Arsenal should stick to 4-4-2 for Milan

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The most important Arsenal news in what has proven to be a very busy day came with the revelation that William Gallas has escaped any further punishment from his altercation with Luis Nani during the weekend’s FA Cup clash with Manchester United. I touched on how delighted I was with this result a little earlier today and in all honesty not much has changed. 

Capello thinks Adebayor will make a huge difference against MilanI expected Gallas to cop a three-match ban and the fact that he has gone off will give the side a big psychological boost going into the Milan game. Although the Frenchman would not have missed the game even if he had been suspended (FA bans only count for FA games, after all) there’s little doubt that a negative outcome would have affected the morale of the team. As such, every Arsenal supporter should be dancing in the streets (or their office) about this news.

Turning the attention to the only game that matters right now – the huge first-leg Champions League tie with AC Milan –  and English manager Fabio Capello has predicted Arsenal to shine despite their poor performance at the weekend. Capello, who managed Milan earlier in his career, said he expected three of the players who missed out on the clash with Manchester United, Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor and Gael Clichy, to have a huge impact against the Italian side and suggested they could swing the tie Arsenal’s way.

“[Arsenal] were lacking three very important players [on the weekend] who can make all the difference. Milan will need to watch out for Emmanuel Adebayor, who made an immediate impact when he came on [against United].”

Although Capello singled out Adebayor for particular praise I couldn’t agree more with the assertion that the three players in question will make all the difference. You could add Bacary Sagna to that list as well but as I mentioned yesterday the sudden death of his brother means the Frenchman is highly unlikely to play any part of the Milan game. I think most supporters would agree that Sagna should take as long as he needs until he feels up to playing again, because even the world’s best player will struggle to perform if their head is not in the right place. 

I’m starting to sound like a broken record now but I think it is worth stating again that Arsenal has not lost this season with Flamini in the starting side and as soon as the little Frenchman is confirmed as a starter I’ll be very confident that the side will get a positive result. Although Flamini will certainly run-on if fit for the match Arsene Wenger has very interestingly hinted that he may also choose to play Gilberto Silva in the middle in an attempt to nullify Milan star man Kaka’s counter-attacking ability.

“We need to be more cautious in the centre than we usually are. [Kaka’s] especially dangerous at counter-attacking. I don’t know if I’ll use Gilberto for him.”

There will be quite a few supporters who will be scared stiff at the thought of Gilberto starting the match – particularly after the Manchester United debacle – but I can certainly see the value of playing all three of Flamini, Fabregas and Gilberto in a five-man midfield. Defensively it would clog up the area of the pitch that Milan are most dangerous – indeed, they have arguably the narrowest midfield out of all the top European sides – as well as allowing the Brazilian to effectively man-mark Kaka for the entirety of the match, while offensively it would allow Fabregas to have a more creative roll and be one of the three main attacking threats along with Alexandr Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor. Additionally, Flamini would be able to excert his energy on the midfield and push forward a little more than usual, something Milan might not expect. As I said, while many people will be crying out for a stock-standard 4-4-2 with Eduardo and Adebayor up front and Gilberto on the bench I can certainly see the merit in Wenger’s potential strategy.

Eduardo’s presence will depend on whether Wenger plays a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2An unpredictable team

There is, of course, no certainty that the manager will set his team out in this manner at all. According to Physio Room there are still six Arsenal players unavailable for this match, namely; Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby, Manuel Almunia, Denilson, Johan Djourou and of course Robin van Persie. However, while options remain quite limited there is still a huge element of unpredictability about the entire shape of Arsenal’s starting team.

Regardless of whether Wenger goes with 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 he will be forced to choose whether or not Philippe Senderos returns to the centre of defence and Kolo Toure is pushed out wide to account for Sagna’s absence or the Ivorian holds his spot in the middle and Justin Hoyte or even Emmanuel Eboue plays on the right. My suggestion would be the former, particularly after Hoyte’s poor performance against United. While Eboue’s cntribution in the same match was arguably worse than Hoyte’s he at least has the potential to upset Milan with his unpredictable nature and I will be hoping he starts on the right side of midfield. That would mean a middle pairing of Fabregas and Flamini or the trio including Gilberto as well as Hleb on the left.

Up front Adebayor is a certainty while Eduardo’s participation in the game will be dependent on the formation that the manager goes for. Despite supporting Wenger’s reasoning for the potential use of a 4-5-1 I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I hope Arsenal line up in a more attacking 4-4-2. I feel Eduardo’s clinical nature in front of goal will be perfect for a match like this and I’m convinced that a midfield pair of Flamini and Fabregas will be enough to do the job both offensively and defensively.

The final thing to bare in mind is that Milan have significant injury worries of their own. First-choice goalkeeper Dida is out with a back problem and even their second-choice, Zeljko Kalac (Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!) is a massive doubt after dislocating a finger. His absence would mean a start to veteran Valerio Fiori – a player who has made only one appearance in the last eight seasons – a massive blow for Milan and a reasonable boost for Arsenal. On a more positive not for Milan, the Italian side will welcome back Brazilian Pato and should have both Kaka and Clarence Seedorf fit for the clash, so in most departments they are looking good.

This post certainly wasn’t meant to be a match preview and while things have certainly panned out that way I’m still going to refrain from a prediction until tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the build-up to what will be a massive game and make sure you have your say on what you think will unfold by leaving a comment below.

What do you think?

Voice your thoughts on the Arsenal-Milan clash by leaving a comment.


36 thoughts on “Arsenal should stick to 4-4-2 for Milan

  1. News is that Sagna trained yesterday and will play tomorrow, Clichy may not….. Bet he does!

    Almunia is also back – please me as I think the defence worry now when Jens plays – I know he mad a couple of good saves on Sat, but I still think he is a liability….

    I am glad we are at home for the first leg – when we go to Milan and score a couple, who knows how valuable they will be

  2. The Mirror also says that Bacary Sagna trained yesterday so Justin Hoyte will be the second. It only needs Gael Clichy to be fit

    Team for tomorrow


    Sagna Toure Gallas Clichy

    Fabregas Gilberto Flamini Hleb

    Adebayor Eduardo

    Prediction Arsenal 3 Milan 0



  3. ArsenalKenya, I like your thinking! There have been a lot of games since then and so we won’t have an element of surprise. However,that doesn’t mean that we can’t do it if we come out with the energy we had then.

  4. Just imagine if we bought Samuel Eto as Fabregas has urged Wenger to do with attacking midfieders and a defender. We would win every cup ……..

    Our team would be like this…..


    Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy

    Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini, Quaresma

    Ade, Eto


    Nasri/Ben Arfa

    The only worry is that we would lose our strikers when we have the ACN championships on.

    SF – What do you think about the ETO proposal?

  5. Nice line up AK, but I think were forgetting that A) we dont really have the funds so we would be hard pressed to buy them, and B) by buying all expensive and Great individual players, you run the risk of becoming a team like Chelsea or Real Madrid, where you have great players, but would struggle on the team chemestry side of things. Anyway, it’s a nice dream team!

  6. Although the question is not aimed at me, I will pick Eduardo over Eto. We don’t need to buy. We have a team that is capable of beating any team in the world.

  7. I have said it before and I will say it again believe it or not(Arsenal 4-Milan 0)
    Subs:Lehmann-Bendtner-Gilberto-Van Persie-Senderos
    Arsenal 4-Milan 0)

  8. Excellent analysis and write up.

    I disagree on using 4-4-2 though. Midfield is by far their strongest part of the team, Kaka, Pirlo, Seedorf, and Gattuso. We need to nullify that line by any means possible.

    I wouldnt be surprised to see Flamini, Fabregas, Hleb, Gilberto, and Eduardo as our 5 in a 4-5-1. Eduardo on the left with Hleb on the right. Flamini and Gilberto to stop Pirlo and Kaka as defensive midfieldners, and Fabregas taking the playmaker role. He will be watched by Gattuso I think, so it should be interesting to he how effective he will be.

  9. it would not surprise me either if it were 451 since wenger said he may use Gilberto. If he is in the side either its 451 or Cesc plays on the wing, which is not as good.

    Sagna Toure gallas clichy
    Hleb Cesc Bert Flam Eduardo

    Personally I dont like 451 but with Ros missing you cant really complain. the only remaining option is to play Eboue on the right, Hleb left and drop Gilberto. they are the only 3 options in my view.which is the worse player Eboue or Gilberto??? dunno. both bad.
    wenger wont play NB with Ade up front with EDS on the left wing. he will think its too gung ho, but I think at home it could blow Milan away.

  10. If Kalac doesn’t play that’s HUGE. He’s been a monster domestically lately for Milan. Shutting up everything thrown at him.

    As for the formation I’d still like to see 4-4-2 as long as we have Bac bac and hopefully Clichy. Arsenal goes forward and never stops trying to bang another in. This team exudes that more than some in the past and plays better when they do. I think they need arguably their two best finishers on the pitch.

  11. One thing I think we’ve taken for granted is the fact that Italian sides (and European sides in general) seem to have a respect/fear for Eboue. I don’t know why – he’s so easily wound up in the UK – but they really consider him a good player. It’s for that reason in particular that I’d like to see him start on the right side of a four-man midfield.

  12. Hey SF – slightly confused here – “Justin Hoyte or even Emmanuel Eboue plays on the right. My suggestion would be the former, particularly after Hoyte’s poor performance against United” – do you actually mean the latter?

    I haven’t seen much of Hoyte playing…but it seems that when he and traore play, together or individually, arsenal do not play well. I would prefer eboue on the wing.

  13. Hey Darragh, what I actually mean is that I’d prefer Senderos in the middle and Toure on the right rather than either Hoyte or Eboue there. Hope that clarifies.

    Amazingly, it seems like Sagna will be playing the game – he apparently returned to training yesterday. What a guy.

  14. The most interesting battle is Arsenal – Milan, as for me. Young talents against very experienced players + Kaka! Who will go to the quarterfinal? I think this depends on managers mostly. If Arsen Wenger can overcome Karlo Anchelotti in tactics and the whole strategy on two matches, then Gunners will break through to the next round. And vice versa 🙂

  15. SF, Europeans respect Eboue because of his fantastic play during our run to the CL final a few years back. He shut down some of the best players in the world and provided a huge offensive boost with his running up the right. They haven’t seen him much since, or haven’t been paying attention. Or maybe they just fear his kicks to the groin or having thier feet broken. 🙂

  16. 4-4-1-1(4-5-1) Will make us blunt. That is how we couldn’t beat United at the Emirates. I wouldn’t be too optimistic about scoring enough goals for insurance in Milan if this is the formation Wenger chooses. I would prefer a 4-4-2. I don’t like the idea of Toure out wide. I would prefer Eboue if Sagna won’t play.

    Whenever we crowd our midfield, Cesc cools a bit and it will be a shame if Eduardo’s killer instincts are not utilized to the max. He is a kind of player who can bring Milan/Kalac down out of blue, in case the game doesn’t go our way.

  17. Do you agree that Arsenal should ship out these players in the summer?
    Emmanuel Eboue
    Gilberto Silva
    Johan Djourou.

  18. Josh 5111960;

    Lehman: NO; We have the best backup keeper of almost any team in Europe who will start in most top teams. Only AC Milan with Dida & Kalac can compare to our situation. Sadly he might leave on his own accord.

    Gilberto Silva: NO; They guy still has a role to play in the team. I am surprised he got a lot of bad reviews on his performance at OT, which technically I believe he did very well. Yes he lacks pace, but he never had it to begin with. you don’t need pace if you can pass, trap and read the game well, and he is one of the best readers of the game we have.

    Johan Djourou: NO; The guy is good. Just give him a run and you will be rewarded. The guy was solid whenever he played last season, doesn’t lose balls easily, cool and composed. Don’t judge him by his stint at Birmingham, When you have below par players around you they have a habit of making you look bad. Remember Gallas @ WHL and OT, Toure @OT & AFN. You wouldn’t be singing Toure and Gallas praises if they had a stint @ B’ham with the same back 4/3

    Emanuel Eboue – NO, This guy made Lauren surplus to requirements. He was one of the best fullbacks in the league last couple of seasons. Still does good work on the right wing. To be converted to a MF from a defender he had to excel in some skills, and his antics aside, he has done a good job. He is still a good RB. He has taken the “enforcer” role a couple of times and he is paying for it. It is dirty job and someone has to do it, especially when Hoyte couldn’t. A winger depends alot on a solid fullback as a springboard, lose that and what you have is an extra FB playing out of position most of the time. Gallas has had a couple of stinkers, and if he were to be sent off or banned for that idiotic kick on Nani, I doubt people would be calling for his sell. Put things in perspective here, if Hoyte is not good enough, selling Eboue would be suicidal for our RB cover. Take any of our other defenders and move them to MF or vice versa and tell me how many would excell at their new role. The fact that people are forgeting that Eboue is a RB, and judge him as RM means that he is actually doing enough to warrant being looked at as a RM. That on it’s own is an accomplishment.

  19. If Rosiscky is not available then I would prefer 4-5-1. I want 4-5-1 simply because I don’t want to see moaning, chitting eboue who has no flair in his game. I see Eboue as a Arsenal player with nothing special in him. He is getting a lot of chance to play wide right but has never scored. The worst thing about him is he always chits and that makes all the gooners feel shame.

    I want eduardo to start wide left and Hleb right. Eduardo proved he can do some tricks from wide. Ade need to concentrate in the air and should stay in the box for 90 minutes instead of dragging himself back that he does all the time.

    With Five man midfied we can dominate the middle park where we have to compete against worldclass midfielders, kaka, pirlo, seederoof and Gattuso.

    2-1/3-1 for us is my prediction.

  20. Best line up if you ask me

    Sagna Gallas Sanderos Clichy

    Helb Gilberto Flamini Eduardo



    Remember guys it was Gilberto that nullified Ronaldho in last CL Finals with Barca. I need him to man-mark Kaka while Flamini is on Pirlo.This will choke the balls to the attack

  21. it looks like Sagna will be available for selection I hope he is in the right frame of mind after the tragic family matter.I won’t blame him if he is not..The Milan camp could not stop bragging about how experienced and clever they are Ancelotti saying he has no doubt they will go through.lets hope they full flat on their faces.

  22. SF – ahh getcha now…sorry brain wasn’t working.

    I’d prefer the typical Arsenal side – with the usual back four – sagna/eboue toure gallas and clichy, midfield of flamini fabregas, hleb, and perhaps walcott out on one of the wings – Eduardo and Ade up front.

    If Wenger was going to play an attacking midfield to ‘feed’ the ball to Adebayor – I’d prefer Hleb rather than Fabregas in that role. Don’t get me wrong – Fab is a FABULOUS player, but I really think Hleb performs great in the assisting ‘feeding’ role.

    It is a bit annoying that Arsenal haven’t seem to had a consistent uninjured wide midfield player since Pires and Ljungberg left the club. Perhaps something to buy during the season break.

  23. Kingbayor 3 goals,Flamini 1
    Arsenal 4 – AC Milan 0
    Today everybody will see new Arsenal!!!!!

  24. since season 2003/2004 till 2006/2007, AC Milan has never lost knockout stage when they play 1st leg AWAY from Milan.
    u have to be at ur very best..

  25. Since season 2003/2004 till 2006/2007,AC Milan has never lose knockout stage when they play 1st leg AWAY from Milan.
    Not this time !!
    Never say die Arsenal.

  26. It’s gonna be a Gunner nightmare for AC Milan….

    They will run for their lives and know that young guns do not give up. History will not have a say in this fixture and wait until Sagna overlaps in the first few minutes to give king Bayor the ball to score before they settle.

    Amiaq_ferguson – Remember also Arsenal have never lost a game in which Adebayor scores.

    The boys are up to it and will step up the game and shock AC Milan.


  27. Adebayor is one yellow card away from suspension!
    come on Gunners, prove me wrong..
    prove that Fabregas can resist physical play from Gattuso..
    and prove that Arsenal defenders can cope with World best player, Kaka..


  28. In my opinion, winning will not be a problem but by how many goals. That is what will determine our chances of progressing. The win should be comprehensive. A 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2 may not be good enough while a draw will be a disaster.
    The Manager’s comments tell it all…
    “Wenger went on to voice his belief that the first leg at Emirates will be decisive in determining who progresses to the quarter-finals.

    “Usually it is decisive. Not only mathematically – but mentally,” he explained.

    “I noticed it always has great, great weight on the second leg. Why? Because it can strengthen belief one side and weaken the belief on the others. Usually that is very difficult to reverse.”

    Lets hope that 2008 is the year that we lift the CL

  29. Did Adebayor scored? almost..

    What is the scoreline? 3-0??
    hmmm not even 1-0..

    good luck in Milan.. the weather is not
    the same as London..

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