How to beat those suffocating, self-celebrating Northern Oilers? That is the question on all our minds. Wigan did a great job yesterday, but we cannot play like they did and only once in a while do such tactics actually work. The Latics did a great job in sitting back and frustrate Man City with very impressive defending, but they were lucky that the visitors had left their shooting boots down the road. They did not take their chances and then came that one decent chance at the right time in the game for Paul Cook’s men and it was taken; FA Cup romance is still alive and kicking!
Man City were frustrated and they will want to make amends in their next game, which is against the mighty red and white of Arsenal. Football at the Wenger and Guardiola level is often about playing chess games. Wenger will need to align his pieces correctly and decide on how to open: king’s gambit, Sicilian, Catalan or English Opening, etc.
As we saw in the Spuds game, it is not easy to get it right. The first half was spot on tactically but in the second half we were poor and lost our positioning big style. I said before the start of the second half that the first five minutes may decide the game, and it did. After we conceded, we were lost and could have conceded a few more.
Against Man City Wenger will need to get the tactics right for 90 minutes. What we know is that they will want to camp in our half and suffocate us. They are drilled to passing the ball around and finding openings time and again; and once they’ve lost the ball they will put big pressure on our midfielders to regain it as soon as possible. They are like a pack of wolves that will never leave you alone.
In our last PL game against them, Wenger chose to press MC high and try to dominate them in their half at the start of the game, but it went wrong and only through a lot of luck did we avoid it all being over after just 15 minutes. MC would love us to come out and play football with them at Wembley on Sunday, and let’s hope we will not be that reckless/stupid.
Paul Cook said it was paramount to get through the first 15 minutes without conceding, and I reckon the same goes for us this Sunday. As described so well by PE in the previous post, we have a man who can hurt MC and his name is Auhhhbameyang. They will play with a high line in order to keep us hemmed into our own half and Auba will love to run into that space and latch onto a pass from Xhaka, Wilshere or Ozil. We also have the midfielders to pass the ball round in tight spaces and break the MC lock time and again.
Therefore, sitting back, staying compact and disciplined and absorbing pressure, should be our default position. It is a real shame that Lacazette is not available as we need another player to be able to run into that space behind the MC defence. Welbeck can do it, and I guess he will play, but he is out of form right now. We also have Bellerin who can get himself behind the defence with his determined runs, but he also struggles in terms of delivering a quality final ball.
I reckon our strategy should be something like this:
- Start calm and compact; don’t be over-adventurous and stick to the game plan;
- Frustrate their midfield and once we get hold of the ball, pass intelligently but avoid unnecessary risk-taking;
- Launch Auba as soon as we can and get Ozil, Welbeck/Iwobi to push forward to support him. The B2B midfielder to join them when possible but never forgetting his defensive duties next to the deeper-laying midfielder;
- Stay compact and disciplined throughout the game, but don’t be over-defensive; that would be unnatural to us and, as we saw against the Spuddies, will cost us in the end.
I reckon Arsenal can win this game if we start well, stick to our tactics and then dare to be ourselves, which is playing football the Arsenal way. The team I would like to see start with the above in mind is:
I trust Jack, Elneny and Xhaka or Rambo if fit, can play a disciplined game and make the difference in the middle. I expect Ozil to help out in midfield and play a bit deeper than indicated in the formation above. I have also no doubt that Nacho, Mustafi and Koz will be okay in defence. But it is the full backs I am not sure about, and I feel we need to do something different, especially on the left. I have a feeling that Welbeck would do more than a good job if he stays disciplined and only move forward when appropriate. Or maybe it is a game for Maitland-Niles; he has definitely been v impressive recently…. What do you think?
Really looking forward to the game. Don’t care about the silverware of the League Cup but I would love us to beat the Northern Oilers in a final at Wembley.