Saturday, December 01, 2007
Young Guns can win at Aston Villa without Fabregas
By 1970’s Gooner
Martin O'Neill, like a lot of football managers, would probably like to stick to what has brought him success in the past especially against the team that Villa will face today in the evening kick off.
Arsenal’s first ever Premier League game at the Emirates was against Aston Villa. It was also O’Neill’s first with his new club.
He adopted a system that managed to stifle Arsenal’s tendency to use the flanks as an attacking option. Especially when the full backs, Eboue and Hoyte on that day, were roaming forward as a lot of Arsene Wenger’s sides are encouraged to do.
O'Neill used a 4 3 3 formation which had Agbonlahor and Moore as the wide men who tended to drop back and crowd the space out for Arsenal’s wide men.
Once possession was gained they were deployed in counter attacking mode exploiting the spaces that Arsenal’s full backs had left behind. They enjoyed success as their pace especially Agbonlahor’s stretched the Arsenal defence.
O’Neill also deployed a three man midfield to Arsenal’s two. Gareth Barry, Steven Davis and Gavin McCann were outstanding. Arsenal only managed to get a deserved equalizer when Walcott’s cross found Gilberto unmarked to score in the last few minutes.
I don’t expect O’Neill to play any different today. His three players in the so called forward positions are likely to include rumored Arsenal target Agbonlahor and the pacy Young with John Carew, who has scored some vital goals against Arsenal in his days with Valencia, the lone forward up front.
"Aston Villa is a place where certainly we will need to play our football," Wenger said, "but also be strong enough to counter what they are good at. They are a very strong, direct side with a lot of pace and body strength.
Wenger has to decide therefore which system to play. Does he play the same as Villa, 4 3 3, thus avoiding being outnumbered in midfield or does he stick to his usual 4 4 2 or its variation 4 4 1 1?
It will be interesting if he goes for the 4 3 3 because this system will allow him to bring Rosicky into the midfield who could take over the Fabregas creative role but partner him with two more "practical" players in Flamini and Gilberto.
Rosicky’s significant impact when he was moved infield against Wigan was there for all to see and Arsenal will need to have a clever playmaker if they are to undo Villa’s workmanlike midfielders.
The three in the forward positions will then be Hleb if fit, Eboue and Adebayor. Fingers crossed that Clichy will make it as his runs down that left wing are an important part of Arsenal’s attacking play. The alternatives otherwise will be Diarra or Hoyte.
I remember Robert Pires scoring a sublime goal at Villa Park a few years ago by lobbing the ball over Peter Schmeichel after he left a Villa defender stranded.
We won the League that year.