Atletico v Arsenal: The Battle of Two Foxes | Tactical Musings


Atletico favour the 4:4:2 formation. They willingly concede ball and territory. They sit deep and patiently wait for opportunities for fast brakes or for balls-over-the-top.

Arsenal favour the 4:2:3:1. They want to dominate possession and territory. They build their attack slowly so the whole team can move together to maintain compactness and in the process find themselves playing the high line. Safe in possession, they patiently wait for openings to breach the opposition’s defence.

The contrast in tactics cannot be sharper. We want to gain territory so we can slowly choke opponents to death. They willingly concede territory as a trap. Against Atletico, at our most dangerous is at our most vulnerable and vice versa. That is the deadly game.

Different tactics are mere expediencies to teams. A team seeks the one that works best for it. From that angle, Atletico has found the tactics that makes them punch above their weight so much so that they rub shoulders with the biggest teams in Europe. Add the parts and they are inferior to us, but with tactics that seem perfect for them they currently are outperforming us. The onus should therefore be on us to disrupt this status quo by assuming a tactical posture that would lure them away from theirs.

What we need to do, in my humble opinion, is to opt for a quicker transitional play as against our usual slow horizontal build up. This would open up the game a bit more as greater verticality stretches the field better and has more turnovers. Stretched field and more turnovers encourage end to end play.

The more open and stretched the game with them is the better our chances of coming out on top, because, in terms of the parts that make up the team, we possess the advantage.  Our strategy should be to create a tactical encounter that would place us at an advantage. For example instead of seeking a 65% to 35% possession ratio in our favour we should aim for say a 55% to 45% ratio. The closer the ratio, the further away from their tactical plan we will drive them. For this reason, Mkhitaryan’s return should be particularly welcomed as he has a lot of directness in his play. Elneny on the other hand, as an example, wouldn’t have suited these tactics.

This strategy should not be understood too rigidly. During play tactics ebb and flow depending for example on how the game is going. It will help if we score first as that would bring them out. If we concede first the task becomes much tougher.

Nothing is guaranteed. At the Metropolitano I expect the deadly game to be a battle in tactics.

By Pony Eye.

83 thoughts on “Atletico v Arsenal: The Battle of Two Foxes | Tactical Musings

  • Cheers PE for a fine post 🙂

    Agreed that we need to get them out of their panzer positions as much as possible, but that will not be easy and it does not suit us to sit back a bit and invite them forward. I like the way we played them at the HoF and would love to see us do the same again. We did not have the bounce of the ball and maybe, hopefully, we are a bit more lucky on Thursday. With Mkhi, Laca, Rambo and Mesut we have players who can score ‘hard to score’ goals, and that is what will need in two days.

    We need to score one at least and we can take one goal from them as it would get us level. After that, each additional goal we score counts double. So my view is, attack with control and try and find the gap and score our goal. After that Atletico need to score at least twice to go through and we need will get the space to score another one. If they score first nothing is lost. We just have to go for our goal and after that it will all open up.

  • Writ well PE.
    Still wishing we had Mo though. His in-game influence has allowed Xhaka to become steady, and at times flourish these last several months.

    Assuming Mkhi in for Welbeck? Atletico’s tactic of allowing width on the left could see more varied two-footed play from that flank. If they choose to overplay that side– it could see Laca and Ramsey with more room in the middle and far post.


  • Sky and BBC use the phrase ‘long-term deal’ with regard to Rob Holding resigning. No further details. Good to hear. Congrats to Rob!


  • Good news for Holding and Arsenal. He will get stronger every season and offers something different from the other CBs we have: height, calm, organisation skills.

  • TA, that chessboard is it … a battle of two foxes!
    No we dare not site back and invite them. That is not our game. That’s why we have to use greater verticality to lure them out. If we allow them to sit back, they are difficult to crack. We should reference the Emirate game because one msn down for 80min is a huge handicap.

  • I wonder whether we will play 4-1-2-3 on Thursday, with Xhaka deep and Rambo and Jack playing in the two and then Mkhi/Welbz – Laca – Ozil up-front. I have a feeling that Welbz will start and Mkhi to come on for half an hour. It could be the other way round of course, and both scenarios are fine with me.

  • Hi all.. Hi PE.. Great as usual..

    I agree with you that Wenger will always try to dominate the game.. We saw it at OT.. Without our main players.. We still don’t change our tactic.. Hehehe..

    But according to the last game against MU also.. I think we must drop Xhaka..
    Either to put 3 CBs or to play Ramsey and Wilshere as our double pivot..
    If Mhki is not fit enough.. Then 3 CBs will do more effectively..

  • Arsenal are white and AM are black, PE. White is in a good position to crack the black defence open, for which it is willing to sacrifice a knight! 🙂

  • Ha drop Xhaka, you never stop surprising me hehehehe!

    Contender for PotS and sure-starter. The conductor is going to lead our Spanish symphony. You is a bit potty. 😀

  • AM are very good at blocking off the wings and it is key for us to get behind the defence as only then will we crack them open (think Wilshere’s assist and Rambo’s header late on). So we need to work our triangles really well and get behind them as much as we can, and if and when we do this we need a few players in and around the box to covert the balls into the box. Now if that is what you meant with Verticality, PE, we are indeed aligned!!!! 😀

  • With a possibility of extra time TA– think I’d rather see Mkhi starting and Danny to take the baton later.


  • Not so sure, JW. It depends how much we need a goal after 60-70 minutes. Mkhi is probably a better supersub, as in taking that one chance that’ll come our way. Welbz, not my favourite player, will be able to tire the defence out with his running with and without the ball which may be key to cracking the defence. But starting Mkhi is also attractive in terms of playing those triangles on the wings and having accurate fire-power in the box…. So agree and disagree with you hahahaha 😀

  • jw, agreed. It wouldave been nice to have Eln around. If we needed to close shop with possession he takes center stage.

  • TA, good question.
    Greater vertically simply require reducing the backwards and sideways passes for forward passes. Transition becomes quicker but chances of turnover increases. Each turnover gives opposition opportunity to push out opening up. It has it’s downs but on the evidence of their performance sitting deep, a bit of a see-saw becomes preferable.

    So less backwards and sideways passing for forwsrd passing and more penitrative passing and more line breaking runs. Riskier forward play (Sanchez kind of passes). Again to interprete too rigidly.

  • thanks for explaining, PE. I think this reflects your post-game comments from last Thursday. I can see what you mean but yet I don’t think that is the best way forward, as it would leave us more vulnerable than it would leave them vulnerable. It is quite important that we control the game in their half as much as possible imo.

    Having said that, I reckon we started the game with your ‘verticality’ and we got AM bamboozled by it… until the sending off that is. From then on they sat deep and in panzer-positions and it was hard to dislodge them. IWe have to play with patience again but perhaps shoot at goal quicker rather than look for the perfect ball every time…

    For me it is about:
    1) control game in their half
    2) combine patience with periods of intensity – quick passing triangles to get behind the defence
    3) shoot on goal a bit quicker rather than try to create the perfect chance
    4) pray for similar luck as AM had in the home match
    5) keep going for 90+ minutes
    6) do the shirt proud
    7) do Wenger proud
    8) do the fans proud

  • I’d prefer a top agressive front to start. That means Mkhi starts. He did 72 min against Manu and am confident he’ll do 90min at Wanda. The subs would depend on the the state of the game.

  • TA, your 2- 8 perfect.
    No. 1 …. debatable. That’s exactly what they love. That’s exactly how they are able to terrorize La Liga. That’s exactly why the odds are in their favour. That’s exactly why they have not conceded at home for 12 games ( is it running?).

  • Yes TA.. Why not..
    I said according to his last game against MU.. He’s bad.. Hehehe..
    If Wilshere can’t do Xhaka rule better than we should play with 3 CBs..

    Einstein said.. If we want a different result but did the same thing again and again.. It’s call Insanity.. Hehehe..

  • jw,
    Thanks. 12 consecutive clean sheets at home is frightening. Thats why we need 9 moves ahead to have a chance of checkmating them.

    On the other hand 12 in a row can be a statistical quack. So expect a regression to the mean starting Thursday. 2 goals to Arse.

  • PE, nr.1 is exactly what we love and are best at. Anything else does not work for us, and we have to attack to get the goal anyway. May as well stick to what we are good at and then do it really, really well. We can do it. 🙂

  • Don’t recall the source– but right after the 1-1 was finished– Jack stated explicitly: ‘we’ll score’. And we did have opportunities prior to the red card. Pretty sure that’s were he’s coming from too.


  • TA, “Mkhi more aggressive than Welbz” … that’s a technical use of the word ‘ aggressive’. Mkhi’s play shows so much more hunger for the end product. Very much like Alexis in that respect though less individualistic. If you check Mkhi’s pass success rate it’s not impressive (Sanchez’s is poorer) but it can be a marker of ones eagerness (aggressiveness) for the end product

    Klopp’s Dortmond was ‘verticality backed by gengen pressing’. It made the pair of Mkhi and Auba unplayable. If we are to insist on slow horizontal build up as opposed to greater verticality, Auba would end up a flop in Arsenal.

  • Okay PE, thanks. I am not convinced Welbz is less aggressive but there you go.

    Auba is versatile imo and can play in more than one system, but let’s see what next season brings for and from him.

  • TA, when I advocate greater verticality am actually asking that we attack more directly, more ferociously. Ideally it should go with high pressing because of its greater turnovers. That’s the part I doubt if we are drilled on.

    But the bottom line of the tactical battle is that allowing AM to sit back MAKES THEM SUPER.

    At the Emirate because they were one man down they sacrificed the second striker and so lost their offensive potency. It became safer for us to attack with less fear of our rear. Against 11 men is a totally different kettle of fish. ALL THESE DOES NOT MEAN WE CANNOT BEAT THEM WITH OUR SLOW HORIZONTAL BUILD UP. Just good to weigh up different chances.

  • Agreed, PE. I like to think that if we had been a bit sharper and had had a bit more luck, we would have scored one or two more goals last Thursday. So that is what I believe in for next leg, whether we play ten or eleven players 🙂

  • @ TA …. “Agreed, PE. I like to think that if we had been a bit sharper and had had a bit more luck, we would have scored one or two more goals last Thursday. So that is what I believe in for next leg, whether we play ten or eleven players 🙂”

    Spot on TA.
    I fear that some of these my technical jargons can covey the wrong picture.
    Movement from back to front is vertical. It can be faster (overall/averagely) or slower (overall/averagely).
    So greater verticality simply means transitioning the ball quicker i.e. LESS backwards passes, LESS sideways passes but MORE forwards passes AND/OR faster passing.

    Backwards passes 15% instead of 20% of total passes.
    Sideways passes 25% instead of 30% of total passes.
    Forwards passes 60% instead of 50% of total passes

    The team maintains its character only increasing its directness in the attempt to stretch the field some more. So no big gulf between how we see it.
    Please pardon my inability to get myself easily understood.

  • Hi all..
    Although tonight Munchen didn’t through, but they fight as a Champion..
    We can also do it against ATM on Thursday..
    Attack all out.. Don’t give them time to breathe..
    And with :
    Ramsey – Wilshere – Welbeck – Ozil – Mhkitaryan and Lacazette.. We will give them no mercy.. Hehehe..

  • Bayern,imo, were the better side in both ties. The football gods always have a say.
    I expect Liv to qualify.with the 5-2 aggregate lead.They say that lightening does not strike twice.
    Real might have great individuals but not a great team. I give the cup to Liv.

  • Chan, I can see that Xhaka is missing in your short list. He remains our best deep sitting midfielder available.
    Even with the 3-man CB you advocate, I’d play him ahead of Jack particularly against AM that do not high press. I rate Xhaka the best passer in our team and he has a better defensive presence than Jack. In terms of defensive athleticism which is his weakest point, Jack is not much better.

  • Yes PE.. I know..
    For me now.. Wilshere or Xhaka that’s the question..
    It can’t be Ramsey or Xhaka.. Hehehe..
    Wilshere did great last game.. And rest more than Xhaka.. So he is my choice..

    If the problem is our defense.. Then put more defenders in the back..
    But as we all knew what will happened.. It would be a big surprise if Wenger play 3 CBs.. Hehehe..
    So after watching Munchen against Madrid.. I think what we should do is go attack..

    Yes we can play a regular players with Xhaka Ramsey and Wilshere in the middle.. But with it we must sacrifice Welbeck or Mhkitaryan..
    I think this time we must not do that.. Playing all of them to attack..
    Just put a more defensive CB.. If Mustafi seem not the right man, change it with other..
    We have Mavropanos.. We also have Niles.. We can switch Monreal in the CB position also..

    Sometime we must dare to do the different way to win.. Hehehe.. VCC

  • Btw.. Will we see Cazorla in our team for ATM tomorrow.. Hehehe.. Missed him a lot..

  • PE, no worries my friend. We are talking about complex stuff and we are not sitting opposite of each other drinking a pint or two to ease the tactical musings. 🙂

    I reckon we will win the game if we can get behind their defence from the sides. We can do that through quick turnovers, triangular passing or a quality diagonal cross from a bit deeper. I wonder who is ideal for this, it starts with an ‘X’ followed by ‘haka’ 😉

  • PE, TA, we still need a strong DM. If Elneny is available I will start him in-between Rambo and Xhaka, with Jacko up front with the 3 strikers.

    Maybe start Mavropanos again in defense alongside Kos?

  • TA, that would have been it! Bet that I wouldave kept asking, you have yet another one, on me.

    Valid tactics .. that. Draw them to the center with pretty triangles. Our X-man diagonals it. Laca. Mkhi, Rambo in the arrival lounge of the box awaiting it. I miss OG.

  • njk, sorry no strong DM, no Elneny. So we put Xhaka at the center.

    Mavro? He looks promising but we haven’t seen him enough to gamble it in the biggest match of our season, me thinks.

  • PE, but I wouldn’t risk it for Mustafi to make anymore mistakes. This is a game where you want everyone to make as less mistakes as possible.

    So i will take whoever is on form at the moment.

  • Club Nationality
    1. Petr Cech. Arsenal. Czech Republic 6
    2. Granit Xhaka Arsenal Switzerland. 3
    3. Shkodran Mustafi Arsenal Germany. 2
    4. Héctor Bellerín Arsenal Spain. 1
    4. Laurent Koscielny Arsenal France. 1
    4. Per Mertesacker Arsenal Germany 1
    4. Nacho Monreal Arsenal Spain. 1
    8. Mesut Özil Arsenal Arsenal Germany 0

    Mustafi is at 2 errors that led to goals. The rest of the back line at one each. Poor enough but Mustafi’s is overblown in our minds. He is more valuable to us than Kos who now plays approx every other game. Defenders mature more slowly. We should give him more time.

  • Hey PE, I could only read your post very quickly yesterday–lots to do, including making up for time wasted blogging the day before… Didn’t even get to see the CL semi. Today, I hope to be around to watch Salah vs his former club…

    I like how you’re suggesting that we shouldn’t take your tactical suggestions too rigidly…which is good because, as always it seems, I disagree with what you’re saying (I think). In fact, last Thursday, I was able to muster up some hope for the return leg by thinking (more or less…) the exact opposite, because, in my view, with the scoreline as it is, we must (or get to…) play the same sort of game as we did in the first leg…though, of course, we must do so more effectively.

    The 1-1 scoreline means (obviously) that we must score a goal. With our bench essentially non-existent–and Atleti possessing a goal-keeper we’d rather not face in a penalty shootout, we really need to score a second goal so that there’s no chance the game might go to extra time.

    So, in the end, I’m with those (or TA, at least as I interpret his views…) that we do what we did last Thursday and just hope for better things, you know, scoring goals down their end and keeping them out at ours… Simples…

    And, I’ll go a step further and create even more disagreement with PE… It’s Cech in goal all the way for me… (And Mkhi to start over one of the Englishmen, please…)

    Will we see those changes? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, I feel like our chances are (extremely) slim–just like our manager’s physique… Oh well, either way we “win.” Obviously we’d prefer getting to the final, but, if we don’t, it just makes it all the clearer that the change in management was the right call…and the new guy will have less upon his shoulders what with Ropy League football (again) next season…

    Good time to be a Gooner, no?…

  • Oh, an administrative note… PE, I don’t think you should start sending me your posts again… I was just trying to let TA know why I hadn’t put out your ManU preview… Really, I’m trying to wean myself off this Arsenal blogging stuff, though, of course, I’m awfully fond of BKesque and the fine folks who comprise the community here…

    Including… J-Dub…whose link about the hoops I just read…Indeed, now I need that 2nd espresso… No, it was long but it’s good stuff and a nice guide for helping me watch your team. Plus, all the mental stuff is spot on…Believe it or not, but I was a big talker in my day, always trying to encourage my teammates while looking to, er, plant the seeds of doubt in my opponent’s minds… 😀

    This is why I believe that a team needs “full support,” (from all corners–and not supporters, or worse yet, players–who can also “win” if their personal narratives are fulfilled). Wenger has already said it about tomorrow’s match and it’s a(nother) reason I doubt we’ll see any tactical shifts. As he said after the first leg, “We know we can score from anywhere. What matters is that we go there with the belief to do it.”

  • HT–
    Pelicans could have won that game last night. Good example that your go-to scorer cannot be a low-post player in today’s game.

    May have to watch the match later (DVRd) after work today.
    But I’ve actually got a pretty good feeling about this one. Arsenal have gone into several away stadia in the EL and done well.

    I have a close friend who is a die-hard hockey fan (Flyers)– who is always preaching to his team (through the TV) to just shoot the puck on goal. Let it fly. Good things can happen when you do.

    I’m of the same mind today. Let it fly.
    We get the fortuitous bounces or deflections today–


  • J-Dub… I’m confused… We must’ve been watching different games, or maybe that’s the game you DVR’d?… NO played very well and with as much intensity as they’ve got (and our 2 key shooting players who started, KD & KT had their struggles over some stretches) but it didn’t seem overly close, albeit a bit brain-farty at the end to make the scoreline as flattering as it was… The early game was quite the highway robbery up there in Canada, I thought…

    Again, I’m not sure what match you’re talking about re: DVR or even about bounces and deflections… Arsenal play tomorrow night, right? (That said, you know you’re living right when you’re not sure what day of the week it is… 🙂 )

    If you’re talking about Arsenal, sorry, but I don’t have any sort of good feeling about our trip to Madrid…and (please) don’t get me started on the fans who yell shoot at players on the ball 40 yds out…though I agree about fortuitous bounces… If ANY (football) team plays their best AND gets those (and the gods, er, refs, favor them)–they can prevail…

    Even Arsenal…

  • Hi JK.. I Agreed with you.. Whoever on form must start.. And so the opposite.. It is means competition..
    If we make a habit that whoever make an error in his last game will be out for the other game.. That’s make competition alive..
    If we keep playing the same guys.. Whatever he did.. Bad or worse.. We don’t fair to the other guys.. Hehehe..

    But JK.. I think Mustafi did okay in his last game.. Slipped is nothing to do with performance.. It’s about lucky or unlucky.. Just like Ulreich did last night.. So unlucky.. Hehehe..

  • Thanks HT– I’ve gained a day! A new phone system install has me sideways.

    The ‘put the ball on goal’ idea is in juxtaposition to ‘making the perfect pass/taking only a clear shot’. Seems there aren’t any of those variety– that Oblak isn’t prepped for.

    So? Put the ball on goal– without regard to –what body part– whoever — might score with.
    Lord knows– how many weird goals we’ve been on the-other-end-of this season.
    We’re due some positive weirdness.


    Wait. So, because GSW shooters missed shots– has nothing to do with Pelicans physicality?
    Nor, the lucky 3-pointer to end the first half being the lead they held until mid 4th quarter?
    Or A. Davis taking 24 shots inside with no free throws?

    Though agreed– the CLE win was larceny.


  • Henry (and JK)… Who–of those who are fit enough to play–and good enough–are (or aren’t) in form?… Also, I might need a list of “errors” vs “unlucky events” so I can tell them apart… Overall, it seems to me that sending kids who did OK in a dead rubber match (ManU on Sunday), into a match with MASSIVE consequences isn’t the wisest maneuver…

    That said, you guys have me beat, two keyboards to one…

    J-Dub… “We’re due…” That I will agree with…

    Atleti, I thought were about the calmest group defending against us I can remember for a very, very long time and Oblak didn’t actually make any “lucky” saves even if he made that very classy one. The calmness shows when defenders don’t have to open the 5-hole (between their legs) by racing over to cover our guys at the point.

    I doubt it will happen, but I’d start with Mkhi (who scored at OT via the nut-meg)… Following Henry & JK’s logic, I’m still angered at DW for not anticipating Lacazette’s tight cross that (even) he would have put on target, likely before (even) Oblak could have gotten in position to block it. Drop him, I say… Or think of him as a guy who can do 20 mins plus extra time and take a pen, if need be…

    On the hoops (which I now gather you did watch)… Indeed a very physical game, with the refs (as you point out re: the Uni-brow) taking the night off (allowing for a lot of blocks and steals and a super speedy pace, but points totals that weren’t that high, considering)… NO did play some strong defense in stretches, esp. in the spots where Steph wasn’t playing. The interesting thing about that article is that GSW does rely upon the mid-range twos (from KD & KT…and those sweet little runners from Steph…at least to help set up the three point game) which your coach seems to hate. It’ll be interesting, that’s for sure, and they’re on a collision course. The (current) opposition teams gave too much to win their first rounds, IMO. If either get a game, I’ll be surprised…

  • HT–
    Now for something completely different.
    Last night the Astros played the Yankees. ‘Stros ace Justin Verlander went 8 scoreless innings striking-out 14. A career performance. Closer Ken Giles enters the 9th (having struck out the side Monday night in a 2-1 win). Facing the same hitters– he gets torched for a single, a double, and a 3-run homer.

    As he’s removed from the game– he heads for the dugout– obviously p!ssed-off at himself.

    And punches himself in the face. You read that right.
    Punched himself.
    In the face:

    He will never live that down.
    Bound to become a long-used internet meme.


  • That’s funny… It was a bit of glancing blow, however, seeing as he wasn’t really able to extend his arm fully… Slamming those bats around–if not for some fortuitous bounces–could really do some damage… 🙂

  • Missed the Liverpool goal but just got home in time to see the, er, 2nd Liverpool goal, for Roma…Who still need 3…

    Anybody around and watching?…

  • Nobody, I guess… And Pool score from a corner so this one is over…

  • They need 4 just to get to pens… and, according to they were 94% favorites to make the final, before the match began (I’m pretty sure)…

    On the other hand, Atletico-Arsenal are at 67-33%, approximately the same odds going into the last US presidential election… That guy, however, might’ve had some help from the refs… 😉

    By the way, TA, I’m pretty sure it’s this ^^ sorta talk that keeps JNYC away… Or maybe he’s just boycotting Arsenal now that they’re removing the manager 😀 … Have any of those who frequent other sites seen (or heard from) him?

  • “That guy, however, might’ve had some help from the refs…”
    Typo? Pretty sure you meant ‘reds’? 🙂


  • Trying to make some calls here… Roma get another but it’s too late…

    I’m of the mind that the reds have strong influence… in politics and football… kinda like… refs… So, typo or not, we’re both correct… 😀 😦

  • VERY LATE PEN… but it won’t count double, I fear…

  • Not very pretty, but they’re through…

    Seems a nice thing, you know, never having to walk alone…

    (By the way, there’s a pretty excellent–thus far–documentary on Elvis…Presley, not “from hell”…on HBO I think…Seen a bit, taping the rest…)

  • Coming back from Easterns in ’87– one of our players was made to change shirts by airport security– during a stopover in Memphis.


  • 17ht.. You all knew that I am not a fans of Wilshere.. but I must say that for the sake of the team.. whoever played better must be on the starting line.. As simple as that.
    And we have another players.. If we just open our eyes.. hehehe..

    And for the ‘kid’ word.. Brazil won’t won the World Cup.. if not because of the kid call Pele.. hehehe..
    Ages is just a number.. isn’t it..??

  • Sure Henry, age IS just a number…which is something one tries to tell oneself more and more as the number gets larger… 😮

    When you mention Pele, my first thought is that the game has changed… More money = more talent (at the top), (most) everybody working harder, higher quality football, etc., etc. Who was the last teenager to take the world by storm…Leo Messi, I think we’d have to say…and many believe he’s (even) better than Pele…

    Mavro definitely impressed–I thought Chambers had a good game too–and I bet both are in the first team next season. Holding on improved terms (so he’d be pricey if we sold him) seems like he might be the odd man out, esp. if we buy a CB this summer… Let’s not forget, however, that Arsenal LOST that match… Is it OK if we lose again tomorrow night?…

    Who knows… Maybe the new guy (manager) will be more Moo than AW… You know, bent on tearing down, er, testing, the confidence of his players, rather than trying to protect and cultivate it… We shall see. Big match tomorrow and regardless, since we won’t play the guys you would, win or lose, YOU still win… What could be lovelier?…

  • It’s a nice sunny, if breezy day over here in Blighty, well southern blighty, I can’t speak for how the weather is up there among the Picts and Scots, probably raining.

    Tonight’s game has echos for me of the 1980 CWC S/F vs Juventus, 38 years ago, when I was a young, sprightly fellow, yea Gods, how time flies.

    Anyway, Juve had got a creditable if contentious draw at Highbury, where a horror tackle on David O’Leary left us fearing that he’d had his leg broken. His assailant escaped with a yellow card although they did eventually have a player sent off.
    Arsenal then had to face a difficult is not impossible visit to the Stadio Comunale (I think it was or was it the Stadio Alpi..?) for the last rites.

    A young chap by the name of Paul Vaessen, English born but of Anglo-Belgie stock, scored a late winner to take us to the Final, ironically in Belgium, and shock the football world.
    I think that was the first time an English club had beaten Juventus on their own ground in european competition.

    The point is, Juventus only needed a 0-0 draw but didn’t know whether to stick or twist on the night, got caught up by the fear of conceding, decided to protect what they had and got mugged.
    It was hilarious and exactly what they deserved after their antics in the 1st leg.
    I’m sure that you remember all the above as fondly as I do Retsub…

    So, will Atletico fall into the same trap, they’re by nature a defensive, cautious and cynical team, the image of their Argentinian manager?

    Therefore I wonder if Arsene will be pragmatic for once, go with 3 at the back, look to keep things tight and maybe switch to a back four later in the game, looking for a 1-0…?

    Probably not, but there ya go.

    Ok, I’ve gotta mow the lawn…

  • “Tonight’s game has echos for me of the 1980 CWC S/F vs Juventus, 38 years ago, when I was a young, sprightly fellow, yea Gods, how time flies.”

    Poetic Kev. Thought I’d stumbled upon page-one of your novel. 😉
    (C’mon retsub, weigh with a flourish today too!)

    Do you think Kev, that Simeone has seen that movie too? Does Ranting Diego play the visionary– and convince his squad with an historic polemic against their team’s strategic strength? Or revert to type– and steel his squad with an expected and stoic pragmatism; to march head-on into Arsenal’s guns?

    ‘Damn the artillery’. Would be my guess. I see a streak of bull-headed resolution in the manager, so bristling with overconfidence– that he would send his troops forth into the grinder. Holding the line is the game. Attrition the means.

    Arsene (a bard’s name, if ever t’were!) should stiffen his attack’s resolve. Borrow the words if need be. But have his boys know this may be the last real battle they’ll fight under his hand.

    “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
    Or close the wall up with our English dead.
    In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
    As modest stillness and humility:
    But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
    Then imitate the action of the tiger;
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
    Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;”

    ~ W.Shakespeare / Henry V

    The goal (1 to the nil!) to fight again for club and coach.


  • Who’a, hold on there pardner, that was one hell of a post from over there JW, you’ve raised the bar buddy.

    Not sure that I can match it, it soared like a frisbee, disappearing into the sunset like Clint Eastwood, smoking a cheroot as he gunned downed a few dozen Italian-Mexicans, for a few dollars more.

    Arsene is the man with no name, Simeone is the bad guy, the bandito of this story, the referee is the man who has the storybook ending in his hands, the good, the bad and the ugly…

  • It would be such a great thing if Wenger could leave Arsenal on a high note, putting his last…no, penultimate bullets in aggressive Simeone (in a movie, they would put it like this – no direct bullet in Simeone, just a hit in the wheel of his coach that destroys the said coach and Wenger wins). Then, with the last bullet, Wenger beats Marseille and wins the last big prize as an Arsenal manager.

  • Good prompts PE. Like Kev above I wonder if we might set up prudently for the start tonight. Yes we need to score. But we aren’t chasing a 3 goal gap or anything requiring us to be reckless. Were he fit I would be favouring Elneny in a sweeper role as part of the double pivot, allowing Rambo to push forward. This would mean Jack on the bench. I’m wondering if we’ve seen enough of Maitland Niles now to think he might do a similar job?

    Laca, Ozil, Mkhi and Rambo (all starters in my book) is a pretty strong attack that we should have some confidence in being able to bring us at least one goal. Am I wrong in that? But our Achilles heel has been and remains the defence. So do we need two play makers in the pivot or would it not be prudent to have one at least who knows how to defend and has some pace?

    This would mean we had Danny, Jack, Kola plus defensive options left on the bench if we needed it. I’m torn about Danny. I like the view of him being part of a strong press to begin with. But if this means leaving Mkhi on the bench when he is fresh and in form it seems a high price. Arsene does value Danny it’s clear, so the choice looks to be in the balance. It’s been interesting hearing him reflect on the highlights in Europe, when he has put his faith in young talent and been rewarded. Will he do so again at all tonight, or stick with the plan A? A part of me would love to see him hold true to those convictions in youth and show belief in a young player who he feels is ready. AMN would be my punt if he does.

  • Kev, jw…… looks like we are going to see poetry at the Wanda tonight. Thanks for the foretaste …..

  • Always did enjoy a good, old-fashioned, shoot’em-up-Cazuela-Western flic anyway!
    Let’s run with it!



  • AB, I very much like M-Niles. But at the moment I prefer him in the more forward areas of the MF. He has defensive skills including athleticism, but I feel he’s got more growing to do in defensive awareness. For today I think Wenger would opt for experience. It’s a very big occassion for us.

  • I’m waiting on your next post PE, I guess that Total has got in back at the ranch.

    Ok, local elections so I’m off to vote then down to my sons as he’s got BT Sport. 😉

    See you cowboys later.

  • A fish called Wanda
    Stank the place out
    As cute as a bamboo-eating panda
    Mesut sorted That Defence out
    The sweetest of passes slipped through to Ramboo, Danny and Lacazette
    In no time the sorry Wanda Warriors found three juiciest fishes in the final net

  • Ok TA– game on!

    There once wuzza 10 named Ozil,
    Whom many decried as a nozzle.
    In Madrid he did trigger
    Attack with such vigor
    Th’ Atleti couldn’t solve Mesut’s puzzle. 😉


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