By 1970’s Gooner
Yes there are a lot of injured and absent players form Arsenal’s potentially most important game of the season.
There is Gallas missing from defence. Campbell is feared to be suffering from a hamstring strain and/or fatigue, Song and Fabregas are missing from central midfield and Arshavin from the offensive players. Van Persie is a long term absentee of course.
As a result most of the debate among Arsenal fans centres on the possible line up in the key positions where players are or could be missing.
Will Campbell play now that Song is out or will Wenger throw Silvestre in? Will Walcott start or will he be used as an impact substitute?
To my mind it’s what formation and tactics Arsene employs not who starts that will prove important in Barcelona.
Barcelona dominated possession for three quarters of the game at the Emirates and if we are to emerge victorious in Barcelona we simply have to stop them playing by denying them possession.
This is the single most important aim that has to be achieved if Arsenal are to have a chance.
And for this to be achieved in an Arsenal way (i.e not kicking the opponents to death as some other premier League opponents do against us) Wenger has to employ tactics that will thwart the opponent’s midfield and deny them the freedom to pass the ball around.
This can be achieved by adopting a more conservative approach especially in the first half because if Barcelona score first then it’s most probably game over.
A more conservative approach implies changing the formation from a 4 3 3 we have come to enjoy in the Premier League to a 4 5 1.
4 5 1 as played by the Arsenal will and should not be a defensive formation where players just stay behind the ball and defend.
4 5 1 will make life very difficult for Xavi to weave his magic and also deny space to their full backs when they try to roam forward as they did at the Emirates.
Two more things also have to happen.
Nasri who will be deployed centrally should not play as far forward as Fabregas did in the first leg. He should instead, when Arsenal are without the ball, drop back into the middle and mark Xavi denying him the space.
Bendtner should also not forget his defensive duties form the front. Indeed Arsenal should mark Barcelona’s defenders tightly when they have the ball and force them to distribute long rather than short (to Xavi for example). Arsenal will then have a much better chance to win the ball back.
Once all these are achieved then Wenger will begin to think about match winning substitutions. It is important not to play all your hands right from the beginning because if something goes wrong then there will not be a lot of room for maneuver left.
Walcott should therefore stay on the bench.
Sagna Campbell Vermaelen Clichy
Eboue Nasri Diaby Denilson Rosicky
Subs: Fabianski, Traore, Silvestre, Merida, Eastmond, Eduardo, Walcott (to come on for Sagna, Eboue goes to right back)