Our Squad And Tactics This Season

With the international break in full-swing and the opportunity for transfers having drifted away, there’s very little genuine Arsenal news on the scene. I say ‘genuine’ because if you trawl the tabloid pages long enough you’ll no doubt find another Fabregas statement warped out-of-context or a story about how we’re close to signing the ‘next Cristiano Ronaldo’. I don’t feel compelled to re-hash any already tired pieces of journalisms, so until the boys are back in The Grove next week, I thought I’d have a simple look into what our squad and tactics may be over the upcoming season.
Starting Eleven
Almunia, Clichy, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Sagna, Song, Fabregas, Diaby, Arshavin, Van Persie, Walcott.
Barring injuries, this is probably our best line up. Enough has been said about the ‘keeper but at the moment he’s our most experienced and probably the best choice for most games. If not Almunia, I’d be tempted to have Mannone as the second shot stopper. Our back-four could almost name themselves. Clichy and Sagna are obviously our first choice full-backs, at least for the moment, but I’m relishing seeing Gibbs have a run in the team his season too. The only real battle for a place in the defence will be between Koscielny and Squillaci, and I’ve written before that I think Squillaci will come in for some of the tougher away fixtures.
In midfield I’ve gone for Song, Fabregas and Diaby, but this is an area up for much debate among fans. Wilshire started the Liverpool game in midfield and, while making a decent impression, he was still a little overrun by the opposition. Fabregas, when fully-fit, is the first name on the team sheet, however he’s usually deployed on the right of a three-man-midfield. I’d prefer to see him in the middle of the three, with Diaby on the left and Song on the right, I’ll explain why later.
Like our midfield, if our whole squad is fit, it’s near impossible to pick our best three forwards. Obviously selection will depend on opponent at times, but otherwise I think Arshavin, Van Persie and Walcott would be the best bet. Just one look over Robin’s goal statistics (http://www.arsenal.com/first-team/players/robin-van-persie) and you’ll understand why this man should front the attack whenever he can. Walcott warrants his selection due to his form over the last two weeks and it’d be foolish to leave him out. Arshavin, for all his pockets of ‘lazy play’, always has the ability to suddenly spring into a game. I also think Andrey copes better when forced out wide, than Samir Nasri is.
So all that leaves me with a bench of: Mannone, Gibbs, Eboue, Nasri, Denilson, Chamakh and Bendtner. There’s no real defensive-midfield cover other than Denilson but it’s still a pretty strong bench. Eboue and Nasri are particularly useful for their abilities to play in different positions.
Formations and Tactics
Naming my personal choice of players without explaining how I think they will (or should) play, seems a little incomplete, so I’ll keep it brief and try to dip into Wenger’s head.
I’m sure our team will be lining up with a 4-3-3 again, despite the fact we’re well able to lay-out a 4-4-2 formation. Fabregas flourished in the three-man-midfield last season and I think it would be foolhardy to mess with that now. Besides, a four-man-midfield is difficult to find a balance with, whereas with three, it gives licence for players to rotate with each other during games. The same can be said for our three forwards.
I said previously that I’d prefer to see Fabregas in the centre of the midfield, between Diaby and Song. This isn’t just to give Cesc the freedom in front of goal, and a more equal connection to our two wider forwards – but also to give ourselves some more defensive stability! Usually, Fabregas goes right of centre and Diaby left with Song holding the centre. That’s because Diaby is generally used in a more attacking role, going forward with Cesc and leaving Song behind to hold. However I’d personally like to see Song and Diaby hang back behind Fabregas. Song is a solid tackler and excellent at breaking up opposition play and one of Diaby’s best features is his ability to keep the ball. If Diaby stayed a bit deeper with Song, I think he’d be far more effective than when he hovers outside the opposition box.
That leads me nicely onto our defence. Our full-backs, because of our formation, are really the only players in the team that can dictate our width. Both Clichy and Sagna are always pushing up the pitch to support our three forwards who generally condense when going toward the goal. This tactic is fine, but if Diaby has ventured forward too, we’re only left with three men (Song, Vermaelen and Koscielny) to stop a counter-attack. That’s why if Diaby played anchor with Song, our team would be far less susceptible to a break. And I really don’t see our team having less threat in-front of goal if we commit six players to attack, instead of seven. In fact, it might put an end to that whole “we pass the ball too much” argument and force the team to be more decisive.
Not much can be said of our triple-man forward line. Whichever three are selected, they seem to all switch positions with each other frequently during games. Bendtner proves this is true by being a typical centre-forward striker, but one that’s regularly spotted on the right or the left of goal. You might assume a player like Bendtner would get wasted in a wider role, but I remember him enjoying a good run in the team when rotating with Van Persie and Arshavin. I hope Chamakh turns out to be just as compatible with the multi-positional role. But all I can really hope for our attack is that Robin Van Persie stays there. If he’s playing, he seems to double the ability of the players around him. His hold-up play is superb, his eye for a pass is as sharp as Fabregas’, and his finishing is just clinical. I would love to know where we’d finish in the league if we ever had a full season with the Dutchman.
So finally, all this is just my personal summation of what we could expect from the 2010-2011 season with Arsenal. I could be proved completely wrong on Saturday when we walk out to face Bolton with Chamakh and Vela as lone strikers and see Diaby dropped to the bench. But whatever the case may be, let’s just hope for an entertaining season – and maybe one that’ll end with a new trophy in our cabinet.
N.B – Please, no more injuries Robin!

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