Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against West Brom

This is Arsenal’s second visit to the Hawthorns in a couple of weeks but the demands this time around will be completely different. Both manager’s changed bulk of their side for the Capital One Cup encounter but they should field the strongest available line-up for this one. The manner in which the Gunners defeated Napoli also adds to the expectations. Wenger’s team won five away games at the end of last season after the win in Munich. They’ve already picked up wins when revisiting Fulham and Swansea. West Brom are also part of that list. Throw in the opportunity to go into the international break leading the League and the pressure, hopefully of the positive kind, should be high.

Steve Clarke did well in his debut season as a top flight boss. By basing his side on his own strengths, the Scot has given them a stable and reliable platform. Stints as assistant under some big name managers, chief among them being Mourinho, has given Clarke an excellent grip on the defensive aspects of the game.

We can expect West Brom to be extremely compact at the back with two banks of four or even with an extra attacker dropping into midfield to make it five. They like to defend with the back four around the edge of their penalty area with the first line of defence a few yards further ahead. The meticulousness with which Clarke organizes the spacing between his lines and the interlinked movement of the defensive players to constantly provide cover for each other have given them a strong defensive record and allows them to get results where other comparable teams might struggle.

There might not be the same hype around the Baggies as there was with Napoli but it’s quite likely the Gunners will find it harder to score at the Hawthorns than they did in midweek. It’ll be a delightful surprise if they come out flying and are able to settle  the game in the first 15-20 minutes.

McAuley and Olsson are not the quickest of defenders but they work very well in the tight knit defensive unit of West Brom because their weaknesses are covered and strengths brought to the fore. Both are good at attacking crosses and staying tight to the striker. Usually, there is very little space behind them or even in front so their vertical mobility is rarely tested. Giroud might have a very hard time finding space in this game but his performance is also going to be vital for the Gunners because he can contribute to the quick one-touch play in the attacking areas and drag the central defenders away from their comfort zone.

Mulumbu and Yacob offer physicality, discipline, and stamina in front of the back four with the wide players and attackers also pulling their weight.

No defence is going to be watertight for the duration of ninety minutes. I believe that one of the measures of the quality of a defensive side is the speed at which they can shut the openings after the movement and passing of the opposition attack has created one. West Brom rate fairly high in this regard. Space and time, between the lines and in creatively vital central areas, will be at a premium. Wenger’s side have the diversity and quality to score against pretty much any defence but this will surely be another test of the pace and precision of Arsenal’s attack. Even a five percent drop in offensive quality will make things noticeably harder for the Gunners.

The Baggies are not exactly famous for their rapid counter-attacks but in Sessegnon and Amalfitano they have two players with enough individual quality to punish a team that makes errors at the back. Berahino, too, looks like a promising prospect while further up Anichebe, Anelka, and Long all bring Premier League experience and other useful qualities to the side.

With Sagna missing, Clarke might place one of his mercurial offensive players on the left flank with instructions to attack Jenkinson or the space behind him if the youngster bombs forward repeatedly. For West Brom the best chance of scoring might come from isolating their key attackers against the Arsenal defence in a two-v-two or three-v-three (even one-v-one but that would need a massive mess up from the Gunners). That and set-pieces where the aerial strengths of their defenders will be a constant threat.

Arsenal have kept only one clean sheet in the Premier League and I don’t expect them to add to that on Sunday.

The team selection is bit of a tossup. Wenger has a few options at his disposal. He could keep the Flamini-Arteta duo in central midfield if he wants greater assurance, although that might seem overly defensive for this game.

Wilshere could come back into the starting eleven on the left. It’s not an ideal position for him and he is not in the best of form but it’s very hard to keep a player of that potential out of the starting eleven for too long a period.

Ramsey could come back into the middle, stay on the right, or get a breather like Jack did in the last game. Rosicky could man either flank or he might drop back to the bench.

Monreal is another player who deserves more minutes but will Wenger disrupt the balance on both flanks?

All-in-all, this is a hard line-up to predict but there are a few permutations that  could all work well.

I’d probably only make a couple of changes,

Szczesny – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Ramsey, Arteta, Özil, Flamini, Wilshere – Giroud

Before games like this it’s not hard to see why Wenger often tells his team to just play the way they always do. They’ve shown enough quality all over the pitch to deal with everything the hosts could throw at them. But over the last few seasons there have been so many mishaps that I, for one, will always have some questions marks at the back of my mind even when things looks straightforward until we see consistency for at least one whole season.

The question is not whether the Gunners are good enough to win this game. They so obviously are. The question is can they win such games again, and again, and again… Can they get three points every time they’re the favourites and quite often even when they are not? To answer this question in affirmative we have to wait and watch till May. On the other hand, the negative answer could come in any game. As they say, getting to the top is easy, the hard part is in staying there.


8 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against West Brom

  1. You know I read a huge amount of blog posts & newspaper reports regarding Arsenal and I have to admit I loved your article! Really well written, balanced, incisive and informative! In short everything you would want from a sports reporter very good work. You know I love Arsenal and I so hope this isn’t a false dawn and to be honest I feel it’s not. This team has really impressed me the way they’re playing is so beautiful to watch and it’s not about tiki taka it’s about having total control of the ball and the opposition. Napoli had absolutely no chance and really should have been so much more than 2-0.

    The only criticism of this team is their still playing it safe at times, be more like Barcelona and Bayern Munich! Who cares if you score 2 goals in 15mins, every minute of every game the goal is perfection. Do you know what sets Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger apart is the desire to create the perfect team. We have a great foundation and top teams have given us a chance to exploit our lead. But what I want and other Gooners want is a team of Champions dedicated to achieving HISTORY.

    • kinasuki says:

      At the end of the day.. 3 points is better.. and so is clean sheet. While it is undoubtly that winning with 5 goals is nice, there is no point overextending energy and tire our players out when the job is done.. moreover, when we shift down our gear, it always seems like we are more like a prawling predator rather then contend lion.

      We simply not yet have enough depth to go out and tire our 1st XI .. then replace them.. Maybe its possible when we have our cavalries back on the bench.. but right now.. going for the kill, then sit back waiting for counter attack chances is the most sensible action for the team.

  2. Benson Egagah says:

    This sunday‘s match is a must win one for Arsenal before going into the International break,so that they can maintain the lead on the log,which will invariably give the team some air of confidence and also giving room for the return of injured players. Determination and committment will help the team go far into the current season. Let‘s keep our fingers crossed and wait for the positives!!!

  3. jcloud says:

    With such tight defense it’ll be interesting to see whether Ozil’s creativeness will blossom even more. I hope Arsenal can keep a clean sheet in this one. Szczesny deserves his reward:)

  4. Maybe give Ramsey a rest and put him on the bench, while playing rosicky who looked good vs napoli. ensures that ramsey doesn’t burn out, jack is fresh after being on the bench the last time, rosicky gets playing time to get back to form.

    I would also give some game time to vermaelen either as a starter or as a substitute for koscielny.

  5. Shafiu Ahmad says:

    A lot have been said, I hope we will come back with 3 point. Honestly today we are the favorite to win this game. Also I don’t Rosiscky will start today sine he is still recovery if u look at his game v Napoli, he lost so many passes. Gibbs need a breather since we have a perfect substitution.

  6. Right Cross says:

    Thanks again Desi,

    I learn more with every post.

    Your Blog is Arsenal quality. Other blogs purporting to be of Arsenal are more of the League 2 quality.

  7. Major_Jeneral says:

    Again weldone on a well written article , it is imperative that the team is not complacent and take their chances well . I like the fact wenger is not making too much changes to the starting 11 except forced by an injury or a knock on a player . This has its advantages as it keeps the fluidity and understanding of the players. We don’t want to be in the mess our rivals are in ryt now ; changing the starting 11 every game, Good job arsene. A win today will solidify our intent as title contenders.

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