How can we get the best out of Arsenal’s players?

There has been much recent debate on AA regarding systems and formations. Most of that is centred around our so called 4-3-3 system and how effective it is, and whether we would be better served employing a different system. Firstly I think the reason that we are debating it so much recently is because our performances and results have not been good enough. If we were currently sitting top of the table with some scintillating performances under our belt then we would likely not be talking about this topic nearly so much, if at all. Unfortunately that has not been the case recently and therefore the fine and educated readers of AA often feel the need to analyse and attempt to identify the reasons for our recent shortcomings.

Systems and formations are just one area that some of the Arsenal faithful feel to be the cause of us not performing so well recently. Many may alternatively feel that the main problem is that we don’t play our players in their best positions in the chosen system. Others may feel that we don’t effectively drill and instruct our players well enough, especially where the defence is concerned. It may also be that we have a lot of new players getting to know each other and are still having to adapt to new team mates and a different way of playing.

I know some fans will feel that we are just in that adaptation period and that once these players have developed a better understanding of each other that we will fire on all cylinders. Others would dismiss most of the above and reach the more simple conclusion that it is more about the players and the level of quality that we have within the squad and that systems have very little to do with it.

I actually agree with most of the above points and I more often than not find myself agreeing with the opinions of the many AA’ers on all of these issues. Micky’s recent post on how to bring out the best in Podolski triggered some interesting debates about some of these issues. The question for me is are some of these points more relevant than others? That is difficult to answer. For myself I would currently favour the combined effect of both the chosen formation, and which players are being played where in that formation, as having possibly the biggest impact on some of our more lacklustre performances, and that is why I will talk mostly about those points in this post.

The reason I feel strongly that, with the current Arsenal squad, it is more important for us to be adaptable in our formation is because we are not at the front of the queue in the transfer market to cherry pick the best players.

Our manager still admirably acquires some great bargains but they are often individually a level below what our rivals are able to get. For me it then becomes more important for the sum of all the parts to be greater than the individual, and that means getting the best out of the players, as a team, which I feel means we have to play the correct system with the right players in the right positions to get the strongest possible team performance.

I don’t actually really champion one system over another, but I feel there are times that we should be able to change the formation if things are not working out. For me the chosen formation should represent who we have available and what opposition we are playing and their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Before you think that this will descend into a spew of technical drivel, with more number combinations than the infamous Tuesday night Clacton-on-Sea blue rinse bingo bonanza, I hope I can pleasantly surprise those of you that would normally consider these discussions to be the most powerful cure to insomnia. I am hoping to firstly get across a thought process that I have had for a while which actually attempts to completely simplify the subject and then look at what may be right or wrong with the current formations we use. Whether my thoughts on the matter should be considered in any way correct I will leave up to the esteemed fellows on this site.

I want to start by asking a question that may prove slightly controversial and that some may agree with and some disagree with. That question is :-

“Are we being overcomplicated when we talk about systems and formations and is it in reality far more simple?”

Many systems and formations are often mentioned which are felt may potentially be more effective for us. The greatest variety of formations seems to come from those that start with a flat back 4. I will have missed some out, but amongst the different formations often mentioned would be the following :-








I have often heard coaches and ex-pros state that football is actually an easy game that is often made to look overcomplicated. Maybe this is in part due to the modern era of the professional game, where the studio analysis is thrashed to death by the pundits and so called experts. If one were being cynical you could form the opinion that these multitudes of formations are just a tool for them, to make themselves seem more knowledgeable and important, and therefore justify their huge salaries.

With this in mind it leads me to the next question that I would like to fling open for discussion, which is :-

“Are there in reality only 2 main systems to choose from, and after that it is all about the quality of players and types of players being employed within that system, and where within that system they are being played?”

When choosing a formation could it be that maybe the only basic choice a manager needs to make is whether to start with a defensive back 3 or a back 4, and that this then dictates one of only 2 main systems. I believe it could be argued that if you start with a back 4, then after that is decided it is only the types of players playing in certain positions that will dictate if it shapes up more as a 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 4-4-2 or any one of the other connotations. Micky’s recent post threw up some debates on this and I noticed that some views were that, once the game is under-way, there is a fluid interchange of players and that they don’t remain lined up in any one rigid formation. I would agree with this view and feel that what makes the formation look more like one particular system or the other, as the game unfolds, are the types of players that are being played in the various areas of the pitch. The way the opposition sets up and their strengths and weaknesses in certain parts of their team will possibly also dictate how our formation ends up looking once the game is in mid flow.

I will try and give a couple of examples to back this argument and leave it for you all to decide if you agree or not. I would like to compare a past great Arsenal side to today’s side. I will not list the back 4 players specifically as both teams are starting with a flat back 4, and I will focus more on the 6 players comprising the midfield through the attack. It could look as follows :-



Ljunberg Vieira Gilberto Pires





Arteta Wilshere


Ramsey Podolski


The past team lines up in the classic 4-4-2 with DB in the number 10 / withdrawn strikers role. The current team are lining up in the favoured 4-3-3 formation that we have witnessed many times this season. If we were, however, looking at both of these teams in a hypothetical game, what happens if with the past team Pires and Ljunberg push up the pitch and come inside a little and at the same time DB has pulled slightly deeper into midfield to get more on the ball. For me then the shape would more resemble our current 4-3-3. If in the current team Podolski and Ramsey start playing deeper and wider and at the same time Santi has pushed up closer to Giroud then the current team would shape up more as a 4-4-2. If Santi remains a bit deeper as well then it would shape up more like a 4-5-1. If Wilshere and Arteta remain slightly deeper with Ramsey, Santi and Podolski slightly higher then is that a 4-2-3-1? And so on and so on, I feel you could continuously tweak these interchanging positions and come up with any number of formations.

So the question is that when you start with a back 4 are you actually only playing one system that will potentially only look different based on the type of players in the various positions, and does the formation only really change if you switch to a back 3? I will let you all decide that.

What did however interest me was a few weeks back when I questioned how was it that we could line up in a 4-3-3 and look so good against Liverpool but the same system against Norwich, who should be inferior opposition, looked so impotent. One other poster actually replied to me that we actually played a 4-4-2 against Liverpool which was confirmed by aerial shots that showed the positions of our players taking up this formation for much of the game. I would suggest that we actually lined up as a 4-3-3 but something different happened in this game as it unfolded. There were certainly 3 differences in that Gibbs, the Ox and Diaby all started at Liverpool but at Norwich it was Santos, Gervinho and Ramsey in their respective positions. Could it be that this was the key difference?

One of the biggest differences for me in looking at the above past and current team is in comparing Dennis and Santi. Both are fine players, but I would describe Dennis as being a withdrawn striker who with his technical ability can drop deeper into midfield to pull strings, while I would say Santi is an attacking midfielder who can push up into the withdrawn strikers role. I wonder if that slight difference is a key to how the formation ends up looking, because both players have slightly different instincts in the positions on the pitch that they favour.

I certainly feel that currently we play better when Santi gets higher up the pitch and positions himself in the spaces between their midfield and defence. It gives us a forward penetrative pass option and gets closer support to Giroud, and also when the ball is played into Santi in these positions the 2 wide players run off him better.

He did this well at Liverpool but seemed to play too deep at Norwich so we had limited penetration and seemed to be going sideways and backwards too often.

Was this because Santi still hasn’t quite fully developed that instinct that allows him to regularly and comfortably take up these more advanced positions or was it more something that the opposition did?

Does it even matter at times why it is not working and should we just accept it isn’t and just look to change formation to pose the opposition a different problem?

Giroud certainly ended up looking isolated at Norwich and it seemed to scream out to me to change the formation to get a second striker in behind him. If any player in our squad has similar characteristics to DB I would say it is Arshavin. Could it have been an option to take off Ramsey and move Santi deeper with AA dropping in behind Giroud?

This may have started to look more 4-4-2. Would we have then been overrun in midfield as some would say if AA is instructed to play higher and more centrally? I actually don’t know but we never used to be overrun with the past sides in this system. We could have also switched to 3 at the back and gone 3-5-2 which would also get us 2 strikers out there.

I know some of you do not like the idea of 3-5-2 and I will be interested to hear your thoughts on why. I feel any set-up has its strengths and weaknesses, but I would suggest that Norwich didn’t carry enough threat to exploit the weaknesses of a 3-5-2 and we would have dominated the midfield possession while getting a second striker in support of Giroud. Would I have played that at Old Trafford? I am not sure but possibly not because Utd would be far more able to exploit the space in behind the wing backs than Norwich would have.

There are plenty of questions and I don’t really have the answers to them all. I am just another armchair manager and occasional keyboard warrior, but I still feel that we don’t currently make best use of the players we have in, firstly playing them in their strongest positions and, secondly in using what we have to change the tactical formation during a game. Anyway for those of you that have managed to get to the end and are still awake let’s hear your thoughts.

Written by GoonerB

110 Responses to How can we get the best out of Arsenal’s players?

  1. MickyDidIt89 says:

    This site is beginning to hurt 🙂
    Thought I’d have a quick read. Think again DidIt.
    Looking forward to the red.

  2. MickyDidIt89 says:


  3. hleg says:

    ☀T☀ TO @hlegAFC
    A top #Gooner.Get
    following him all..he
    follows back too. #COYG

  4. WOW GoonerB
    I thought i’d nip to ARSENALARSENAL for a quick read, and then get on with some work.
    I guess work is gonna have to wait for a long while. 🙂

  5. chas says:

    GoonerB, thanks for a copious and informative first post.

    I think you’ve simplified the topic of formations quite effectively. 🙂

    Someone said the other day that when defending we should always be two banks of four. The park the bus defence is now widely used. By some teams it’s used throughout the 90 minutes with a few variations such as two banks, a 5 and a 4 or the chav variation of last season’s CL campaign, a 5 and a 5.

    Attacking should always lead to a fluid formation depending on the speed of the attack and where space is available. The real question when discussing changing Arsenal’s attacking formation is how to get a second dedicated striker up front.

    If 4-4-2 is now redundant, 3-5-2 and its variation 5-3-2 seem the best options, with width being provided by the wing backs.

  6. Gooner In Exile says:

    GoonerB, well worth the wait, as technically thorough as your comments, well done on debut 😀

    One of the key parts of your post for me is:

    “feel that what makes the formation look more like one particular system or the other, as the game unfolds, are the types of players that are being played in the various areas of the pitch”

    I would go further and say it is the intelligence of the players to recognise how the opposition has set up and whether collectively they can adapt to win. By doing so they may have to sacrifice their own game for the good of the team. But the best teams have the leaders to recognise and change if what they do in the first half hour is not working.

    Years ago one of my old coaches would start us off 4-4-2, but we almost always played 3-5-2, but he asked us to change it, so if attack was building on left, left back would go up everyone else would shift round. Right back to join centre back’s left midfielder shift in to centre mid, or vice versa. This meant that we always had a very solid centre.

  7. Rasp says:

    Thanks GoonerB for an epic post 🙂

    I agree with GiE, the players should have the intelligence to be able to identify problems and solve them during a game irrespective of what system they are supposed to be playing.

    If they are drilled and drilled into playing in only one way the maybe that spontaneous flexibility is lost.

    I sometime feel we do not react as a team. If say Giroud decides he is going to press the opposition defender who is in possession, the other players should help by joining him or cutting out passing opportunities. For a team that has prided itself on fluidity and movement, we have been surprisingly static in recent games.

    Similarly, when one of our players goes down a dead end on the wing (Podolski) then the nearest midfielders should help him out.

    The art of switching wings with long diagonal balls and refocusing the attack from another angle has been missing for several years although I see that Coquelin has employed it quite successfully recently.

  8. Aslam Khan says:

    i think Arshavin as a second striker is a good option. I have been dying to see Arshavin starting the match this season coz he’s been gr8 this season when called for. Apart from that I think we lack creativity at times and Arshavin will bring a lot of creative inputs to the team.

  9. “Footballing intelligence” a necessity for the modern player, don’t tell Chris (Pelanty) Waddle
    Its a great post GoonerB, makes me feel even less knowledgeable about tactics than i thought i was.
    I always imagined tactics as being incredibly complicated, ever changing formations throughout the course of a game.
    Mourinho has already stated that he has uses multiple formations in a game, i guess players have to be tactically intelligent to keep up.
    I keep banging on about playing to a players strength and change formation, but i know sod all really, i’m gonna leave it to Wenger.
    I just hate seeing the obvious things unfold, its like watching a video game:-
    no man available to pass to next,
    outnumbered in midfield,
    no one in the box when its crossed,
    ramsey playing on the right???
    if the balls on left wing, right side forward should be in the box supporting main striker, etc etc etc.
    Anyways, great post again, can’t believe its your debut post….. more please!

  10. Red Arse says:

    When I heard it was to be your debut Post I thought to myself that it would be GoonerB good, and it was! 🙂

    A really interesting and meaty (and long) article – well done! 😀

    I am not a cynic by nature, altho’ I have my moments, but so called tactical formations of and just leave me cold.

    The BBC when they first started radio broadcasting games issued numbered graphs of the pitch, carving it up into areas. This enabled listeners to hear B1, (say) and know when the commentator said that the ball was near the defensive bye line and so on.

    It was just a mental reference point and so I think are all these tactical numerics.

    Surely if a tactical set up is described as 4:4:2 it simply means that we have 4 predominantly defensive players selected, 4 predominantly midfield players selected, and 2 predominantly offensive players.

    A different set of numbers, say, 5:3:2 would indicate a different mix of player types selected, and so on. How or where they actually played, at any particular time during the 90 minutes, depended on how the game was going.

    That is to say, all eleven back when desperately defending, or at opposition corners, all forwards back supporting the midfield, when necessary and so on.

    So the key function of tactical set ups relates to the type of players chosen. Then the quality of the players available dictated the likely outcome of any game – for every team. Simples.

    I have always thought we need to debunk and demystify the tactical stuff and look at the players – they win or lose games, not the numbers.

    Consider for a moment some of the ‘invincible’ players, Campbell, Cole, Ljungberg, Viera, Pires, God, Henry. They could have played in any so called tactical formation and still won.

    That is the crux of it — it is the quality of the players that matters and the rest is flimflam.

    Fear not GB, I have been banging the drum on this topic for a long time, but I am resigned to being a lone voice on this, and you will happily find that 99% of other bloggers will happily discuss the merits of 3:5:2, or 4:3:3 until the cows come home.

    Your Post will be a good conversation starter and a credit to you!

  11. Big Raddy says:

    Gooner B. Great first post and apposite ahead of what will be a technical game tomorrow.

    Some fans say that AW is a poor tactician, perhaps he should read your post!

    It si very difficult to compare two teams using the same tactics because some players are more aware than others, plus others have spent many years together. One would expect Sagna/Walcott to work better than Jenkinson/Walcott.

  12. GoonerB says:

    Wow, I didn’t realise it was going to pan out that long when I sent it in as a document. I seem to write as I talk. If only i had a pound for every time I made someones eyes glaze over…

    I seem to suffer from what is commonly known as (this is for Red Arse) “Loquacious Dysentery”.

    Anyway speaking of RA, what on earth are Peaches and Rasp doing to me, putting my debut post a day after RA’s so eloquent one. It’s like shopping at Harrod’s one day and Matalan the next! I will be on and off the pc a bit today but I will check back as often as I can.

  13. Big Raddy says:

    It will be Poundstretcher tomorrow …..

  14. kelsey says:


    well done you have lost your virginity. 🙂

    Whatever the formation if the players don’t stick to it, it has no benefit.

    In the last 6 games there have been gaping holes allover the pitch, especially on the flanks.

    As an aside, said to hear that Gibbs is out indefinitely as quoted by the boss.

  15. Rasp says:


    Speaking on November 15 ahead of the Tottenham game, Arsene Wenger said: “Of course we have long-term injuries like Rosicky, Diaby and Gibbs who are not back at the moment.”

  16. Rasp says:

    The three most injury prone players are injured????

    There’s a clue there somewhere …… something to consider when renewing contracts maybe?

  17. Big Raddy says:

    kelsey. Is Gibbs out indefinitely, I just read he is not back tomorrow though there is no return date so I guess it is indefiniite? But it implies he is out long-term Where did you read that?

  18. kelsey says:


    that was the quote I read from AW on quite a few sites and in the media

  19. RA you make a good point about the quality of player vs tactical baldricks, in the post GoonerB suggests similar comparing the Invincibles and earlier against the current set up.

    But then part of the thing that bugs me is whether the system made these players great or the players themselves, as for DB10 he could have played in any position, but would Ljungberg have been half as good anywhere else.

    Also RA for the record i have for the first time witnessed an Advert on this site (i am on a clients computer without any adblocking features) it appears they are because the site is on WordPress’s own server and we are not running the (paid for) “No Ads Upgrade”. Although I got an ad for a computer game not the ones you keep getting for GliC’s Harem.

    Which is a bit of an arse as I know Rasp and Peaches pride themselves on an Ad Free site to prove that no one here does any of this for advertising revenues, but then its a cost someone has to bear to rid ourselves of it. I wondered whether we could have a Donate to the Blog option for those of us that care to put a bit of cash in to help keep spam at bay (also a pay for service that we have activated) and other bits and pieces that Rasp and Peaches would find helpful to make the site run as efficiently as it can.

  20. Big Raddy says:

    GIE. It is not a problem I have come across but would be willing to contribute to any costs

    p.s. Love that you are reading AA on a customer’s computer and probably getting paid to do so 👿

  21. If the customer will go out to see his customers, what is a man to do? 😀

    Right now to sort my FF team.

    Weird thing about the ads, is its now not there, but it was earlier

  22. Red Arse says:

    Goonerb @11:07.

    I love it that you have used a very elegant word like loquacious, and it is good you recognize that in yourself.

    You are indeed both loquacious and knowledgeable as demonstrated in your very good Post today! 🙂

    You are being altogether too modest. If there were a vote taken among the AA regulars as to which Post was better written and more interesting, your offering today would win hands down, so don’t concern yourself on that score!! 😀

    I hope you are already working on your follow up article.


    Great stuff GoonerB

    I am a great advocate of “accidental on purpose formations”.

    My reasoning is based on what happend in the 1998 season. Up until December we were pretty crap. We lined up 442 with both our wide men hogging the touchline. People were saying that Petit was a long haired ponce and Overmars was past it.

    Two things happened to change our fortunes “accidently on purpose”. Ian wright got injured and Anelka came in to spearhead the attack. The other was that Arsene tucked in Parlour narrow, allowing Overmars to push up thus releasing him of his defensive responsibilities.

    We all know what happened next. Overmars and Petit became world beaters and Anelka was a revalation

    Its amazing what a slight twinge in formation can do. In 1998 it transformed the whole side. Lets hope for something similar this season.

  24. Red Arse says:


    Oddly enough, I was going to say to you that the adds featuring the voluptuous young lady in her skimpy bra as well as the one inviting me to win a Kia car, have not been around for a while.

    Must have been something I said!! 😆

  25. GoonerB says:

    GIE and RA. You make good points on the player quality vs tactical formation. I think the past team literally picked the formation itself due to their quality. I doubt DB was ever told to play an attacking wide position. He was given a free role between the midfield and striker and he then positioned himself according to his natural instincts. This was where he was so dangerous, and had we tied him up in a wide position his effectiveness may have dropped dramatically.

    I know we all like hard working players that work back and help out defensively, but maybe a player like Santi needs to be told that we don’t want him dropping too deep. By all means try and win the ball back in more advanced positions but once it goes past a certain point let your other team-mates win it back. When they do I don’t want you standing 5m to one side of them I want you 20m up the pitch so they can pass it forwards taking out the opposition midfielders that have just pressed up while they had possession, which sets us off on an attack before they can regroup. We are supposed to be more an attacking side so I think we need to get back to that.

    It may be that Santi is more comfortable playing slightly deeper and he would be happier if there is another central player between him and Giroud. That would be where the option of Arshavin or Podolski, playing centrally and not wide, could come in. I think it is neither fully one reason or the other, and that you have to marry the quality of player and formation together. It also opens up the debate on playing your most dangerous players in their best position.

  26. GoonerB says:

    RA, please tell us all that you had to consult the dictionary for once to look up Loquacious. I am not holding my breath on this but I think it would make everyone’s day if that were the case. In my case I had my wife up all night pouring through the thesaurus.

    “Can I please go to bed now darling?”

    ” Not until you find a way to say that term in a more intelligent way, now get back to it wench!”

  27. You can talk about different systems all day long. You can blame managers and coaches all day long, But the fact remains that until players, most of whom are experienced internationals, can take responsibility and stop making schoolboy errors, then we will be in grave trouble.

  28. GoonerB says:

    Terry, great point @11.49 and you must have the memory of an elephant, (feel free to add more anatomical elephant comparisons Terry. Where is Glic when you need him?)

    Can you help me out here Terry. I recall some aspects of that season, but the one thing that stuck in my mind was that at one point we were off the pace and shipping goals. My understanding was that TA and the other senior players called a players meeting and told the then younger and less experienced Vieira and Petit, that they were not providing enough protection in front of the back 4. Following this these 2 sat a bit deeper in a more disciplined role, protecting the back 4 like an immovable brick wall, and winning the ball back to provide the platform for the likes of Overmars and Dennis to initiate attacks. After this as they say the rest is history. Can you go deep into that great cerebral structure of yours Terry and tell me if this was the case?

  29. Red Arse says:

    We seem to be more in agreement than I had thought GB, in that all the tactics, when related to the type and quality of the players available, can be deployed differently during a game, dependent on a number of factors, including the strengths of the opposition and whether or not we are winning or losing at any particular time.

    This, of course, brings me to my other slight niggle with AW. Well actually it is more a bugbear if I am being candid, and that is what appears to be his use, or lack thereof, of our substitutes, which often do not come on until the game is almost over.

    While typing that I am cognisant of the restrictions facing Arsene, which is a somewhat touchy subject among fans, and that is if I can see a problem, say, at left back, and I am screaming at the TV ‘substitute him, AW, NOW’ I am sure Arsene has seen the need too, but — and it is a big BUT – who does he bring on?

    Most will say he should have brought on x or maybe moved y or whatever, but that is to ignore the basic problem facing us, in that we do not have sufficient quality in the squad to fully cover all the positions or have too many injuries at the time.

    Take Theo. I am not a big fan, but he is the best we have in the squad for his positional role. What he cannot do is to defend. It is just not in him. No point blaming Corporal Jenks or say that Sagna is better at compensating for his shortcomings when he fails to get goal side of an attacker, or doesn’t help the fullback in a two on one position.

    The fact is that while Theo is on the pitch another player with different attacking attributes that could change the game, but with similar defensive shortcomings, such as Arshavin, cannot be brought on to alter the attacking formation.

    At that juncture the tactical aspect is buggered, because the players available cannot perform the roles required.

    [That should set the proverbial cat among the pigeons!] 😀


    That is all true GB. The major tactical shift after that “meeting” was that Parlour tucked in so when we did not have the ball all of a sudden we had a three protecting the backline. This in turn released Overmars, who up to that point had been a defensive liabiliaty, to do what was he good at, forward devestation.

    To this day i am still amazed how our fortunes shifted that season. We went from been a team that looked like it was finishing fourth to world beaters overnight.

  31. Red Arse says:


    I chuckled at your comment regarding the words that we have used this morning. You see I write the way I speak, and my vocabulary comes to me naturally just the same as yours does to you.

    I have often had my leg pulled about this, in a good natured way, but I used to feel self conscious about it and tried to imitate others in the use of the local vernacular but that seemed so wrong that I stopped pretty quickly.

    I would like to accommodate you, but I did not have to refer to a dictionary, and I cannot ever remember having done so while on AA, which is why I sometimes make mistakes between English UK and English US, altho’ you guys are too polite to say so if you notice.

    Apologies. 😆

  32. Red Arse says:


    I have been on to Arsene and he assures me you are being remotely controlled by Glic and he has no recall of any of your ‘accidentally on purpose’ tactical witterings! 😀

    His precise words were, “Ow can you heff an accident and also do eet on purpose? The boy is a loony!” 😆

  33. GoonerB says:

    Great point RA. It seems to be all about balance. As a for instance, I felt against Utd that we should solidify our left flank, in a slightly more defensive set-up, but should attack down our right by playing Walcott. In the end we played Ramsey and looked overly defensive on both flanks. Did this invite them to push on down both flanks and take the initiative in the game? Anyway RA I still need an answer to my question at 12.05. Off for a bit now.

  34. GoonerB says:

    Sorry RA just seen your answer. I took a phone call mid 12.48 post so was slow in getting it on there. I really enjoy your style and wouldn’t have you write in any other format. I have dusted down my Oxford English from the attic and keep it by my pc when I know you are around.

  35. GunnerN5 says:

    Sorry to break up the rhythm but here’s a little football news


    By Telegraph Sport
    12:00PM GMT 16 Nov 2012

    Arsenal host their fierce rivals in need of a confidence boost following a dip in form which has seen them win only two in the previous seven Premier League games.

    However, Wenger indicated preparations for the match had been hampered by fitness concerns over key men like Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta and in-form striker Olivier Giroud, who has returned from midweek international action with France carrying back and hamstring problems.

    “There are so many – I think we need a few doctors this morning,” Wenger said. “We have so many players who have come back with injuries or small injuries.

    “We will see this morning, but it is difficult to give you a clear idea of who will be available tomorrow or not.”

    Arsenal will also assess goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who could be back in the side for the first time since Sept after recovering from an ankle problem, while midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hip) is another who will be monitored.

    Wenger revealed there were also concerns over whether to throw Bacary Sagna into action once again against Tottenham following the France full-back’s return from a broken leg.

    Midfielder Jack Wilshere should come back into the side after he was suspended for the Fulham game, provided he shows no ill-effects from his England appearance in Stockholm.

    Wenger, however, was less than impressed by the globe-trotting of midfielder Santi Cazorla, who jetted out to Panama with Spain only to be an unused substitute.

    “They had 30 degrees there, so it was (good for) sunbathing,” the Arsenal manager said.

    “What do I make of it? At the moment, if you are selected you have to go, unless you say you’re injured.

    “I understand completely that in Spain, the competition is so high that if a guy turns it down and there is suspicion there, the next time he will not be called up.

    “Could Cazorla have done without that trip? Of course. He could have got injured, so I personally don’t complain, but he must not be very happy.”

    Wenger continued: “It will be interesting to see who will play over the weekend and who will not play, of all those who have been injured over Europe. I would personally put £10 on 90 per cent playing.

    “It is difficult as well for the national coach, but it shows you one thing – that this international friendly is not in the best position.”

    Arsenal will have the perfect opportunity to kick-start their season tomorrow.

    Wenger said: “Every London derby is important.

    “We dropped some points recently and we want to come back in a more consistent way of results. That’s why, of course, it’s a good opportunity to do that tomorrow.”

  36. RockyLives says:

    Excellent debut GoonerB
    Sometimes long Posts can be a struggle to read because they lose their way a bit, but both you and Redders have shown this week how well it can be done.

    I found your overall argument in favour of a simplified version of the starting formations to be very persuasive. As is the idea that the quality of players may be more important than the positions they are asked to occupy.

    The Arshavin point that has been raised in comments is interesting. When we play him out wide people get grumpy about his lack of defensive effort (and it’s clear to see that defending is not a part of the game he relishes).

    But playing him in the God position behind Giroud could be very progressive, with Santi pushed out wide right (where he has played a lot in his career). Arshavin would be freed from defensive duties and would be able to do his creative magic, linking with OG and the wide players, as well as Jack bursting through midfield.

    A team that lines up as:
    ———Back Four
    ——-Arteta Wilshire

    would be one I’d like to see.
    Whether it’s a 4-4-2, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-2-2-1-1 or whatever doesn’t really matter.

  37. RockyLives says:

    It’s all very well for AW to make subtle digs at Old Purple Nose for keeping BSR our of the internationals with his “injury”.

    But why doesn’t AW do that with our players? Why not put Arsenal first, even if it means being “economical with the truth.”

  38. RockyLives says:

    Regarding the shenanigans in your garden with a load of birds (to which you referred earlier), perhaps they weren’t eating. Perhaps they were just there for a bit of avian legal due process:

  39. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Herculean is what that is GoonerB.
    Brilliant stuff.
    As one who does give Arsene a hard time about tactics and in light of some of your ideas, as well as as comments from others about players and systems being adaptable during a particular game, I sometimes wonder whether they are encouraged to deploy their intelligence, or whether a system is trained into them in a rather regimented way, which discourages impulsive footballing instinct.
    The net result would be a very stiff and therefore brittle system.

  40. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Another thing, whenever someone such as yourself makes reference to a sytem that had TH and DB in it, both at the peak of their powers, I cannot help but to Oooo and Ahhhhh.
    Blimey we were lucky to witness those two in tandem. In Arsenal colours.

  41. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky and Micky for your comments. Rocky I would also like to see AA played at times in behind Giroud. I was impressed with him as early as the pre season Cologne game when he came on in this position. He just looked dangerous there and I think we should try and utilise him more. Whatever his deficiencies you always feel that something might happen when he is on the ball in advanced positions. There are a lot of players ahead of him in the pecking order at present who I don’t get that feeling from.

    The difficult part may be trying to accomodate him and Santi in the same line up but I think it can be done. Your suggestion above works for me or if you go to the 3-5-2 Santi can play the attacking midfield role just behind AA. As you know I don’t really like harping on about 3-5-2’s so I won’t say any more than that!

    One question, could Santi play as one of two CM’s in a 4 man midfield? If he can then that opens up even more possibilities.

  42. glic says:

    Superb debut post from Cottee Doppelganger. Just like me, great things can be done in two minutes. City could be in for you in the January TW as they`re not content with just nicking our players, they now want our best bloggers ! hahaha

    It really is a simple game and I see it like you said in the paragraph after the numbers game, ” so called experts trying to justify their huge salaries “, but I just laugh at them, as I know the smug looks on their faces are down ( or up ! ) to the huge celeries stuck up their rectums ! . hahaha

    Teams can start in a certain formation, but like others have said, they should be intelligent enough to see how the game is panning out and be able to move into a fluid interchanging sytem.
    If not, lets revert back to the 30`s style of play, it was ok then and is a match for the modern formations as you will see . I remember playing this style 50 years ago in Saint Mathias Primary School playground, Bethnal Green.

  43. jnyc says:

    Goonerb, i always enjoy your comments here. So of course i loved your article. You should post more often. Right now i am a bit lost as to suggesting a formation. I think our back four are not as bad as it seems, because our midfielders arent closing down and taking the ball back, which we were one of the best at last year. I really cant understand whats going wrong with our effort. But i am in favor of trying new things, whether its formations or anything else.

  44. goonerjake says:

    I beleive the ideas of formations and tactics and to a certain degree training systems (munin’s football lab springs immedietely to mind) has become needlessly over complicated.

    Football is a simple game their is no need to over complicate it!

    Train 2 ways. 1. fitness training 2. playing football at the training ground in various forms (11 a side 5 a side etc, set pieces ect)

    For games also 2 ways. 1. Always play your strongest team, and keep as close to the same team every game as injuries allow.
    2. keep the formation the same, no matter who your playing and make sure each player sticks to his role in the formation.

  45. Big Raddy says:

    True Jake but there must be room in the team for unpredictable players otherwise we get too easily stopped. This is why we can be seen to struggle-

    Gerv, Santi and Jack are all players who have a bit of magic and to tie them to a set plan is counter-productive

  46. RockyLives says:

    You’re right that our back four are not as bad as they seem – but I’m not sure it’s the ‘team defending’ that’s been a problem.

    It’s that our back four have made some really silly individual mistakes (TV gifting BSR a goal, for example). If they can stop those basic errors we’ll seem a lot more secure.

    It’s presumably a confidence thing.

  47. Phew, just had a chat to two spuds and they reckon they’ve got no team for tomorrow ……. so that’s ok then 🙂

    GoonerB – I read every word but it was at 8 o’clock this morning so I’m going to have to go back and read it again before I comment.

  48. chas says:

    Did you see this post on a spud blog?
    It doesn’t make me feel more confident or less confident.
    But, in a way, it’s reassuring that they feel as nonplussed as us.

  49. Big Raddy says:

    I have been on the Spurs Community. I feel dirty.

  50. Adrian says:

    Nevermind getting the best out of players, the team won’t even be able to get the best out of the formation if Ramsey starts on the right. In the end we’d be playing much deeper when Ramsey drifts towards midfield which effectively makes it a 4-4-2.

  51. chas says:

    Here’s that vid from February with a fans’ eye view of the game. 🙂

  52. jnyc says:

    Goonerb, or ill say GB now, i agree with your conclusions. Also with thw following points: we need to make changes during matches in tactics and forms when necessary, and bring on subs earlier. BUT, my favorite point is that you expressed something i have felt, but havent put into words— that is, because we dont bring in the top tier players like our rivals, we depend on teamwork and being more than the sum of our parts, as you say. This is frustratingly true because when some develop into top tier with us, we dont retain them, and need to start all over again. This makes it almost impossible to compete for a title from the start of the season. We all dream that three brand new starters will take off from match one, its just not realistic. and since we dont buy top tier, we need everything to fall into place perfectly, which never happens.

  53. Big Raddy says:

    As far as I can see Spurs injury lit is Parker and Dembele,

    Dembele has played 4 games for them but is considered essential, Parker would not get a game with Huddlestone playing well.

    They are jokers.

  54. chas says:

    this is what physioroom says…..

    A Lennon Hamstring Injury 17th Nov 12
    K Walker Hamstring Injury 17th Nov 12
    J Defoe Hamstring Injury no return date
    M Dembele Hip/Thigh Injury no return date
    B Assou-Ekotto Knee Injury no return date
    Y Kaboul Knee Injury 27th Dec 12
    S Parker Achilles Tendinopathy no return date

  55. Big Raddy says:

    Walker, Defoe and Lennon will start. Kaboul and Dembele are the only injured players who are first choice and Kaboul is not a certainty.

    Anyway. I don’t want to discuss Spurs problems – I hope they get more.

  56. chas says:

    Haha, BR.
    You’re more wound up about the game than I am.
    Does that mean Santi, Arteta and the OX will also pass fitness tests?
    Last year we were 10 points behind and we went 2-0 down.
    Plenty of time for misery if the result goes against us.
    This is the time for positive thinking.

  57. GoonerB says:

    Just back on and thanks for the comments.

    Glic (4.25). I loved the video of your old school. I couldn’t quite work out if you were the one with the pipe or the keeper. Have you changed so much since the 30’s? By the way if you keep using big words like doublebanger Redders may be tempted to challenge you to a weekly scrabble night.

    Jnyc (7.09) I agree with what you say about the retention. We must stop this or we will be in the perpetual vicious circle of saying “this is a transition season”.

    On to the game tomorrow and the cynic in me doesn’t believe they have so many injuries as recently reported. This will be a game that unfortunately I can see going either way. I would love to have the confidence of the past where our side was vastly superior and we didn’t need to worry about who they played and where. Unfortunately things are a bit different now and I feel we have to pay some attention to the threats they can pose. Will Arsene do this? probably not and he will likely put out a team that he feels that, if it plays to its full potential, will win the day and what they do becomes irrelevant.

    If it were me I would not pay any special attention to their strikers. Dangerous that they might be I would just let our defenders deal with them. The 2 players (if they are playing) that I would want to snuff out would be Bale and Lennon. They may not score all the goals but I feel much of their attacking threat initiates through them. Lennon tends to stay wide so I would want a LFB who can defend well against him and match him, to some degree, for pace. Bale tends to drift more and I wonder if he would be best to be man marked to a degree. It is not something I like to see from an Arsenal side but I feel if we snuff out these 2 they will have a vastly reduced threat. The other thing I would like to see is Santi not dropping too deep (as mentioned in the post). Keep him between their midfield and defence, even when we are defending at times and under the cosh, and it could be the key to winning the day. It is always a brave decision to leave men up the pitch when you are defending, but is that not what we are all about. What do you guys think? COYG’s

  58. Big Raddy says:

    GB. I have written my thoughts in tomorrows post. There will be few surprises 🙂

  59. chas says:

    Personally I feel Arteta has often been isolated in recent games with Jack and Santi too far away from him.

    Then again, perhaps tomorrow it’s a case of he who dares wins so Santi could be the key.

    Was Gilles Grimandi the last man marker that Wenger used?

  60. mcconville365 says:

    Or would it simply be that we’re not good enough? The 2 teams you’ve shown, each player shown on the past team is better than the current – in every position.

  61. GoonerB says:

    Looking forward to it Raddy.

    you might be right Chas re Gilles Grimandi. I am not sure man marking is a tactic I really like or that we should employ. We are at home and we are the mighty Arsenal and I would still prefer to see us impose ourselves upon them. I still feel if we get the right line-up and play to what we are able to do then we should have too much for them.

  62. Gooner In Exile says:

    Mcconville I think out of all the teams who have featured in CL over the last 10 years perhaps only City and Chavs think they have better players now than when they did 7 years ago. The rest of us are probably like for like or worse. Liverpool for arguments sake.

    Wonder what the reason is?

  63. Intelligence and pace is all we need, the idea is to get the ball in the back of the net more times than them. This is a derby, blood and guts is required. I hope they all remember that and show for each other, more importantly that they show us that they want it.

    Steak for breakfast methinks 🙂

    GoonerB – I can’t disagree with anything that you’ve written. We are a little hampered at the moment in that some our players don’t seem to compare favorably with some of our past players but however they set up they have to control the game and keep alert at the back.

    Me, I like a fluid 4-1-4-1 with the full-backs joining the attack and the one not – Gilberto style.

    I reckon we’ll need to be careful of oncoming scum down the wings tomorrow. Is TV going to play at left-back? That’s where we’ll be caught. But if Arteta can link with Santi and he and Pod and Jack can move the ball forward we’ll be fine 😉

  64. chas says:

    Thank feck the sugar daddies weren’t around 2001-2004 else all of that marvellous history might not have happened.

  65. chas says:

    “oncoming scum down the wings” 🙂

  66. André Santos!!! ‏@Andre_Santos27
    Going to hotel now because tomorrow is the big derby of north London #Arsenal x Tottenham , let’s go with every thing #GoGunners ;))

  67. GoonerB says:

    mcconville, I would agree with you to a large extent, but I would say that as well as the past team having great players it was also incredibly well balanced in its ability to attack and defend in equal measures. The players complemented each other completely and they also played in a slightly different way to the current team. I think the current side doesn’t, at this stage, have that balance. I think we still have world class players that you could have dropped into that great team of the past but we need to get it better balanced. Players like Wilshere and Cazorla would have flourished in that side. It may require 1-2 signings in January and a change in how we employ our players but I have always said I feel we are close and only 2-3 players from a potential title challenging squad.,

  68. chas – LB taught me a long time ago that I wasn’t allowed to define scum as a noun and so when I write I have to find other ways of being descriptive 😉

  69. Gooner In Exile says:

    Exactly Chas 😀

    As for Spudders pre match confidence issues I think maybe they have finally learned not to crow pre match…..they have clearly learned lessons of previous new comings of the messiah at SHL.

    Listening to TS on the way home several Spuds phoned in complaining of the AvB era, one even said that without Bale they were just an average side.

    One phoned in and suggested that their board should take a lesson from the success of Arsenal (yes even Spuds see our recent finishes as successful) and learn that perhaps it is managerial consistency that allows us to achieve consistently.

    How many managers has Wenger faced?


    Plus several spells for Hughton, Pleat and even Clive Allen as caretaker managers.

    9 managers!!!!

  70. GoonerB says:

    RA, looking forward to your post tomorrow.

    GIE, good point. I must say I am both confident and not at the same time for tomorrow. In the last 2 days, when speaking to spurs fans, I have expressesd my reservations about the game, but then I have always done that with regard to this game every year. I have one of those superstitious thingy’s going on where I feel that expressing overconfidence will come back and bite me ,but by being humble and meek we will have a better chance of triumph.

    I also have this thing where if I go to the toilet mid game then the opposition seem to score. Many are the times that I have sat in abject pain with a purple face just to see our boys through. If you all want to contribute to some incontinence pants then by my estimation it will increase our chances of winning tomorrow by 40%.

    Off to watch Children in need again now, which certainly puts many football worries into perspective.

  71. My spud cousin has already called me and had a moan about Daniel Levy selling van de Vaart and that Dembele is injured bla bla bla He thinks that Daniel Levy thinks more about the business model than the club …………..

  72. Gooner In Exile says:

    Peaches he/she is not your cousin!

  73. Gooner In Exile says:

    My Dads brother is a Spud, he is not my Uncle and only my Dads brother because of what the birth certificate says!

  74. Ok, he’s my mother’s nephew 😆

  75. My poor mother has two nephew’s and a son with a similar affliction 🙂

  76. Looks like Szczesny is fit for tomorrow and Arteta too, just saw it on twitter.

  77. Big Raddy says:

    My nephew spent an hour today telling me how poor His team are (Spuds)

    Then said his team would win tomorrow.

    Bad parenting

  78. You see, it happens to the best of us 🙂

  79. RockyLives says:

    Where have evonne and Irish gone?

  80. richie says:

    Evening all
    (oh damn I’ve not been clock watching it’s morning already but only just)

    I’m well late to this blog but I’ll stick my 10 pence worth in anyway.
    In the past and even now if sufficient training time is available? I wouldn’t mind Arsene giving the team a run out in the old classic total football line up. Although it has to be said never was a more fluid system invented, especially when used by the old Ajax teams of years gone by.

    The system was essentially 3 – 4 – 3 in offence with the middle 4 in a diamond shape, but seemed to be 3 – 6 – 1 in defence or maybe 5 – 4 – 1 when they employed their pressing game. It was all to do with movement, as they won the ball back and attacked on the counter the transition from 5 – 4 – 1 to 3 – 2 – 5 was amazing and it was something few teams could live with. The real issue here is who do we have capable of playing such a system? Because it is both a very technical and physical style, the technical is in the one touch (perfection) and the physical is in the movement (exhausting).

    It’s no good saying who I’d want in an ideal world devoid of injuries
    so I’ll give it a go based on who I think is available for tomorrows game. Not that I’m advocating that Arsene play this line up tomorrow without the team having drilled on it for a good while but anyway……..


    Koscielny Mertesacker Vermaelen

    Oxlade-Chamberlain Wilshere
    Walcott Podolski

  81. richie says:


    Koscielny Mertesacker Vermaelen

    Oxlade-Ch****************** Wilshere
    Walcott*********************** Podolski

  82. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Biggest home game of the season by so so far. It is the only Must Win game. Cannot wait.
    My biggest concern is that it has come a week to early for Arsene to have implimented any tactical changes, due to International absentees.
    My only hope is that Ox starts over Ramsey (if AR starts…..anywhere).

  83. MickyDidIt89 says:

    7:23. Matchday, and you can all carry on sleeping through the exitement.
    Going to talk to the pigs

  84. chas says:

    Morning, Micky.

    I’ve been up since 6.
    I was going to post the John Barry Zulu music to create some matchday atmosphere but the Richard Burton voiceover talks of a massacre.

    On the scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you in your 3-1 prediction?

  85. MickyDidIt89 says:

    10 for the win
    2 for the scoreline
    Losing is simply unthinkable
    Sorry about the texting

  86. MickyDidIt89 says:

    A win today with the crowd roaring the lads on, and we’ll be set up for the away games at Everton and Villa.

  87. chas says:

    Haha, you always seem so worried all week, then come match day you seem ultra confident.

    How about a bit of Arsenal Grandma?

  88. Gooner In Exile says:

    No game today.

    I have too many things to do call me when it’s 12:30

  89. LB says:

    When all is said and done this remains a very good place to be an Arsenal supporter.

    Peaches your 9.11pm comment made me smile, I do remember saying, tongue in cheek, that it is not the done thing to use a definite article before the word “spuds” this is a sign of respect and is therefore reserved for situations when referring to “The” Arsenal.

    There is an exception to when a definite article can be used and that is when an adjective is placed before the noun which most will realise produces “The dirty low life scum”.

    And there ends my lesson in grammar for today.


  90. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Bless the Grandma
    Saw Robert Smith playing for both Cure (as support band) and then Banshees on the Join Hands Tour ’79

  91. Gooner In Exile says:

    Oh ok then:

  92. MickyDidIt89 says:

    You were a North Banker, so why the COYRRG, it was COYRRReds

  93. MickyDidIt89 says:

    GiE ROLF

  94. Gooner In Exile says:

  95. LB says:

    Come on you rip roaring
    Goal scoring
    Glory grabbing

  96. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All. Great stuff again this morning.

    Love the pictures and The LB’s brilliant explanation of grammar

  97. Big Raddy says:

    Anyone got a headline for today’s post?

  98. Rasp says:

    Morning Raddy, just inserting the pitch graphics, we do need a fitting title. Did you mean to put Gervinho in version 2?

  99. LB’s 9.01 looks good to me ………

  100. Big Raddy says:

    Rasp. It is meant to be a possible but …. if you could replace him with AA …. thanks

  101. Big Raddy says:

    Hope we do better today than the England cricket team in India.

  102. Rasp says:

    It’s the big one…….

    ….. New post …..

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