Tactics blog: Outfoxing Leicester

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Good morning girls and boys – long time no speak…. unfortunately life has restricted my writing prolificacy in recent months but has done nothing to abet my thirst for all things Arsenal – I’m proud to say I have managed to attend every away match in the league, along with a European away. On top of my season ticket, my bank balance and social life are both ridden with cobwebs.

Our Sunday noon kick-off against Leicester signals another ‘season defining’ game, which will undoubtedly have significant repercussions for our prospects for the business end of the season. The Foxes have been unquestionably brilliant under Ranieri this season, playing with a ferocious intensity and unerring ruthlessness in front of goal – if only playing them could have an osmosis effect on our exploits.

Whilst their story has been an awe-inducing one, it’s not one that I hope produces a happy ending. Leicester winning the league, regardless of how impressive they have been, would be a shocking indictment not only on Arsenal, but the quality of the supposed topsides in the league. Clearly there is an important context in which Leicester’s meteoric rise has taken place, benefitting from a perfect storm of travails at other clubs. Chelsea, despite a recent upturn in form, have gone full on Britney after looking insurmountable last year, Man Utd have been Louis’d?, City could still win it of course, but the flakiness that has been a feature of Pellegrini’s time in charge has been increasingly prevalent since his departure was confirmed. And then, there is Arsenal.

Whilst we remain well within touching distance of the league’s summit, this has not been a vintage season for the Gunners. In my view, we have played poorly, often grinding out results without looking convincing; but the occasional peppering of stunning results – see Utd (h), Bayern (h), Olympiakos (a) and Leicester (a) – have masked the issues of what has been a seemingly dysfunctional side. Injuries have certainly played their part, with Alexis missing two months during a crucial period, Theo Walcott’s form dissipating on return from a knock and then the loss of Cazorla and Coquelin in one-fell swoop unbalanced the side.

The duo of Ramsey and Flamini has often looked porous and the lack of a controlling influence in midfield has been palpable. Ramsey has come in for some severe criticism, but my view is that his only crime has been trying to do too much, in part to compensate from the lack of defensive support and offensive nous offered by Flamini. Cazorla was also receiving some criticism prior to sustaining his injury, but his calming presence and ability to take the ball as ‘first receiver’ from the back four has been sorely missed.

Whilst the Ramsey-Coquelin partnership has borne little fruit to date, it is worth persisting with, if only to keep Flamini away from the pitch against Leicester. Their rapid transitions coupled with Flamini’s proneness to going walkabout is a recipe made in shitsville.
Gabriel is rumoured to be struggling with a thigh injury for the game, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I remain thoroughly unconvinced by the Brazilian – he lacks composure on the ball, gives away needless fouls and his positioning is raw to say the least. My sense is that his athleticism has masked all manner of sins in the eyes of many supporters, but he has a long, long way to go. The assuredness on the ball and organisational qualities that Per possesses could be essential against Vardy and co. Hopefully we will see a similar improvement to that of Koscielny after he first joined and adapted to the Premier League.

In terms of how we set out to get the right result, much will clearly hinge on our tactical approach and mind-set, which will inform our choice of personnel. In my view, there are two elements we should try to employ to outfox Leicester.

1) Target their full backs – Fuchs is a solid defender and can take a wicked set piece, but he can be susceptible to pacey wingers and movement in behind. Danny Simpson meanwhile appears to me as one of the few weak links in Leicester’s armoury. Fuchs is well protected by Marc Albrighton, who may be a limited footballer but will always put in a proverbial shift. Simpson meanwhile gets little defensive support from the sublime Mahrez, instead relying on Kante’s energy and the intelligence of Danny Drinkwater (who must surely be in the reckoning for an England call-up) to cover his surges forward. Given Mahrez’s preference to float in-field, there is a real opportunity for Monreal to take the initiative and support Alexis to double up on Simpson – the onus then lies with our midfielders to pick up Mahrez’s in-field motions. On the other flank, Bellerin will certainly look to beat Fuchs for pace on the outside, but it is imperative that he has support out-wide. I would imagine Chamberlain will start the game after his goal scoring exploits and improved performance against Bournemouth last weekend, however he has a tendency to drift infield and often plays as an auxiliary midfielder. He could well be acting under instruction from the boss, but we would be missing a trick to not attack Leicester from wide positions, given the quality of their central midfielders and centre backs.

2) Don’t let them revel in the underdogs tag – despite their scintillating form and impressive results, Leicester haven’t shifted the tag of underdog, which psychologically suits them very nicely. Whilst I watched them demolish Man City from behind the sofa, the emphatic nature of the win may have pushed the perception of Leicester from plucky minnows to serious contenders. On Sunday, many will consider Leicester to be favourites, which is an alien situation for their players – we need to use that to our advantage. Their trademark has been ruthless counter attacking this season, sitting back and absorbing pressure, then picking sides apart on the break with the pace of Vardy and laser-like vision of Mahrez. Don’t give them that opportunity – let them have the ball in midfield and deep positions and force them to play like the home side – it isn’t something sides have been able to do against them this season – the one example that comes to mind is our win at the King Power on a sunny autumn afternoon, where we used the pace of Walcott to pick them off on the break. Conversely, we need to prevent the counter – easier said than done. We need to be patient, don’t overcommit and play with discipline. It’s a tall ask, but it is a tactic that has proven successful against this side before.

Clearly, we will need the stars to align and show more tactical intelligence and in-game management than we have of late, but we have the talent in this side to better Leicester – a win would give us irresistible momentum, a draw is tolerable, a loss may be terminal, and that’s before considering what may happen at Eastlands…

See you on the other side.

Until next time x

Follow me on Twitter @BeardofPires

1,556 Responses to “Tactics blog: Outfoxing Leicester”

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  1. Louis Almeida

    Bamford, I doubt Giroud starts against Barca as we’ll be laying counter the whole match. We’ll approach it like we did against Bayern at the Emirates. Put pace into the game, absorb pressure and transition quickly.

  2. Leedsgunner


    Don’t get wrong, I’m pleased as punch that we won yesterday and a win is a win… but the truth is three points was due to a heavy dose of good luck… to pretend otherwise is not reflecting reality.

    Frankly after all the injuries and the dodgy decisions we’ve endured (especially in the Chelsea games) I’m glad we were beneficiaries of good fortune.

  3. Bamford10


    Yes, I agree we’ll be sitting deep and countering, but I’m still not sure it makes sense to drop Giroud given his form, hold-up play and ability in the air.

  4. qna

    Welbeck muat be on top for goala per minutes played this season hey. Hehe. Pretty funny considering that was his biggest flaw last season. Good luck to him. Next league match he goes home. Please please please god let him score another couple there.

  5. Bamford10

    “It’s only one goal. I want to be out there playing minutes and staying fit now.”
    – Danny Welbeck

    That’s a good attitude at least.

  6. gambon

    “not 100% correct because we won.”

    Its this type of thinking that is rife among low intelligence people like yourself.

    In fact you have displayed this type of basic thinking all season with your “well, we’re top arent we” remarks.

  7. Louis Almeida

    Bamford, I’m not sure it really requires hold-up play in the first leg. We can just play through balls for Alexis and Theo to run onto. The Giroud factor may come into play later when Barca tire and he can aerially dominate their CBs. I think Wenger will start Theo but we have to see how quickly Welbeck can get up to speed.

  8. peanuts&monkeys

    Reff decisions on one of the Simpson foul can be debated. But not both. Similarly, the Kanta handball in 1st half was a goddamn certain penalty. That should have changed the game too.
    Well, reg the Vardy penalty, he earned it albeit with little bit of deception.

  9. Sam

    Chamberlain n Campbell are not going anywhere
    their contributions however little still appreciated n we expect them to improve and become great players for Arsenal Fc.

  10. peanuts&monkeys

    Next season Spurs will be an even better team. The special ones will be in charge of the ManC teams. Chelsea will certainly not repeat their poor form next year. And god forbid, if WengerMFdamagerinchief stays with Arsenal, then Arsenal will be another 12 years away from another title.

  11. Bamford10


    Yes, I know why you would say that, but when countering, you still need a target player whose feet you can play into so as to begin the counter movement. If all you have available is balls over the top, you end up turning the ball over to the other team time after time after time.

    We will see what Wenger decides, but I’d be shocked if Giroud isn’t in the XI given his form and his contributions thus far.

  12. Sam

    Happy with Chambers too
    those saying we wasted money they don’t know what they’re talking about.
    They should take a look at Mangala n Otamendy
    That is a real waste of money
    Calum Chambers is investment

    New Busquet

  13. peanuts&monkeys

    Arsenal might have grounded that result out yesterday. But thats what the fans will like for the rest of 12 matches.

    Arsenal fans shd not be scared of the team bottling it from here. Let the positive be that we will get to see results being ground out and a fight till the wire. lets see if Wenger has the balls for that!

    Hope Wenger doesn’t risk Ozil and Coquelin,much for the Barca match. The CL is a foregone conclusion. Lets hope Wenger will not get a player injured in the CL matches and then cry ‘ínjury, injury’ and then give up the race from here.

  14. DUIFG

    basmford, welbeck isnt a small guy, he can still hold up, its not like playing wally, but even if we did that might be our best chance, we were the equal of bayern at home with wally up front, we got battered with Giroud up top away.

  15. boy dio

    only two signings at most in the summer, youngsters that are out on loan or in the u21’s are actually good, arsene didn’t sign on flamteta and rosicky with the intention of leaving us short the next season, he doesn’t want to bloat the squad with players that could stunt a youngsters development

    if/when the kids fail then arsene will sell and buy a ready made, success with campbell, bellerin and le coq is making it very likely that this is the strategy going forward
    so daft to see people demanding signings like they forget what philosophies of arsenal’s they’ve supported over the last decade ~_~

  16. Up 4 grabs now

    Afternoon peeps!

    Cech had very little to do yesterday bar the save from vardy.
    Defensively I thought we were sound, and chambers did well when he came on. Not that Leicester threatened too much once down to ten.
    Both fullbacks played well especially linking up with Alexis.

    Midfield wasn’t great, and attacking wise apart from Giroud was pretty average.
    But the most important thing was getting the 3 points.
    Going to need to up our game now!

  17. Louis Almeida

    Yes Bamford, I understand your points. I think I agree with DUIFG though, Welbeck could do well although we don’t know if he’ll be fully matchfit,, maybe we can give him 60 mins? But what if Giroud is not holding the ball up well? If we are defending for long periods, Giroud will be isolated, no? It may make sense to go from back to front quickly as Barca will try to condense the pitch with a high line.

  18. Up 4 grabs now

    Schalke have announced Matip is going to Liverpool on a free at the end of the season.
    Would have been a good signing!

  19. PieAFC

    Go back to a 4-4-2 for the prem.

    And in Europe play to suit. We became a cheap imitation of Barcelona overnight!

    Good result at the weekend. We win and grind results we damned. We play well and lose, were damned.

    Either way fair play to lads, need to step it up more for us to be successful. Big games coming up.

    Barca will take a miracle performance from us to win. We probably won’t just need to hope we don’t get battered so it sends us into a bottle it frenzy like we have done before.

    February and still within a shout of two trophies at the very least. Fuck it fed up of always being pissed off.

  20. gonsterous

    Here’s what’s going to happen.. we are going to get thrashed 4 or 5- nill and then we will get a win or a draw in the return leg and Wenger will go on about mentality and the team maturing..

  21. Up 4 grabs now


    Been saying for over a year now to switch to 442 for 95% of games in the league.

    Change it up for city, utd and Chelsea. And maybe spuds,
    Everybody else play 442.

    Nearly every team that comes to the Emirates comes to hit us on the break and packs there defence.
    So why play a defensive midfielder.

    You can still play coquelin but play him alongside ozil, santi, Ramsay or Elmo.
    As long as coquelin sits back and the fullbacks don’t go quite so far forwards, which they shouldn’t need to do if you have wingers, it will still cover us when teams break but gives us the extra striker in the box.

  22. Pierre


    “Next season Spurs will be an even better team”

    I can tell u what will happen to Spurs. All the clubs will come sniffing around their best players and their manager. They will offer them a small fortune in wages and their team will be slowly dismantled. Go back 5 years when arsenal had rvp, ces, nasri, ade, cliche, song all left for the money and in the end ,of course, to win trophies as the team were gradually losing their best players.

  23. gonsterous

    We can’t switch to a 442.. I really like the 4-3-3.. it’s no 4-5-1 but its not bad.. just need a Suarez lvl striker..

  24. Up 4 grabs now


    Why can’t we play 442, Leicester have all season and are top of the league, that isn’t a fluke.
    I’m pretty sure they are top scorers in the league as well.
    If they can play it why can’t we, we have a better quality of players than they do for the most part.

  25. Up 4 grabs now

    And since we don’t have a Suarez type striker, who can get 30 goals wouldn’t it better plaguing 442 with two strikers who might get 15-18 goals each which we do have.

  26. PieAFC

    Teams have proven that defenders have go so used to dealing with off the ball runners from midfield and one striker up top. Only the very good teams can really work the system.

    Every system which has different variations 4-5-1 whatever to the one striker.

    Go back to the days of 2 up front, also no different that back then we was successful in the league. I know change happened, but so did many teams try to imitate the European style. It’s not the same in this game.

    It seems the 4-4-2 is coming back now. As defenders have become better ball players, they’ve taken the eye of actually defending against two strikers.

    Watford for fuck sake have caused teams problems all season, they were championship level last year.

    All I’m saying change. Play the players you have in a formation to suit or don’t bother, don’t make it work when it doesn’t.

  27. PieAFC

    Totally agree Grabs.

    Even at home set up completely different. Always trying to accommodate every player in a system that doesn’t work with the players we have.

    Sanchez out wide/Coq holding/ Ozil behind another midfelder out wide.

    Decent strikers up front. Why not?

  28. Up 4 grabs now

    Every game is different, us playing the same way the same formation no matter what opponents is ridiculous.
    Playing Barcelona is different from playing anderlecht.
    Playing Juventus is different again.
    Playing Norwich is different from playing the bindippers, which is different from playing Chelsea.

    We should adjust the team and formation accordingly, this also means some key players get the odd rest and game on the bench to bring on if need be.

  29. PieAFC


    My major gripe with Wenger is the predictability he shows. And when he shocks everyone it’s never for the best – Sanago up front against Bayern.

  30. Up 4 grabs now

    By the way that’s tactics it would be nice to have them sometimes!!!!
    (I will give the stubborn bugger some credit, he got the substitutions bang on yesterday)

  31. BillikenGooner

    I get frustrated hearing Wenger and the press talking about the emotion or the mentality to win the title.

    What I want are players that are professionals. Players that don’t need a good result to boost their feelings or that let a bad result sink their hopes. I want players that go out there, day in and day out, and want to put their foot on the throat of the other team, dominate them, and professionally walk off the pitch as they are already preparing for the next match.

    I never once thought that the teams of the late 90s – early ’00s needed positive results to make them feel better about themselves or that it would put them in the “right mental frame” to show up the next match and win.

    It almost makes we feel we are hearing about a team of children and not adults. Stop thinking of 10, 12, 14 matches down the road and where one “might be.”

  32. Joe

    Arsenal wins and the yappers come out telling everyone how great of supporters they are That the Moaners aren’t real supporters.

    Emirates saying he’s a better supporter because he goes to matches


    I hope you do what you said you were gonna do.

    And fuck off from the blog with your long winded boring “objective” posts.

    Who the fuck do you think you are. Claiming your high and mighty status among bloggers because you go to games.

    Your opinion means nothing but to your over inflated opinion of yourself

    Do a favour and fuck off

  33. Joe

    Gambon and red are a million
    Times more insightful than you
    And most times correct in their postings.

    Unlike you.

    Two weeks off and comes back after we barely beat a 10 man Leicester piping off about how he’s a better supporter.

    Fok off

  34. gonsterous

    Jesus.. everyday it’s like a school of little children in here.. someones arguing with someone, someone else has their head not screwed on right and another has his heads in the toilet.. grow up . The lot of you..

  35. Joe

    Haha Wenger wouldn’t let debuchy go to United because he didn’t want to help a rival.


    Hhaah. What a clown

  36. Joe

    If grown men are really getting offended or worked up about what’s written in blog comments then only God can help them

    Maybe Allah


  37. Arseneslovechild

    Oi joe you arse wipe,talking shite as usual.moan,moan,moan..jeez,give it a rest.verbal diarrhoea & constipation of ideas just about sums you & your ilk up.miserable b******

  38. Southernpeople

    Sir Joe.

    The names u mentioned went their coz they wanted it, and they were all bought for the highest bidder. Debushy on the other hand wanted to b loaned to a rival

    So a bit of twisted logic