I am not in the habit of writing match previews per say. However the events of Sunday and the magnitude of the Swansea replay, within the context of the season compel me to type a few thoughts. The title may give you a hint as I wrote a similar piece after our horror show at Valley Parade. We exited the League Cup with a pathetic whimper of a performance when everyone had thought we would be beating Bradford with significant ease. I even had a bet via Bonus Betting on us beating Bradford and going on to win the league cup I was so confident. That night was up there with the biggest let downs and for the sake of all that is great about Arsenal we CANNOT do the same in the FA Cup.
This is not a long piece as the message I wish to convey is fairly basic on this occasion. It is not about formations but more about tactics for the match and who should and should not be selected to start for Arsenal and entrusted with the task on this huge night.
Tomorrow night is for me all about passion for the shirt, work rate for 90 minutes and consequently fitness. We already know, and this is a painfully shocking admission, that we cannot out pass Swansea to win this match. Our last few matches against them have demonstrated that very clearly. That is not to say the team selected should not play or use passing football, but there are 2 important variations, without which we WILL NOT emerge victorious. Firstly we MUST increase the tempo of our passing game and secondly we MUST close them down high up the pitch consistently and stifle their attacks at source. Well that is simple surely?
Yes it is simple but we must select the players for are capable physically to do it and more importantly willing to work hard enough for 90 minutes, or more to do it. Well surely this is the very least we expect from a professional pulling on the mighty Red and White shirt and wearing the cannon on their chest? Yes it bloody well is but have we been getting it from everyone? No we most surely have not.
So what is the solution and how do we ensure we get what we deserve as fans, whether we are there on the night or watching around the globe? How do we ensure that an Arsenal home win is a safe bet? As I sit here hammering the keyboard in frustration my solution is very simple. Firstly drop players for tomorrow night who have not shown the right level of commitment of late or who look too tired or jaded to battle and run for 90 minutes. Secondly select starting players who are 100% committed to Arsenal and are fit enough and are willing to play the fast passing and pressing game I describe. In short select as many Gooners as possible and those who have shown in the recent past or over many years that they will spit blood to ensure Arsenal get across the line in big games.
So those who should certainly not play on Wednesday evening from the outset are Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla. I am not going to dwell on this as I am not condemning their ability of future at the club, but neither look ready for a battle or seem to have the fitness/commitment for the tactics and game plan I have described right now. Both have been passengers for too long periods in recent games and Arsenal cannot carry anyone on a bitter night with our season at stake. Winter breaks from previous seasons may offer some small justification.
The next one is more about what Carl Jenkinson will bring than what Sagna is lacking. Jenkinson is a Gooner through and through must be absolutely desperate to play having been sidelined the past few weeks. Jenkinson is not a better full back than Bac but he will run all night will overlap more and has better crossing ability. Swansea’s left back Ben Davies is young and inexperienced and can be got at and I just feel Jenko will give him a tougher time.
We have no choice in reality in central defence but I will tell you now if Johan Djourou were still at the Emirates I would have him in the starting eleven in a flash. That is how disillusioned I am with those who remain! So we have a slower than slow giant who cannot win the ball in the air when the opposition crosses, but who is an intelligent reader of the game, alongside our fast skipper who can jump and win the ball in the air and tackle but presently has the positional sense of a school boy.
From here on in it is mostly about our core of British talent committed to the club. Jenko and Gibbs are the fullbacks and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere and Ramsey should feature. Ramsey has always made up for in effort what he has lacked in confidence or technique and we have to allow for his continual ill-luck at being played out of position. In addition two of our long standing professionals if match fit must feature. There will be those who would happily have seen the back of Rosicky and Diaby by now and of course this is understandable. However I am equally sure none who question their commitment to the Arsenal cause when they are fit to play. Both must be dying to get out there and prove their worth. I was one of those who braved the cold night in Bradford where the press singled out Ox and Jack as the only 2 players to come out with any credit. Quite frankly all of them got it wrong as Little Mozart did more in his time on the pitch than anyone and why Wenger has overlooked him since is a mystery.
So the 5 midfield places assuming Wenger stuns us all and selects the ‘not expected by anyone’ 4231 formation, and matched Swansea, go to Ox, Abou, Rambo, Jack and TR7. This just leaves the striking berth and quite frankly I can see arguments for both but I will go with Walcott and have Giroud as plan B. However I do feel Olivier will have an important role to play if this predominantly young and energetic team do their job and wear down Swansea.
I found the 11 semi self selecting based on my own prescribed criterion and tactics but a few of the positions are tricky. It is difficult because Ramsay and Rosicky are both most effective as CAM. However I do see them as interchangeable much in the way Benayoun and Rosicky were at the end of last term. The other dilemma is between Diaby and Wilshere when it comes to who should sit deepest in the Arteta role. I am sure in normal circumstances most would feel Jack more effective, but I am suggesting Diaby sit for 2 reasons. Firstly, after a long spell out and a second match so few days after the last, Abou will expend slightly less energy in the DM role. He does not enjoy it as much but as we saw in WC 201o for France he can do it. Secondly and most critically for tactical reasons because if Swansea line up as anticipated, his height will be required against Michu. Wilshere v Michu would be a mis-match and that personal dual will be key to the match outcome.
So there you have it and here is my team to start against Swansea. A team I feel well equipped to press the Swansea players in possession and to win the ball back early. A team full of hungry players wanting to prove themselves and a team of players, Walcott one assumes, committed to the cannon.
This is the chance Ramsey has been waiting for and all 5 midfielders are quick passers and have the engines required to press the opposition from the off to the final whistle. The interchange between Ox, Roza and Rambo will be crucial when we are on the attack. The positions should be fluid and interchangeable when we move forward and disciplined and compact to win the ball back early when we lose possession. Should be chose at any point to bring Giroud into the fray we can easily play him up front with Theo and any of Rambo, Ox or TR7 can play right and left midfield in a 4 as described in my previous blog.
NB: IF Rosicky as I hear might be unfit I would consider Eisfeld.
This side will have the passion, pace and verve to overcome the Swans and will leave Lukas and Santi fresh to renew their successful acquaintance with Chelsea and Liverpool.
Until next time thanks for reading.
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