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KGB Fulham vs Arsenal Reserves. Match preview

By Phil Gregory

With a new approach, the Chelsea match preview…

Arsenal predicted line-up

Fabianksi

Sagna Squillaci Koscielny Clichy

Song

Wilshere Denilson

Nasri Chamakh Arshavin

After the Partizan game, we can see that Fabianksi is not a rubbish keeper. If he was, he’d perform poorly in training and never get starts. Some of the basic, basic errors he makes are textbook “choking”, when an athlete forgets all their training due to nerves, and makes s hash of the simplest things due to the pressure on them. It happens to most top level professionals every now and then, for Lukasz it seems to have snowballed into a crisis of confidence. If that penalty save fires him up and he plays with renewed confidence, we could well have a great keeper on our hands. We’ll see.

The defence is as you’d expect.  Gibbs’ injury won’t make much difference as I didn’t see him being included for this game anyway. The Koscielny-Squillaci partnership continues, while I hope Song will have a purely defensive mandate, and will shield the back four impeccably as we know he can. Wilshere deputises for Cesc who’s been ruled out of the match while Denilson partners the young Englishman.

Nasri goes inside right, Arshavin inside-left and Chamakh leads the line.

Tactical analysis

Potential Chelsea line-up

Cech

Ivanovic Alex terry Cole

Mikel

Essien Ramires

Kalou Drogba Anelka

Fullbacks

Much of Chelsea’s attacking prowess comes down their left-hand side, which isn’t a disaster, as our right-hand side is probably the better defensively. Much of their potency on this flank comes from Ashley Cole, so we need to look to restrict him as best we can. There seem to be two options in this regard: either play an inside forward  very high up the pitch (almost level with the centre forward) or play a more defensive forward, who can take responsibility for tracking Cole when Chelsea are in possession

I’m of the belief that it is incredibly important to have the initiative in football, to be imposing your game plan on the opposition. I’d kill to have Theo available, he’d be by far the best option for pinning Cole back. He’s out, so I’d play Nasri really high up the field so that Cole knows if he goes forward, Nasri is going to have acres of space and do some real damage on the counter.

This is exactly what Ferguson does, deploying Valencia high up the pitch to restrict a particularly dangerous fullback. Most likely, the threat from Nasri would force Cole to deal with Nasri (after all, a defenders primary concern is defending) so we limit Cole’s runs. That to me is the best way of doing it, as playing a forward such as Eboue who tracks Cole still allows him to make those runs as well as limiting us in attack.

On the other flank we’re likely to see Ivanovic who, while not terrible coming forward is really a centreback playing at rightback. He’s solid defensively (as you’d expect) but doesn’t possess the pace to race forwards and then get back in position. That poses an opportunity for us. Arshavin can run at him while Clichy can afford to offer an option on the overlap, knowing that they are less effective on this side of the pitch.

What are they likely to throw at us? I’d expect Drogba to drift towards our left, looking to compete for the long ball against Clichy instead of the two centrebacks. It’s a familiar tactic, Rafa used Kuyt to exploit Clichy’s weakness in the air, and last season we used Bendtner wide to win the ball versus a fullback to offer us a direct route on the break.

There’s not much we can do really. If they consistently aim the long punts over there, expect Song to shift over to help win the ball in the air. That would however leave us a little light in midfield for a few seconds if they decided to shift their aim back to the general midfield, and Wilshere/Denilson aren’t going to win anything in the air against Essien without Song’s help.

Other than that, expect them to counter-attack quickly and directly to exploit space left behind our fullbacks (hence my inclusion of Denilson in the first-choice midfield).

Midfield

It’s likely to be a three versus three in midfield, with both sides electing for holding players (Song and Mikel) behind two other central midfielders. Essien is an absolute monster, capable of doing his job defensively as well as also offering a threat in our box. Ramires hasn’t started his Chelsea career brilliantly, and even with him stepping in for Lampard, the loss of the England international is still being felt keenly by Chelsea. That’s just as well, as despite the impressive form of Wilshere in central midfield, there’s only one Cesc Fabregas.

It must be noted that our midfield is going to be a lot smaller than theirs, which will be a problem. With them being at home, the ref won’t call a lot of the marginal fouls Chelsea will look to dish out, so it’ll certainly be a disadvantage.

Again, I disagree with trying to match their physical prowess by playing some like Diaby. The worst thing you can possibly do is try and match your opponent’s strength; that’s exactly what they’d want us to do! It’d be like us travelling to Blackburn, and them playing as many flair players as they have got in an attempt to maximise their possession, knowing we would have the majority of the ball. They don’t do that (sadly!), they look to play to their strengths, as should we.

My midfield is selected on the basis of possession football. Jack can create and take players on while being able to take a hit or three  so seems like the most obvious replacement for Cesc, while Denilson is top drawer when it comes to ball retention and winning the ball back via interceptions.

Up front

We all know what Drogba brings to the table. Playing against him is going to be a huge “welcome to the Premier League” for Squillaci and Koscielny. The latter has already met Kevin Davies and whatever lump Allardyce put up front, but this is likely to be the hardest 90 minutes he has ever played. If he can come out of this game with a general consensus of 7/10 (or better), then there’ll be no doubt in my mind he’ll go onto be anointed a world-class centreback in due course. He’s got everything else in his locker, if he passes this test he will be another Wenger masterstroke signing.

Squillaci, with his breadth of experience and both domestic and international pedigree, is not going to be overawed by the prospect of facing Drogba. I’m quietly confident of the prospects of the duo in dealing with his threat, given their attributes. Will the Drogba hoodoo finally be lifted from Arsenal? I bloody hope so,  as it’s vital if we are to get a result at the Bridge.

Chamakh has certainly drawn the short straw: the centre forward, away from home in a huge, huge tie. He’s likely to be running himself into the ground for 90 minutes, and may only get a single good chance on the ground, which the fans will expect him to take. His main contribution is likely to be his workrate: along with the inside forwards, he’ll be closing down the opposition defenders so that they are forced to make rushed passes.

Such work is often seemingly fruitless, as it’s very unlikely he’ll actually make a tackle from his closing down. What is crucial is the fact that he gives them less time on the ball, so their passes are a little less accurate, with the weighting slightly less than perfect. Such a pass can go awry, and that is exactly the sort that Denilson will seize onto.

Psychology

We can talk tactics and analyse match-ups all we like, but the single most crucial factor in this game’s outcome will be belief. We won’t have a hope in hell of a result if our players don’t believe they can compete. If our players go out with an inferiority complex, they’ll inevitably play poorly and Chelsea will breeze through us. If we play to the best of our ability, we can get a result here despite the absence of multiple first-choice players.

The fullback and midfield battle will be where the game is won, for me. If we can keep Cole quiet, and keep possession in midfield well, we have the players to create the chances to win this game. We absolutely cannot afford to gift away goals, scoring one will be hard, but scoring two will be immeasurably harder. I’d be absolutely delighted if we scored the first goal, as it’d force Chelsea to come out, leaving more space.

If we concede in the first half, it’s vital we don’t suddenly go gung-ho as Chelsea could score four if we do that. A spell of possession, keep heads up and play our game; creating quality chances over time. Sure, throw caution to the wind if we’re behind as the second half goes on, but we can’t let ourselves get torn apart at any point as it would shatter belief for the season.

2-1 to the Arsenal

———————-

You ought to read: The Anti-Arsenal Conspiracy.  Fact!

Watch out for next:  A full newspaper report on Arsenal’s first ever league game. Sunday on the Arsenal History site.

34 comments to KGB Fulham vs Arsenal Reserves. Match preview

  • The psychology of all performers and artists is of great interest Phil, and I am glad you have brought it up. Even people who just play for fun in a five a side league one evening a week will know, there are days when it all happens for you, and days when it just doesn’t.

    The problem is when it doesn’t work for you what can happen is you start to focus too hard, and instead of doing it all naturally, you start to think, and the natural automatic flow in the brain that all good artists and performers have, begins to go.

    Try to put the pass in the right place, and it goes astray. Start thinking about the sequence when playing improvised jazz, and you screw up. Start worrying about your next line when on stage and you freeze.

    It is patently obvious to anyone whose read any of Untold that I’ve no direct experience of being a top performer, but in the two fields I’ve occupied myself with in my life (initially as a musician, later as a writer) I find these matters as true as in my fumbling attempts on a football pitch.

    Relax let it happen naturally, and if you are any good your talent comes through. It is true in sitting at a keyboard typing, as it is sitting at a piano playing jazz with 2 other guys, as it is playing football, or running a mile, or writing a treatise on dyscalculia. Writers get writers block, footballers just lose form and some sadly never get it back.

    Being a keeper must be worst of all!

  • Real Fulham FAN

    Why use the name FULHAM? in a dig at the scumbags

    If you want to refer to Chelsea, use another term that doesn’t soil our good name.

    Otherwise we’d all have to call you KGB WOOLICH?

  • RoyVasey

    Great piece! Well done.
    I predict 2-2.

  • RedGooner

    I have enjoyed recently the articles on injuries and compairing the list to our opponents in the top 6 clubs.

    Could someone though work out especially with last season and this season how many players we had missining for the games against ManU/Chelsea/Liverpool.

    I believe that the overall injuries against lesser teams our squad should be capable of dealing with them BUT against the top teams you need your full first team available I think its more about timing of injuries than the overall ammount.

    Face it against Barcelona we had way to many missing it would have been a different score line for sure with everyone fit.

    would appreciate some info on who we had missing last year against the top teams as this year seems to favour chelsea again.

  • Arsene Apprentice

    Phil,

    A good write up… And, your desire and mine match up quite nicely. However, just one problem as I alluded to in several comments I have made over the past few days. It seems that Chelsea are more than happy to watch us play. In fact we look like a hell of a team against anyone. The result is what gets me… My question is that our strengths against most may not be against Chelsea. Shouldn’t Wenger address that? Why play the same predictable way and lose? Can’t there be some other tactical switch or change rather than what we know will happen and we know the result? I am not saying that ultimately the possession passing game upwards of 500 ppg and 55% possession isn’t effective as a tactic…. But, I believe it has become a pattern/tactic that Chelsea has come to enjoy exploiting. So, why not change it up not with a Diaby but with our own counter attacking compact, defensive tracking, man to man, high pressure game for 70 minutes and then when they are tired put the burners on. This is an old team and the endurance is not what it was.. So they sit and wait and are patient… ANd, then 1-0 just before half. ANd, then 2-0 at the 75th… Chavski wins. I would like us for once to be patient, to be more organized, and then with 0-0 70th minute burn this old tired team up!

  • nicky

    An interesting post but one comment intrigues me. It reads “With them being at home the ref won’t call a lot of the marginal fouls”.
    Why not, or am I being naive? Is this the norm for all home sides?

  • Wrenny

    I admire the fact Wenger focuses on his own team, how he looks to set out his team to play at their best, rather than nullify the opposition which often sacrifices your own team’s performance. He follows the “attack is the best form of defence” mantra.

    However, I would like to see him be a little more pragmatic and employ big game tactics when we go up against a Chelsea or Man Utd. He’s done it before, most famously in the 2005 FA Cup final when we played very defensively with Bergkamp as a lone striker. We don’t have to be quite that negative, and of course injuries limit his options for tomorrow’s game, but I believe we ought to be more flexible in this regard.

    I wouldn’t see playing Diaby against Chelsea as a bad or undesirable tactic. Drogba is a very obvious threat and Diaby would help us win much the aerial and physical battle we will face, from both open play and set pieces. Out-muscling Chelsea in midfield worked incredibly well for Man City and I don’t see any shame in adapting that for ourselves in a game of this magnitude.

    In the absence of Cesc, a powerful midfield trio of Song, Denilson and Diaby could be very successful. Arshavin seems to lack the stamina for these kind of games, so employing the more energetic and defensively disciplined Wilshere and Nasri on the flanks to better protect the full backs (particularly the off-form Clichy) could come into consideration. It’s a tactic Ferguson regularly employs against us by utilising Ji-Sung Park as a rather negative ‘winger’ whose stamina is exceptional.

    And Arshavin’s inclusion from the bench could have a much bigger impact than playing him for the entire match.

  • Terence McGovern

    I firmly believe that if we are to get anything at all from this game then we need Arshavin to get stuck into them from the very start.
    we need him to run at their defence at every opportunity and both Chamakh and Nasri supported but Wishere need to be available to recieve those low crosses. More importantly, we need him to not give away possession cheaply especially if any of our midfielders are forward of his position.
    Positionary discipline for both Song and denilson will be key tomorrow.
    Fingers and toes crossed.

  • Arsene Apprentice

    Chelsea have 7+ players at age 28-32 Ramires 23 Obi Mikel 23 Ivanovich 26 Essien 27 mean age is 27.8 for line-up. They have slight height advantage across the pitch but slight is the key word. Kilos is where they are heavier… So we play an aged and less fit team. It seems fair that they would want to watch us vs. play us. They want to watch us miss attempt after attempt while they pounce and conserve and are efficient.. Our boys mean age is 24.8 where we have 1 player @30 the rest fall between 23-27 and of course Denilson 22 and Wilshere 18 and we are fit. We can afford to be patient for much of the match. We can afford to bait them until 65th to 70th minute. Then we strike… We do the 26 pass goal… We make them get out of the comfort zone and actually earn some wages… If we attack from the 0-90th I regret to say we will have 450-550 passes with 90+ unsuccessful we will have deserved to win by better stats and a more beautiful game. But, will walk away with dissappointment.. BTW I am down with the cause either way..

  • munawwar

    firstly much to my regret i think diaby will play… which sucks… cause he jogs in the big games…

    and 2ndly… Malouda is going to be there… not kalou.. malouda is dangerous these days with his finishing..

  • TommieGun

    Like Arsene said, and like Mourinho proved last year in the CL: close down the Drog, you close down the KGB. I hope all of you guys remember the master class Lucio put on the Drog. If Squil or Kos (and I think Squil is more skilled for the job) take it as a “personal” mission, to see that Drogba doesn’t get a moment of peace with OR without the ball – we have a good chance. The KGB surely miss Lampa’s creativity, and with Yossi (the other creative guy) out as well, the KGB will have to rely on brute force (i.e. Obi One Knoodle, Essien, Et Al).

    Good luck and hope to have the rest of the guys fit for the rematch on boxing day ! ! !

  • Duke

    Wow ! Wat a wonderful match up. How I wish d match is played by writing. It is easier said than done. We shud b realistic in our opinion, in every department of d pitch Chel is quite superior, except d rite back which look shaky with either Ivanovic or Feriare lackin pace & defensive awareness respectively. Be dat as it may, I do not believe losing 2 Chel means Ars title hope is gone. But we must show a lot of character 2 justify dis. All d same I pray Chel ave a bad game & we’re lucky wit d Ref decisions. Once again I wish we can get sumthin out of this game.

  • SV

    Great round up. They will target Fabianski and score from a set play. They are increadibly efficient with the corners and I’m not sure we’ll be prepared for that. After that, it’s academic staff for them letting us play posession football and closing down positions in the box. Can we shot from he distance (Denilson)? Diaby is useless, but it looks like he will be playing. 7 points behind Chelsea, and behind Manu and ManCity, here we go.

  • tim

    According to the media and nearly all the blogs out there, our team should not even show up. A***holes. Why even watch football then?

    Thanks, Phil, for believing in the cause.

    2-0 to the good. Our defense will have a blinder. Nasri and Arshavin will score.

  • slim

    2-1, a Nasri brace at the death. And I think Fabianski might surprise us all again with this one.

  • Dark Prince

    Why isn’t Rosicky included?? Puttin 2 DM, Song and Denilson, will be horrible. Rosicky should play instead of Denilson. If this happens then Arsenal can give a fight. If not, then i cant see Arsenal winning.

  • DC

    Good analysis Phil. The wa

  • DC

    Good analysis Phil. The way to challenge Chelsea (and all the so-called big teams) has already been shown by Man City and Inter Milan last season. Arsene has to emphasise 100% defensive unit concentration and individual reponsibility with a pressing game that is functional but not reckless and ill-timed. Nearly all the defeats we incur are because we switch off and that always changes the momentum. These matches against our rivals are always a test of team and individual concentration and not solely on technical ability; otherwise we would always be seen as favourites! 2-0 with focussed concentration throughout the whole match!

  • Honest Bill

    Phil Gregory.

    I liked your article. It is quite rare that you see articles which offer even a small amount of tactical insight.

    I also fully agree with the first poster. In matches like this where quality and talent is in abundance, psychology is the single biggest determining factor.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    ‘It is patently obvious to anyone whose read any of Untold that I’ve no direct experience of being a top performer, but in the two fields I’ve occupied myself with in my life (initially as a musician, later as a writer) I find these matters as true as in my fumbling attempts on a football pitch.’

    You’re absolutely right Tony. When I was studying in Salzburg my teacher used to make me break the problem down slowly first, but fairly soon he just said: ‘this fast…’. ‘You must be joking’ was what I thought, but you just empty your mind and let it happen, mistakes ‘n’ all……then, and only then, do you analyse how it went. By mixing the training of components at differing speeds and simply ‘going for it’ you slowly but surely become comfortable at ridiculous speeds…..although it did take me 15 years to master a piece of Russian music, but when I nailed it………like winning the champions league!!!! In football parlance, it would be 25 minutes of mixing it, 30 minutes passing them off the park with a smoothness and serenity that would make barca look boring, another 25 of mixing it again, then signing off by playing keep ball and taking the ball to the corner flag for the final whistle……..

    The other thing he did do though, was to make me play pieces in concert that I thought were rather easy…….a bit like sending a young keeper to Brentford to gain 1st team experience I guess…………

    Not a bad teacher, I must say……….

  • Gooneraside

    Good article, Phil.

    Let’s also hope that lady luck is this time on our side.
    One of the other side (was it Essien?) reckons that they consider Drogba to be their lucky charm against us, so they appear to believe in that lady, as do I.

    But I also remember what Gary Player (I think it was) said -“The more I practise, the luckier I get.” Hopefully, our practising has been better!

    Excuse my lack of research in writing this comment – I believe the substance, maybe the names have been changed only to protect the guilty.

  • critic

    very well said tony…

  • Cape Gooner

    Walter – the De Jong tackle looks like red card to me. Gets the ball with his first leg. Breaks Ben Arfa’s leg with the second leg.

  • The name was have used is KGB in Fulham, and I think it got shortened sometimes – my apologies. It refers to the area, not any other team. No argument with Fulham I quite like the Fulham owner. Always makes me smile

  • goonergerry

    I just want to make it ckear to all of the Wenger apologists out there- that losing in this way -again -to Chelsea is unacceptable- I don’t care what excuses you manufacture- the performance is not good enough. If you are happy losing every year then I am pleased for you- but it is not good enough- and I don’t care how much much our surplus is this team is not good enough. It cries out for investment and more power.

  • tim

    goonergerry —

    I just want to make it clear: YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE. AND A DUMBASS.

    I don’t care what excuses you manufacture, but you are a prick.

    Good night.

  • TommieGun

    goonergerry there is a cucumber waiting for you to sit on, you wanker.

    we played very well, just too bad (and quite amazing) how we couldn’t put the ball in the net. arghhhhh

    and fabianski was immense …

    anyhow. we just need to keep focus against the lesser sides, this season looks like both the KGB and manure are crap, and as soon as we have a few of our offensive players, we’ll do a lot better.

  • Getty

    I can only say we just don’t have the luck. We dominated and lost. You play well sometimes, but one has a psychological advantage really. Arsenal doesn’t deserve to lose, no way no how. The commentator kept saying Arsenal failed to break down the Chelsea rear guard, but we have broken them down so many times with the bit concentration we would have been out of sight in the first half. The only lose we should rue is last weekend’s. What we learn today is that Chelsea is beatable. They are not as tight as all the pundits claim them to be. It’s way to early to make any prediction! Write anyone off at your own peril.

    By the way, does anyone get Fox’s pundits on TV? Here in the USA Warron Barton is the expert analyst, what an embarrassment! Clueless idiot! He was not that good of a player, but he sure is worse at punditry. He really has no knowledge of the game.

  • Dark Prince

    Aaaarrrrrgghhh!!!! why does Arsenal always miss out on that final pass??!!??

    We played so well in the midfield and still as before lack that final bite!!!!!!
    Also we missed so many chances!! Koscielny missing from 2 yards in d start!! The first goal was very confusing but the second goal was the fault of the wall. We didn’t pay attention to Malouda creating that gap. And that was a crackin free kick.

    Nonetheless, we played better than i expected. Especially Wilshere. Diaby was poor and too time consuming with his passes. Defence performed good but were unlucky with the 1st goal. Arsenal could hav won this game but we still need to learn to break in in the final third.

  • Dark Prince

    By the way, was it just me, or did any1 notice that JET looked like a GIANT!!!! 😛

  • Kerink

    unlucky.. but i just cant believe the second goal.. it could have pull of anyone’s head!!

  • Mahesh

    [Rant On] I believe it was Chelsea’s gameplan to sit back and hit on counter. The plan could have backfired if Kos had a bit of luck around 30 second into the game. As it turned out, we didn’t get that, and after that it was always going to be difficult. Again, it somehow feels that Chelsea ‘allowed’ us to play our game and that makes it more frustrating. Once first goal went in, I could feel that we lost a lot of confidence, and created very few chances after that. I would say, we need to improve our passing speed if we are to beat Chelsea anywhere. After first goal, we also didn’t close down them as well as we were doing before the goal. It’s really maddening to see one player being made into such a taboo. I mean, what is Drogba? He is just a player – why is he being made into Arsenal beater? For the moment, it feels like we have not developed from last year. May be I am wrong to deduce that, but may be not. It is sad to see two Money-bags in front of us. God, I would love it when our wagon wheel starts moving at full speed (i.e. we start investing good money along with the players from academy making it good), and we beat City and Chelsea (ManU and others are no-match anyways 😉 ). Today, it just feels bad that despite trying for so long, we failed. I just feel, that putting this much effort into the last game would have provided really good returns. But then, 20/20 hindsight can make prophet out of anyone. [Rant off]

  • slim

    I just can’t believe this. Year in, year out, we get all the damn injuries and bad decisions, EVERY SINGLE TIME we play so well despite all that and then some bad luck screws it all up. Drogba in against the post, Alex in the top corner. We don’t even come CLOSE to getting the results we deserve. Never mind 31 more games this bullshit has to stop someday.

  • Arsene Apprentice

    This is a marathon not a sprint… Meaning make adjustments so we aren’t repeating the same mistakes… My hope today was not repeating what we all know was in the past… Drogba 39′ and scorline 2-0. Point is Chelsea were in the same position just five years ago with a young team against Arsenal… This will not be the same scoreline at EMS. In fact, we have to grin and bear it for the next few weeks because we did not get the result we wanted…. I say let them celebrate a scoreline of 2-nill. Live it up Chelsea while you can… My wish for next game is let’s get more physical (gameplay)… That was my only complaint today. I was shouting by myself “kick em’ they kick you “kick em’. I say a lot to look forward to!