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Tactics: How Arsenal Can Avoid Another Embarrassment, This Time At Wembley

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Arsene Wenger

Arsenal take on Wigan Athletic in the semi finals of the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday hoping to avoid yet another meltdown this season. The Gunners inexplicably and meekly surrendered their top spot in the Premier League over the last couple of months and are well and truly on the verge of losing out for a Champions League berth after losing 0-3 to Everton last weekend.

Ex Gunner Ray Parlour says the team must believe in itself to avoid a Birmingham mishap. “If I had to pick fourth and no trophy, or fifth and a trophy… I would take the trophy,” said Parlour. “It would give the club a big boost.”

So can the Gunners finally end a run of four games without a win against Wigan at Wembley? We here at Soccerouls provide our readers with the tactical tweaks that Arsenal must come up with to quell the promising Latics.

Build a high tempo early:

Wigan Boss Uwe Rosler says believes that his side are underdogs and as the FA Cup remains Arsenal’s only hope of a trophy this season, it means there’s an additional pressure on Wenger’s men as the two sides take the pitch. Wigan beat three Premier League sides en route to the semis, Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Manchester City, the latter being a tactical outcome.

The Latics are more than capable to beating Arsenal and hence the Gunners must get into the rhythm early into the match. Mikel Arteta has been way out of form in the last few weeks but needs to have a great game in midfield while Aaron Ramsey returns for the match. Although Wenger had previously mentioned that the likes of Gibbs, Rosicky and Chamberlain are 50-50 for the match, the trio were found in training and actively taking part in the warm up along with the first team. So it looks like Wenger will have a late fitness test tomorrow to confirm their participation.

If all goes well, Tomas Rosicky will be the chief playmaker in the number ten role while Chamberlain and Cazorla will drift in for Monreal/Gibbs and Sagna to overlap. Arsenal’s passing fluidity hold the edge going into the match but Wigan’s tactical flexibility can shock the Gunners as the game prolongs in time.

See Wigan’s road to the semis:


The Defense must not get dragged out of position:

Uwe Röslehas impressively picked up Roberto Martinez’s 3-4-3 system at the DW Stadium after taking over in the summer. Like the game against City suggested Wigan are more than capable of enforcing their own passing style and have players who are comfortable on the ball. Chelsea loanee Josh McEachran is the passer of the team while James McArthur is the main architect. Emmerson Boyce and Beausejour provide great width on the flanks and are more than capable of shifting positions at will. Midfielder Chris McCann began in the back three AS Wigan tiem and again blocked spaces in the middle of the park for the advancing Yaya Toure. Once the Ivorian was stifled, the job was half done at the Etihad.


If we look at Wigan’s road to the semi finals most of their goals have come from cutbacks from the left meaning Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen needs extra protection in the penalty box. Especially the latter who was constantly dragged out by Romelu Lukaku and Steven Naismith, who played as a false nine, closer to the midfielders, so that Vermaelen gets dragged out of position.


As Micheal Cox of the Guardian points out, “At one point, Thomas Vermaelen tracked his compatriot Lukaku towards the opposite side of the pitch – a left-sided centre-back being dragged over to the right-back zone by an opposition right-winger. Arsenal could not deal with the movement.”

Arsenal should make sure Arteta tracks back efficiently to avoid an Everton-esque onslaught.

Cazorla and Chamberlain hold the key drifting inside: 

Oxlade Chamberlain and Cazorla will start wide and try to drift inside (as the above snap shows). With raw pace the English Spanish duo can wreck havoc at the back while making sure they are well assured of the defensive capabilities. Olivier Giroud’s hold up abilities will come under scrutiny with Wigan always having a spare man at the back in the 3-4-2-1 or a hybrid of the 3-4-3 system which Wigan play. Getting Chamberlain and Cazorla in the pockets of space behind the lone striker up front will ensure Giroud doesn’t get isolated.