Wednesday, 9 April 2014

What Changes Can Arsenal Make Against Wigan

Arsenal haven't played well for quite a while now and they have an FA Cup semi final coming up on Saturday against Wigan. They're no longer in the title race and even fourth place has become a fight with Everton closing in quickly on them. If they're going to save their season they need to win the FA Cup and to get to the final they have to overcome the holders this Saturday evening.

Wigan were huge underdogs when they beat City in the final last year, but they finished the season getting relegated to the Championship. They didn't do too well early on this season but they have looked like a much better side Uwe Rosler took the reins. They have climbed into the play off places and went to City in the last round of the cup and won again. For all their positives though they are a Championship side and Arsenal are still a top four Premier League club. Wigan will have to play above themselves to get a result and Arsenal will have to put in another one of their far too frequent poor displays. 

For me there almost seems to be a picking order at Arsenal as Arsene Wenger continues to put his trust in players who are letting him down week after week. The team that was chosen against Everton last week was good enough on paper to have taken at least a point, but they failed abysmally both tactically and in their effort and commitment. There has to be other options and maybe it's a time a few changes were made to the team.

In defence I think Bacary Sagna has to play and it might not be the worst idea to switch him to centre back with Carl Jenkinson coming in on the right. If Kieran Gibbs isn't fit to return at left back then maybe Thomas Vermaelen could switch to that role as he must be better defensively than Nacho Monreal. That would leave Per Mertesacker alongside Sagna and Wojciech Szczesny still in goal as he can hardly be blamed for last week's debacle. I know a defence of Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Sagna and Mertesacker might not be ideal but the change might just be what the team needs. Ideally of course Laurent Koscielny will return from injury but that's by no means certain.

In midfield some changes are needed too and there are certainly options to be considered. With Aaron Ramsey back from injury I expect him to come in from the start and there has to be a case for Kim Kallstrom playing too. What was the point in signing Kallstrom if he's not going to play and he has enough experience and quality to cope at this level. I think Mathieu Flamini should be given the holding role and given strict instructions to hold his position at all times to protect the defence.

Mikel Arteta has looked jaded and off the pace recently and it surely has to be time to try to play without him. I know he's seen by many as the engine room of the team as he keeps things ticking in midfield, but a different approach is needed. No player can be immune from losing their place if they don't play well and Arteta is one of many who are badly out of sorts at the moment.

There's plenty of scope for change in the attacking trio too and Arsenal have to start the game with some genuine pace in the team. I think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has to play despite being a bit hit and miss recently as he had the pace to put Wigan's defence on the back foot. At the moment he is one of the few Arsenal players who look capable of scoring when they play.

On the other side I would be tempted to keep Lukas Podolski in the team for his goal scoring ability, but if he doesn't play I think Serge Gnabry might deserve a shot. Like Chamberlain he offers pace and he has plenty of youthful enthusiasm too. It would be great to see an Arsenal team with a genuine attacking threat and the two youngsters on either side could well be the players to offer it.

The central strikers role is the biggest quandary of all as Olivier Giroud still looks like the best option despite playing so poorly recently. The alternatives are all ones the boss has shown no interest in up to now and they have gotten very little game time between them. Giroud has looked tired for a while now as he has played the strikers role almost single-handedly and he has become too easy for opponents to play against. 

Yaya Sanogo came on late against Everton and wrongfully had a goal disallowed for offside, but an injury plagued season has seen him make no real impression since he joined in August. It would be a big risk to play him in what could be Arsenal's most important game of the season so far, but he has more pace than Giroud and a fresh face could be what the team needs.

Nicklas Bendtner is again persona non grata at the club and the chances of him getting back into Arsene's plans are minimal. I think Chuba Akpom has returned from his loan spell at Brentford but he is hardly likely to get a look in desite impressing in pre season with the first team. It looks like a straight choice between Giroud and Sanogo and I think Giroud will get the nod, but I hope it's Sanogo.

I know it would be a huge risk to make so many changes in a game Arsenal have to win, but the team which has played week after week recently has had it's chances and failed far too often. Maybe a few of the up and coming and fringe players might be prepared to put more in if they get a rare chance and might just make the difference. They certainly can't do any worse than so many of the first choice players who were in the starting 11 last week. 

If the team is going to be different then the tactics will have to change too and Arsenal need to find a way to get behind opponents' defences. They are too predictable and too easy to stop and they have to find a way to get behind the opposition. If Sanogo can sit on the shoulder of the last defender or Chamberlain and Gnabry can break quickly it might just offer Arsenal the space they want to play as Wigan will have to drop off to try to stop them. 

I think there will be a couple of changes but certainly not as many as I have suggested and it would take a brave manager to make so many changes. Arsene is very loyal to his players but he's hardly known for changing his tactics or taking big risks. I wouldn't even be surprised if he decided to go with the same team which fared so badly against Everton if he decides to give them a chance to right the wrongs of that game.

No matter what team Arsenal put out they will be strong favourites to win the game and go on and win the FA Cup. I only hope they can do just that because the alternative doesn't bear thinking of. With their league chances lying in ruins it could well be the last straw if the FA Cup goes by the wayside too.

UPDATE: Flamini is suspended which means Arteta is more or less certain to start against Wigan. Thanks to those who told me in the comments and on Twitter.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.


  1. Play direct.Let OX run at the Wigan defenders like Lakaku did to the gunners defence. I am no soccer coach but from watching soccer you can tell defenders are backpedalling and feel threatened.
    Ba scored a scrappy goal to send Chelsea into the sf. Can you see Arsenal scoring such a similar goal?It wont until soccer's purist puts winning over everything. If not he has to go.
    He has squandered the enormous amount of time given to him.At any other club,believe me,he would have been axed five years ago.

  2. The game against Wigan is a one off. If the gunners turn expecting to win,they will be sorely mistaken.The same team which can MC shd command some respect.
    Btw,if the gunners carry on with their tip/tap/exhibition soccer to show off backheels,etc,they will lose.

  3. Not confident at all

  4. Not confident at all

  5. Flamini is suspended for this game and WHam game, because of his 10th Yellow for season :(

    1. We need an Arsenal Win at all cost, start OX, and Ramsey. Podolski is also needed and put in a few stronger players in the midfield. I think Arteta is mentally weak, Kallstrom has to be given a chance? Obviously Rosiky, Carzola and I'd also sub on Gnabry, for pace on later?, something differnent and new, he can always be substituted if he is no good...
      Team should be:
      Sagna Vermealen Mertesacker Monreal
      ..........Kallstrom Ramsey
      Ox Rosicky Carzola
      .................... Podolski

      Surely that team should win. Play defensively strong, less possession and a few Podolski chances should surely win it. They can not beat us this way, surely?

    2. Thanks for the info on Flamini.

  6. Hopefully after the mauling by Everton,the fm will finally believe Arsenal can win ugly.He is too arrogant playing pretty soccer can help you win.It hasn't happened the last ten year s and it will never happen.
    Even Mourino eschews winning ugly. His track record is better than the fm .Btw,don't think Wigan will be pushovers.I aint goin to be surprised if the gunners have to have a replay to win.Of course it is not 100%.
    If Wenger is serious about winning,he better go direct ie passing forward and not sideways all the time.Then we shall see.