Three Questions: Arsenal v. Manchester City

Where does Ozil play? And will he be effective?

After registering 25 appearances at CAM in Arsenal’s 4231 last season, Arsene Wenger has used Ozil as a LM in his two appearances for Arsenal this year. Being forced out wide hasn’t been the most splendid so far, as he hasn’t proven to be as effective as he was last season in his prefered central role. With Aaron Ramsey injured and Danny Welbeck likely to start at striker, we’ll have to see how Arsene juggles his midfield options.

How will the City the midfield adapt with Fernando’s absence?

Fernando was pretty fantastic in his first two games in his City career. His high motor and workrate had him all over the pitch against Newcastle and Liverpool and gave Yaya Toure the freedom he thrives on. Fernandinho will operate in largely the same role as Fernando,  There’s no doubt that Fernandinho is a more than ample replacement for his fellow Brazilian but it isn’t unreasonable to say Fernando was one of the more important players on the pitch for City’s six points from their opening two matches.

How can Arsenal get points against Manchester City?

Ahmad and Cole

Even though City are on the road, they are still the favorites in this tie. Arsene Wenger’s abysmal record against the top sides of the BPL must be taken into consideration. Arsenal have won one game against the top four in the past five years, and although it is still early for predictions, I think it’s safe to say Manchester City will be in the top four this season as well.

Wenger’s default formation of 4-2-3-1 wouldn’t cut it against Pellegrini’s squad. It’s just difficult for any EPL team other than Chelsea to beat City while out-possessing them, so I think Arsenal should play it safe. An Ancelotti Christmas Tree (4-3-2-1) with Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini, and Ozil (if Ramsey is unable to play) or a midfield three of Mikel, Flamini, and Ozil (if Ramsey plays he takes the spot of Flamini) playing behind Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez could help here. Cazorla would drop back and Alexis would contribute to the attack, combining with new Arsenal man Danny Welbeck. The Brow’s Christmas Tree formation could really help Arsene get a good result here, with Ozil in the Kaka role and Jack as the English Pirlo. (I wrote that last part with a straight face. It was difficult.)

Heck, you could even drop Mesüt (heresy, I know) and play a three of Jack, Mikel and Flamini. Wilshere would be the farthest back of the three (in much the same way he was for England against Switzerland), taking advantage of his passing from deep. Having said that, maybe dropping Ozil isn’t ideal because of the ticking time bomb that is Matthieu. Arteta’s passing is more than adequate, which enables Jack to become the substitution for when Flamini is inevitably booked for clipping David Silva or Yaya. (This wouldn’t even be a discussion if Arsene Wenger would quit stalling and buy a proper defensive midfielder.)

The key to beating City is to isolate their defenders against pace – it’s easy to find Kompany out of position and Demichelis isn’t the quickest defender in the world at this point. In Alexis and Danny, Arsenal have the artillery to achieve this. The blueprint came from Brendan Rodgers last Christmas, when Liverpool were without Daniel Sturridge. In that game, the front three of Luis Suarez, Phillippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling blitzed City with their pace and diagonal passes, exploiting the slow pace of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott. Although Liverpool did go on to lose that game after they had their goal disallowed for offside, that tactic worked wonderfully.

If dropping Ozil is too extreme (knowing Arsene, it is), Arsenal could take a page out of Jose Mourinho’s book. In 2010 when he was managing Inter, Jose Mourinho often lined up with Wesley Sneijder as his highest attacker. (He did this sometimes at Madrid with Ozil, too.) While that tactic involved Inter in a low block of defenders behind Wes, Arsenal doesn’t have to do that here.

Where Arsenal could modify this is by taking advantage of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck’s defensive skills. As soon as Arsenal lose possession, they go into a diamond shape with Alexis joining Danny up front to press the City defense. If City manage to break the initial press, Welbeck and Alexis can track back, leaving Ozil as the highest attacker on the field.

The key here is not to get sucked into a possession battle with City (WE KNOW WE ARE ASKING ARSENAL FOR IMPOSSIBLE THINGS). Instead, Arsenal would take advantage of their superior pace and City’s central backs – at this point, Arsenal are sort of Liverpool Lite – and attack quickly. This will take advantage of Ozil’s pinpoint passing and Welbz and Sanchez’s pace. If you can’t win a possession battle, the best tactic is to strike quick. Of course, having said all that, Arsene will probably deploy the 4-2-3-1 with Ozil inexcusably on the wings. (“Hire me, Arsenal. Please.” – Cole)

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About Jordan Katz

Journalism student at the University of Maryland.
This entry was posted in English Premier League, Tactics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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