Arsene Wenger’s pre-game presser has left me scratching my head about the tactics that will be employed against Leicester City.
It looks like he will play into the opposition’s hand, which could be suicidal should Leicester take the lead.
Here is what the manager said on Arsenal.com about the Foxes :
“There is an evolution in their game. They are more cautious at the moment. They play a lot in their final third and come out very quickly.
“Look at the number of direct balls from their half to the opponents’ half. They are higher than anyone else because they have Vardy on his way straight away when they win the ball – they do it very well.
“They suck you in and go very quickly in the opponents’ half. And then he makes a statement about how the Arsenal will play.
“We will try of course to stop their counter-attacking. But at home you have to express your strengths and our strength is to have the ball. We have to try to express our strengths and as well try to stop them from hitting us on the break.”
So what are Leicester’s strong points these days? Counter attacking and hitting the opponent on the break. They are strong in attacking transitions.
Guess what, Arsenal are not very good in defensive transitions, with huge holes in midfield and the lone defensive midfielder often chasing shadows.
Are Arsenal really that good with possession? Is there really a lot of off-the-ball movement, linking play between two or three players to create, and find, space against a team defending deep into their defensive third?
While it is obviously the natural home gameplan to have possession, there is a need to have the right balance to make sure Leicester do not have acres of space in front of them when they win the ball back.
One of the options would be to press as soon as the ball is lost to force a turnover and therefore prevent the vertical pass behind the defenders back but I have never seen Arsenal employ that kind of tactic.
The team’s defensive shape has always looked uncertain to me throughout the years.
The other option, while keeping the possession tactic, is to play a proper 4-2-3-1 systemen rather than the usual 4-1-4-1 that usually transforms into a weird attacking 2-1-2-5 system that leaves plenty of holes everywhere.
Having two number 6 types (defensive mid) rather than a 6 and a 8 (box-to-box) would give the team a solid defensive platform when the team goes into attacking mode with the full-back playing too high and many players wandering around in a no-man’s land.
Therefore, should Giroud be selected up front due to his ball holding and heading quality rather than Walcott and his pace, I think the following starting 11 would make sense in order to keep the teams balance while still having four attacking players in attacking mode joined by one of the full-back.
Personally, I’d opt for Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker (or Gabriel), Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Walcott or Oxlade Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez, and Giroud. A solid, but at the same creative, attacking lineup going for the win without putting themselves at excessive risk against a counter attacking side.