Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Tottenham

The club that’s supposedly done the best transfer business in the summer meets one that is being panned by all and sundry for a seemingly shambolic state of affairs as far as squad building goes. AVB might not even put some established Premier League players on the bench while Wenger will have no choice but to rely on kids to fill his match-day squad. It is interesting then that the bookmakers still find Arsenal to be favourites to win this game! There are 23 betting companies listed here and, at the time or writing, not one of them makes Spurs anywhere near favourites to win this one and none of them see draw as the most likely outcome either. Surely people will make a killing on the market by betting against the Gunners?!

Maybe not.

Strong squads are useful over a long duration and Arsenal are certainly going to struggle later in the season if the same players keep playing every three days but, in the short term, this game will mostly be about the strengths of the eleven players that go out on the pitch (although Spurs will have an advantage if Murphy strikes). From that point of view, and considering Tottenham’s record at the Emirates, the bookmakers don’t look so silly.

Spurs have indeed shown a very focussed approach to player acquisition. They have created a physically strong midfield that will cover the yardage and provide support to teammates all over. It seems their game is going to be about pace, power, and counter-attacks built on the foundation of structural solidity and physicality. Some might say Vilas-Boas is following the blueprint Wenger used in the early, successful part of his reign, which was built on a similar style with a focus on verticality. Parts of this have worked for Tottenham in the initial games as they’ve not conceded any goals but they haven’t really looked like a cohesive unit from an attacking point of view. Nevertheless, at the moment, they do appear like a team that will be hard to break down. Whether this approach and the calibre of players they’ve signed are suitable for long term success remains to be seen. Too often people get emotionally caught up in the perceived successes and failures of transfers and then forget about it all when the results at the end are very different from those expected. We’ll have to see how Tottenham do over this season and the next before any meaningful judgment can actually be passed on their transfer business.

But that’s for the future, let’s come back to the game. Some of the obvious points have been mentioned in many of the pre-match articles that I’ve read. Both teams/managers have a tendency to play a (relatively) high line and that can be an avenue for opponents to exploit. Cazorla can be a key player for Arsenal but his movement could also give Walker a chance to break. Walcott v Rose can be an interesting battle too.

In my opinion though, the single biggest decisive aspect of this game will be the midfield battle. Irrespective of the perceived successes and failures in the transfer market, Arsenal still have a technically stronger midfield with greater attacking attributes. Tottenham, on the other hand, have a physically stronger midfield with pretty decent technical skills. It sounds similar but the two teams will have very contrasting styles. For Spurs it will be about breaking play and building quickly. Arsenal’s game has been about patience and possession for a long time now.

It will be a massive test for Arsenal’s midfield, particularly Wilshere and Ramsey, as they’ll have to bring the ball out under pressure. Spurs will be very strong through the middle and technical or tactical mistakes can lead to extremely dangerous transitions. Bypassing the likes of Dembele, Paulinho, and Capoue will take some doing but if the Gunners can manage that they’ll have a strong chance of troubling the Tottenham defence.

In contrast, Spurs will get a chance to run at Arsenal’s defenders and goal if they can turn possession over in the central areas. With Wilshere’s defensive weaknesses and the systemic need for Ramsey’s mobility, Mertesacker and Koscielny could find themselves one-v-one with tricky attacking players. Soldado’s movement will also be a constant source of concern for the two. The Gunners have not kept a clean sheet in their two Premier League games and I’ll be surprised if they do so in this one.

Arsenal’s best chance of winning this game will be an overload in midfield. If AVB doesn’t pick a midfielder on one of the flanks, Cazorla’s movement will give the Gunners an extra body to move the ball around. They’ll have to do so with exceptional concentration and their decision making will have to be at a higher level than we’ve seen in many games. Trying to thread the ball between a crowd of players or dribbling through tight spaces, when combined with a lack of defensive awareness and poor positioning, will result in transitions that give the visitors a good look at the Arsenal goal.

Of course, the decisive moment of the game can be a freakish incident. It happens fairly regularly. A player might produce a wonder goal, or a defender might make a horrible mistake, the ref might make a terrible judgment call, or any such unpredictable moment could settle the game one way or the other. But the patterns of play, and through that the likelihood of errors or moments of magic, will be governed by the midfield battle.

Certain individual players will have to play vital roles. For instance, Giroud will have to work very hard to press the central defenders, particularly Vertonghen. Allowing the Belgian any chance to advance forward with time to pick a pass could prove expensive.

Rosicky will also have a big role to play. He’ll have to drop deep as other midfielders advance in order to move the markers around. His ability to turn his man and bring the ball forward can be very helpful to the team and could form the base for many Arsenal attacks. At the same time, the Czech star does have a tendency to lose the ball in some instances when he’s pressed intelligently and persistently. It will be interesting to see if Capoue goes with him and makes his mark on the game with some clever defending higher up the pitch that results in a genuine goal scoring opportunity.

Gibbs will have to be careful on the left flank. Cazorla might not always be there to support him and Wilshere is unreliable as a covering midfielder. The young English fullback could end up having to deal with two attacking players on his own. Allowing the opponents to go wide and hoping his teammates in central areas deal with crosses will be his best strategy if he is in a quandary. Letting either Townsend or Walker cut inside or run in behind into the penalty box will result in much higher quality chances.

Once again Arsene doesn’t have many choices as far as team selection goes. Unless there are any genuine injury concerns, I’ll be very surprised if the following eleven does not start the game;

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

Some fans might say there is a case to pick Flamini. It might be argued that he know how Arsenal and Arsene like to play, but to introduce someone who has had very little time with this particular group of players in such a game will be a sure-fire sign of weakness. Wenger has made the calls in the transfer market – whether they’re right or wrong is a different debate – and he has to now stick by them. The Arsenal manager has shown faith in his squad and it’s up to him and his players to convince the fans that they have what it takes.

It’s still very early in the season but this could be a defining game as far as fan opinion and belief are concerned.


25 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Tottenham

  1. atid says:

    I think 10 of your team are nailed on and its between flamini and rosicky for the last place in midfield. I too think he will go with rosicky having rested him in midweek. But I expect flamini and may be frimpong to enter the fray in the 2nd half and probably monreal too. Jenkinson fabianski ryo and sanogo should make up the rest of the bench. But I wouldnt be suprised to see either akpom or hayden on the bench or even both at the expense of ryo and sanogo.

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      Sorry to disappoint on your last point, but both Hayden and Akpom played in the Under 21’s game on Friday. Gnabry, along with Ryo and Sanogo did not, so could be on the bench. Neither did Zelalem, so he may be there too, depending on fitness test with Ramsey and Wilshere?

  2. gillysbaldpatch says:

    Good article but seems like you are more worried about spurs than having confidence in your team

  3. cazorla says:

    flamini is rubbish

  4. Asunkydodo says:

    We still have eleven that can win spur, am sure of that. Though we still need players and i pray Wenger will bring qualities players in. As for the match against spur, is a winning game for gunners.

  5. jeff says:

    Rosicky has been one of best performers lately,he will definitely play. He’s the best player for the our no.10 position,his ability to turn and run past his marker is amazing,not many could do that especially at the age of 32!
    Ramsey also played very well recently,but he’s not the man for the AMC pos. Cazorla is,but maybe Wenger will shift him to the wing as usual. Jack will play alongside ramsey.

  6. fez says:

    good article i am a spurs fan and will be interesting from both sides of the fence, great change to see an article from either side just intent on slagging off the opposition

  7. Wallace says:

    love your articles. i hope to see Flamini start, but see your point. if things do go wrong we have absolutely nobody on the bench who could provide some attacking impetus.

  8. Gary Fox says:

    A very intelligent summary. As a Spurs fan I would like to have had this game in a months time when the new players have settled in and lamela and eriksen are integrated too. But I still think that spurs will win that midfield battle and give themselves the chances to get behind the Arsenaldefence and especially the clumsy meertesecker. On the other hand walcott could expose our weak defensive link in danny rose. So I see goals for both teams and maybe red cards too…..from thee
    midfield battle or from defenders or even keepers caught out by the two high back lines. Spurs have the better bench if the game is tight…….defoe sandro siggy maybe even lamela and eriksen. I fancy 3-2 to whoever finishes with 11 men on the field. Paulinho to score.

  9. bukatamato says:

    I wound like to see flamini in the squad because he was my hero back then in gunners

  10. RHuss says:

    There is positive and negative on both sides.
    Arsenal without new spending but have players playing together for sometime can click for a win.
    Spurs with lots of good new quality players but too early to click and gel as a team.
    Only the form and right tactic can win the game for either team.
    Good luck and have a fair game,

  11. T2T says:

    My concern is if Wilshere will finish the game. He’s so charged when playing and in a game like this, it’ll be vital that we keep XI on the pitch.
    Having Vermaelen, Arteta, Diaby, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski injured leaves the bench weak. I think the article is spot on for starting XI, it’ll be interesting to see who is on the bench.
    On another issue, I’m so looking forward to Monday midnight and the closure of the transfer window. Reading about (possible) transfer targets without having anything to show gets frustrating, especially after the statements made early on from the club.

  12. JIMCOOL says:

    Hi gunners no draw today in emt stedum, up gunners for life, in wenger belive de magic man. A 2 v T 0.

  13. Gerry Lennon says:

    Yes Desi, I think you too think the bookies may have it wrong?
    Indeed, your reference to Murphy and his ‘law’ points to it being a fine balance between not losing, from both sides, and making most of the luck by taking their opportunities?
    You always cover the areas of interest, with tactics and personnel, and you do so again here. However, I think you are being misled by Arsene’s comments on the fitness of players?
    Ramsey has played in all the matches so far, and done a lot of running, which finally ended in a groin strain. I cannot see him being risked here with a fully fit Flamini around? But Jack is in a similar position, faced with inevitable ‘rotational’ fouling on an already dodgy ankle. Not to mention him rising to the bait and risking an early card?
    I am not that convinced about Kos either. He was on the bench last time, but no way was he expecting to play with that padding above his eye? However, I think he will be risked today, and Sagna back to his RB position.
    On the other side I think the double danger down that flank as being where Spurs make it their first option if they win the ball in midfield. I was impressed with Gibbs taking over from Podolski last time, so I would like the Monreal pairing to continue. Between the two of them they should cut out much of that threat, and with Gibbs pace he can join the attacks and leave Santi to roam?
    In short, three changes from the side that played after Poldi went off; Kos back at CB; Flamini into the DM position; With Rosicky doing his bit from deeper.
    Winning would be nice, but I prefer not to lose this time.

  14. edwin nyong says:

    As an arsenal fan i only ve faith in win dis game but no hope dat we can performed wonders, so i giv it 2 spurs by two goals to one. Arsenal r d big loser. Thanks. Am stl eyen Akwa Ibom.

  15. Pony Eye says:

    Flamini was big, big in Arse and epl before he left. Italian game is slower and more tactical while Flamini’s is more of quickess and energy, which suits the epl perfectly. He might actually be the joker if Wenger sees that it is the same old player of his. In which case, for this match, the midfield will be ….. Flamini, Ramsey, and Rosicky, with Carzola drifting in from wide left, and Wilshere on the bench.

  16. edwin nyong says:

    Thank u Lennon 4 ur post but i wl prefer Santi 2 drive on d left flank than Gibbs.

  17. patnevin says:

    Great read! Probably the most unbiased, well thought out piece i’ve read in a long time.

    For all our activity in the transfer window, this game comes to quick for it to matter. I’ve never seen a skint bookie and they don’t give anything away free. They’re hoping that us Spurs fans are feeling giddy from all the signings and will throw money at this game, but i’m not biting. If we’d stopped at Soldado

    and Co we’d still need time to gel, so yesterdays business

  18. edwin nyong says:

    Pony eye let me tel u dis, dis a match dat nid a pairing dat has 4 so long whch they can simply understand their parthern of playing d midfield role Flamini is nw lik a new player, so he is a learner. Pls lets keep him 4 d nex game.

  19. jude says:

    Nice and understanding Article….I wish Arsenal the Best.

  20. Borntobeagunner-btbag says:

    @ edwin nyong, you seems to be under the influence of ’04′(dog meat) here. Even spurs fans on here are having balanced response here than you. Stop disgracing we Nigerians here especially on Desi blogs that are well thoughtful and balanced. Well done Desi, another rank to your well and thoughtful balanced article. My judgement will be after the game but before then, all the way to supporting my darling arsenal for the duration of the game no matter what happens.

  21. Nick from Portugal says:

    This is a seriously perceptive article. Spurs have power and pace and a bench, we have a cohesive unit who playas a team but little to inspire from the bench. I just don’t know, 2-2 might be a good result…

  22. […] of the points I’d made in the preview was that while Spurs have signed a lot of players, good ones at that, we’ll have to wait and […]

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