was so useful at the end of last season, could see a tight opening period with the hosts shading it towards the end phases.

Given the absence of Mikel Arteta and players like Diaby or Coquelin who brought in certain helpful defensive traits when they played in 12-13, I’m conditioning myself to be prepared for a few lapses in positioning and decision making from the midfield that will expose the back five. It won’t be a surprise if Lambert’s side score a goal or two tomorrow as long as they take their chances.

That means the Gunners will need two or more goals to win this game. Giroud showed an improved awareness of the goalposts during the pre-season games and Ramsey made some excellent offensive contributions. Walcott wasn’t quite as clinical as I’d like him to be during the friendly fixtures but his standout individual qualities can always be decisive. Add the talents of Wilshere, Cazorla, and Rosicky into the mix and there is sufficient reason to be optimistic about Arsenal’s chances against the Villa defence.

Wenger’s choices in midfield will be telling. Ramsey and Wilshere are exceptional talents with big futures ahead of them but will they have the maturity to curb their instincts and choose their moments for maximum impact if chosen to play in the deeper areas, particularly in tandem?!

The concern is not that Arsenal do not possess enough players to create and score goals against a young visiting side but more that an imbalanced midfield could give the visitors an early impetus while sucking the confidence out of the hosts, particularly if the crowd gets restless and starts heckling. It could easily turn into a very long 90 minutes if that dreaded handbrake comes on.

The back five can protect the goal as long as they get requisite cover from those in front. The entire team has to defend as a unit, something they showed they were capable of last season. Mertesacker’s leadership will be tested if the midfield duo in front is inexperienced and impetuous.

Wenger could also compensate for the loss of Arteta by asking Sagna to take on a more conservative role. By staying deeper he could cover his flank and probably free Koscielny up to cover behind Gibbs. However, I think the bigger problem could come from the fact that Benteke is likely to pull towards the left and could then link up with teammates to release Weimann or Agbonlahor in behind. Mertesacker would have a very hard time against the pace of the attackers if the Belgian constantly engages Koscielny in duels. Again, Sagna’s presence in deeper areas and his ability to track the runners before making vital interventions could prove decisive.

With all that in mind, I’m going to watch the first game to see – 1) How much confidence the players have, 2) The kind of fitness and concentration levels they show and the quality of their performance late in the game, 3) Their ability to hold on to or turn around the result depending on the circumstances, and 4) Whether the crowd has a positive or negative impact on the performance.

Arsene has a few choices to make for his starting eleven. The back five should probably pick themselves, although Fabianski might say he deserves a start ahead of Szczesny.

The midfield is where the big question marks are. I’d not pick Cazorla with Wilshere and Ramsey. Rosicky would add a bit more discipline without forcing Santi into a conservative role. Little Mozart is also more natural at dropping back if his younger cohorts dash forward more often than necessary. Is he fully fit?

I’d like to see,

Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Ramsey, Rosicky, Wilshere – Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla.

The upcoming weeks have some crucial fixtures and confidence could be a big factor. Any kind of a performance/result combination that helps on that front should be good enough. Obviously, a win will always help and the bigger the better, but that’s not the only option. For instance, if the team completely dominates the game and only picks up a point because Guzan produced some miracle saves, then that too could help with the confidence. Similarly, a late turnaround or a dramatic comeback to even tie the game can generate positive momentum. In the same vein, a late collapse, even if it’s just a draw, would be just as crushing as any defeat.

Right now I can imagine an easy win, a ground out result, a score draw, and a bitterly disappointing defeat all happening with equal probability. Some fans will be a lot more optimistic and others will take a grim view. Whatever you chose, don’t lose sight of the relevant details and don’t forget to enjoy the game!


35 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Aston Villa

  1. Let’s enjoy the game, enough said desi gunner

  2. gunnerfromanothermother says:

    We’re back!

  3. Let leave everything for God.but what should be most important is the signing of big name before end of transfer.

  4. bambang gunner says:

    welcome back desi..

  5. Nini Wise says:

    welcome back Desi, it’s nice to have you back. I look forward to a good game.

  6. Bunmi says:

    Welcome back desi. We need good signing

  7. cedric kombo says:

    i dnt knw y still dreaming about big names while with all have been fooled by wenger, this is th team we gonna play the season with and that is it, so lets focus on what we have got now

  8. Gerry Lennon says:

    Spot on Desi, it will not be an easy game. I’ll settle for the one one in 5.

  9. Good day everyone.my concern about this arsenal team is formidable depth,a typical defensive midfielder is needed not in the fold of ramsey cos i ll only field ramsey when am short of players and i do not see anything promising in him than what he is doing presently.talk of jenkinson,i think we should buy an estalished right full-back to suppliment sagnas effort.in conclusion,it is very pertinent to note the fact that there is need for wenger to bring competition to the team by having atleast two good players competing for the same position and not concentrating on the profit side alone cos without the joy of the fans,the club,players,board,share holders,and the manager other coaching crew are nothing and useless.a word is enough for a wise.wenger pls,be reasonable enough.bye 4 now.

  10. abachaghana says:

    Great prematch analysis as ever. We missed you though during the summer. You could atleast have come out with a piece or two about our general lapses/ strength all season at the time just to appease the eyes and advance us more in footballing wise. Back to the game, with due regard to ur picked lineup, i have an altanate thought of starting lil mozart, ranbo and carzola in midfield and play ox on the left as he will do more help with his directness, ability to hold the ball and defensive contribution. Carzola on the left likes to draft in da middle and abandon the flank c6z he hates that white line. Just Play Everyone Where He Enjoys. Thanks for your time

  11. Chris nna says:

    Wenger is nolonger good manger for team but good for money only.

  12. Aussie Jack says:

    The teams confidence would have been enhanced with the introduction of a couple of new top class players. As it is we start the season with several injuries so it`s important to kick start and put pressure on from the first whistle. Arsenal to win in a close one 2-1.

  13. oshie says:

    I see a 3-1 scoreline, but don’t know who is winning.

  14. George Smith says:

    18 days is along time to the tw closure. If the gunners can compete for the epl by late Oct or Nov,Wenger has to pay the price for incompetence.He still thinks he can win th epl on the cheap with kids.

  15. pizzy05 says:

    It is a pity that some people on here are still moaning about lack of new signings at the eve of a new season. This is Desi’s pre match analysis, not a transfer rumour or something.

    I am not against new signings, infact I desperately want a couple at least, but do not taint Desi’s blog with your transfer frustrations. Thanks.

    Desi, four words. You were BADLY MISSED. Lovely preview, can’t wait for kickoff…

  16. bops says:

    Its football time when its “Thoughts on tactics.. “. Welcome back Sir.

  17. gary says:

    Are there still fans who doubt Ramsey?

  18. john fabulus says:

    that 5 man midfield looks exciting going farward but i worry about us protecting back 5.big game needed from ramsey today think he might be a differant animal this season.

  19. obed says:

    The starting eleven is good but thats the whole arsenal team.no other top player in the bench aside from podolski, i’m so ashamed to be an arsenal fan, d manager is just taking the fans for granted..i think if we the fans start boycotting matches it might just send a message to wenger..wenger is making our dear club a laughing stock and a big joke.we need at least 5 players if arsenal wants to be competitive this season.

  20. reality check says:

    i think you completely forgot Poldi, not mentioned once??

  21. obest says:

    pls wenger we need quality players to compete for trophies dis season, suarez,rooney,felaini we need them, atlease two among them.

  22. john fabulus says:

    obed transfer window still open plenty of top players available throughout europe.ashamed is bit dramatic dont u think.we,ll sign 3 or 4 before deadline keep the faith

  23. Borntobeagunner-btbag says:

    Welcome back Desi. I read too much negative articles as a result of too many fault finder bloggers. It’s really disheartening and downing. Though not reading to much meaning into those articles anyway. Reading your post after a long while now gives me some balance feelings. Looking forward to the game and supporting the team in all circumstances. Can’t wait for 3pm to come. My fellow fans who seize every article as opportunity to tell us what we already know (we need big name signings, etc) should at least come off it for once and see how it will help all asundry. COYG!!!

  24. Sani says:

    Lack of buying will hinderd arsenal’s images of win trophy.

  25. Henry says:

    Desi!!! Tank God u’re back. Days i look out for u article cldn’t find one. I hope Wenger wins convincingly,dats his only saving grace frm an all season bad atmosphere. He more or less appeal to fan while stil insisting on not buying during his press conference

  26. demola abdulahi,nigeria says:

    good 2 know d season is bak,welcom desi,may d new season bring joy 2 us and our darling team

  27. Rastogi says:

    Desi am proud 2 b an arsenal fan. Who would not wnt 2 read ur posts? This particular is insightful, precise, impartial and explanatory. Pls Keep it going.

  28. Michael Mekoe says:

    You are welcome, Desi.I appreciate ur write up. It’s educative. Keep it up. All the same, Arsenal would come out victorious in todays match. Goodluck Gunners.

  29. Sammy Oyiana says:

    Very precise pre-match analysis…, we can only hope for a victory. I foresee a slim win like 1:0 or 2:1 in favour of Arsenal & we might have to adopt a protective formation we opted several times last season towards the end of the game by throwing Jeckinson into the fray, that way he and Gibbs could operate as wingbacks while Kos and Sagna operate as centre backs while Per acts as the sweeper down the middle…, this would help us contain aeriel balls channeled towards Benteke. Then Poldi or Ox could come in to help with quick counter attacks.
    Gunners for Life!!!

  30. mega says:

    Desi its good to have you back. Am an avid supporter of yours and is looking forword to more of your thougths.

  31. ayokunle says:

    Nice article desi…i have been waiting to see ur column for a very long time.its good to have u back.with regards to d match,well anything that happens happens coz itz not been d best summer for gunners but Ǻ♍ still keeping d faith. UP GUNNERZ

  32. oshie says:

    At 7.48am, I said I saw a 3-1 scoreline in the match but didn’t know who wins. Well aston villa won it at the scoreline. Consult next time. Bye.

  33. […] the preview I was talking about how every possible result was conceivable. The opening minutes gave the […]

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