Monday, November 12, 2007
Coppell: "Reading have three different ways of playing against Arsenal". Really?
By 1970’s Gooner
There are indeed, as Steve Coppell has said, three different ways available for Reading to play against Arsenal. But are they all viable options?
Coppell knows that if Reading play a 4 4 2 as they did the last time these two sides met at the Madejski Stadium they will get hammered again.
The open spaces that such a system will leave for Fabregas et al to exploit will in the end allow Arsenal to dictate the game carving up Reading’s midfield and creating chances for Arsenal’s forwards.
Especially if Arsenal play a 4 4 1 1 system with Hleb just behind Adebayor.
So Coppell’s only other options are to either deploy the man to man marking that worked so well against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the first game of the season or pack the midfield with five men and deploy the lone striker up front.
Playing man to man is likely to prove very risky against this Arsenal side. More than it did against Manchester United. This is because Arsenal’s style of play is full of quick passing and more importantly movement.
As Marcus Hannemann the Reading goalkeeper said of Arsenal “they're the give-and-go kings”
And it is the mobility that usually untangles this tactic which requires only one man to falter in his covering or positioning and you are already chasing the game.
Also it is very difficult to switch into a new formation should you wish to do so. If you fall behind for example.
So Coppell has only one option really. He will pack his midfield in a 4 5 1 formation and hope to catch Arsenal on the break or score from a dead ball situation.
What is also interesting however is the formation Wenger will choose to deploy.
This game comes after his “Mea Culpa” following the draw against Manchester United at the Emirates where he accepted that the formation selected meant that there was no real support for the front striker.
"Sometimes Adebayor was a bit too isolated up there. Maybe I could have played Theo Walcott up front, or Eduardo or Niklas Bendnter. But I went for a different approach.
"Without Robin van Persie the balance in the final third was not completely right. “That's my fault. I'd look at that again.
It seems that for the difficult games Wenger tends to go for the more conservative approach. But for games such as tonight’s I would be very surprised if he chooses a conservative 4 5 1.
It’s more likely to be a more attacking 4 4 1 1 where Hleb will be the support striker or a more traditional 4 4 2 with Eduardo or Walcott partnering Adebayor.
Since Arsenal ex boy Steven Sidwell departed for Chelsea, Reading have been missing not only his industry in midfield but also his creativeness.
Sidwell often carved up chances for his teammates and for himself. In this respect Coppell has failed to replace him and the team is suffering for it.
It is no surprise therefore that only Wigan, Derby and Sunderland have scored less goals at home than Reading (6 vs 7 for Reading).
What is more ominous however is that Reading has the weakest defence in the Premier League along with bottom placed Derby with 26 goals conceded.
They tend to concede on average one goal every 42 minutes. Arsenal on the other hand score on average one goal every 41 minutes!
Prediction: Away win 0-3