Against sides who like to play us at our own game and press high up field (such as Chelsea) we have found the going tough and been penned into our own half far too easily and struggled to maintain sustained passing sequences. Sadly, with the players who have left the club our ability to move the ball quickly and accurately has diminished, rendering our ability to counter attack minimal as build up play is increasingly at a pedestrian pace. Arsenal will look to press and will more than likely swarm around Baines in particular to mitigate the key threat he offers to us. Barkley of course is a player who has great feet and the ability to turn and distribute with speed. The youngster has been out in the cold for a while but I really think this would be a useful game to pitch him into with none of the usual premier league hatchet men in residence.
2.Press, Press, Press
The media Shitegeist thus far has labelled the gunners a one man team due to largely to the fact RVP has scored or assisted 40 Premier League goals this year. Yes, RVP has a phenomenal scoring rate but a one man team they are not. Players such as Ramsey (going forward) and Mikel Arteta (more defensive) have given the Gunners great options whilst Walcott’s form has improved, interchanging well with Gervinho on the opposing flank. In midfield thought they are very strong and we need to cut out the support options available to RVP by pressing when they are in possession – something we did superbly in the first 45mins at the Emirates last season when we went in 1-0 up at half time.
Song, Arteta and Ramsey are developing into a great midfield blend. Whilst Arteta doesn’t have the legs he once had, he doesn’t really need them alongside the great athlete Song and Ramsey, a player consistently ranked as one of the league’s top men in terms of distance covered. Arteta’s passing completion thus far has been 90% (up from last seasons total with us of 83%) from the 80 passes he makes per game, whilst his chance created stats have gone up from 2.03 per game to 2.5. Lets be honest, Arteta is reaping the reward of playing with better players and is flourishing. One of Arteta’s best qualities is his ability to win free kicks in or around the box – it’s no surprise he’s the Gunners most fouled player winning 2 free kicks per game.
A quick look at how the sides could line-up and the positions they will occupy…..
Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey is very much the main man in Arsenal’s midfield. He is the template of the modern day midfielder; equally astute with the ball as he is pressing off it and capable of playing across all the midfield roles. So far he has created 1.9 chances per game which have yielded 4 assists, with only Gervinho (5) registering more.
The below shows an example of his incision, taking the ball centrally vs Chelsea and threading the ball through for the Gunners opener…
Ramsey also possesses a great engine and is consistently Arsenal’s hardest worker. In the last home game against Fulham he again polled the highest average speed with the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index showing he averaged 5.3 mph during his 68 minutes on the pitch, covering an impressive 5.79 miles in the process. I think for this reason Fellaini will be tasked with keeping him quiet as the Big Belgian is one of the few players in the league who has surpassed Ramsey in terms of distance covered.
4.Show Arsenal out to the flanks
The key difference in arsenal’s strategy this season is a switch from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 with a slightly more direct emphasis from players such as Gervinho who will get to the byeline rather than someone such as Arshavin who would cut inside. The arsenal midfield 3 have a great rhythm and we will need to be compact and not let them play through the middle. Showing them out to the flanks increased the chance of them distributing via a cross which we are better equipped to defend against than via through balls. To enable this to happen, our wide midfielders will need to tuck inside when Arsenal fullbacks have the ball a to prevent the ball going central….so they will need to show great positional focus throughout.
5.Exploit the high line
As part of Arsenal’s pressing game they like to squeeze play into the opponents half. This does leave space behind for us to exploit. If fit I could see Drenthe and Coleman starting high up on the flanks (4-3-2-1) tasked with making runs into the channels. Playing the ball through Arsenal will be tricky so expect more direct balls from Heitinga and Jagielka into the channels between Arsenal’s fullbacks and centre halves. This will give us the chance to get some possession in the Arsenal half to engineer crossing or deadball situations (as we are the joint lowest in the division for executing through balls)
Like Arteta, Drenthe is astute at wining free kicks. Arsenal have switched from zonal to man marking since the debacle at Blackburn and it has paid dividends, but the physicality in our side is one of the few advantages we possess so balls into the box will, sadly, represent our most potent threat. If Drenthe isn’t fit though we face the prospect of Billy on the left flank and with his limited pace the direct option looks less threatening.
I think a draw is the most we can expect here in what will be a really tough test against the league’s form side. After last weeks dire game v Stoke we can at least expect a more easy on the eye spectacle at a side who always play the game in the correct manner. My head says defeat but my heart will put us down for a 1-1 draw. COYB!