By 1970’s Gooner
Benitez tactics: Stifle them again
Rafa Benitez is a wily and rather conservative coach and this is how he approaches knock out competitions.
Now he has that vital away goal he is not likely to play open, expansive football.
He never did in the past irrespective of how many goals his team was ahead anyway.
He plays a tight game with Torres leading the line flanked by two wide men who usually come into the middle to create a packed midfield.
They tend to defend deep in a conservative 4 2 3 1 formation with Alonso holding back and Mascherano rarely getting past the half way line.
In doing this they like to suck the opponents in and play counter attacking football utilizing Torres’s pace and goal scoring ability.
This is usually done through the middle as the initial staring 11 do not always contain natural wingers.
As predicted in the Champions League game against Arsenal at the Emirates last week, Benitez used Kuyt and Babel (along with Gerrard in the middle of the three) who are not natural wingers.
More recently at Inter Milan in the Champions League he played the same players again.
But now he has also seen with his own eyes a weakness in the Arsenal defence that Drogba and Chelsea exposed in their recent meeting at Stamford Bridge.
Toure and Gallas could not cope with the direct high balls into the heart of the defence.
This was repeated last Saturday at the Emirates where Crouch was particularly effective creating a lot of problems and scoring a goal as well.
Benitez will probably decide to bring him on as a late substitute which will be a far more potent threat than Voronin was last Saturday.
Wenger’s tactics: Time to change?
We’ve said it before. If Liverpool are likely to congest the middle of the pitch then Arsenal will only get joy if they can stretch the playa and add width.
This is so as to draw out Liverpool’s midfielders and open the spaces for the little maestro and co to weave their magic.
So it is particularly handy that Robin Van Persie has been declared fit enough to travel for the game.
If he is that fit then tactics may dictate that it’s best to start him rather than keep him on the bench.
Wenger could consider switching formation to 4 4 1 1 or even the formation chosen for the Chelsea game which was 4 2 1 3.
In this way he can accommodate Robin Van Persie’s pace on the left, play Hleb behind Adebayor (where he is most effective) and choose one from Diaby and Walcott for the right wing position.
Walcott should not only get the nod for his recent good performances but more importantly, in terms of tactics, it’s best to deploy his pace and ability to get passed his defender.
In this way he will be creating that much needed width that we are all craving for.
Eboue is best deployed at right back thus keeping the more experienced and faster central defenders, Toure and Gallas, together to counter Torres’s pace.
One change that has been mooted is to bring Gilberto in to counter the threat of Gerrard. He could sit in that space between the defence and the midfield and try and stifle him out.
This would mean however that one other midfielder will need to be sacrificed and I wouldn’t want to leave out anyone from Flamini, Walcott and Helb.
Especially in a game where we have to score to have any chance to progress.
The starting 11 could be :
Eboue Toure Gallas Clichy
Walcott Adebayor RVP
Subs: Lehmann, Senderos, Gilberto, Hoyte, Bendtner, Diaby
Arsenal’s main problem seems to be fatigue. The lack of a strong enough squad coupled with injuries to key players seems to be catching up on the youngsters.
Hopefully they will surmount enough reserves, physical as well as mental, to pull off another historic win.
Maybe Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice should show the players the video of that win at Anfield by the class of 1989.
You can watch it on the video bar on the right hand side of this page.