Arsenal travel to the Spanish capital to take on giants Atletico Madrid tonight, but what do we have to do to achieve what many pundits and fans alike are ruling out?
In 2006, Arsenal went to Madrid´s Iconic Bernabeu Stadium unfancied and looking on their way out against a colourful Real Madrid team. That time they had players like Casillas in goal, Roberto Carlos, Jonathan Woodgate, Beckham, Guti, Zidane, Robinho and Ronaldo. Of Course we had Ljungberg, Henry, Reyes and Fabregas with us.
The game at Highbury had ended scoreless and everyone must have predicted Real Madrid 3, Arsenal 0. The outcome was a shock, we beat them 1-0 and it wasn’t a fluke too, we outplayed them, they did not have answers and Thierry Henry punished them.
Today, it sits just the same. It’s all square at 1-1, and they have some heavy hitters too, they have Griezmann, Costa, Oblak etc. We have Lacazette – Statistics from April show that Lacazette is the undisputed best striker across all Europe. However, there are three things that Arsene Wenger needs to do get the result he deserves to retire with.
Arsenal look unfortunate with the fixture reading Atletico – Manchester United – Atletico. But perhaps the best thing that happened was Arsenals game against Manchester United. Wenger had the comfort to field fringe youthful players to save his starts for the decider in Wanda Metropolitano – Atletico’s fortress where they have a run of 11 games unbeaten.
This season, they have played 26 games, won 18 times, drawn 6 times and lost twice. They have scored 45 times and conceded just 8 times. On the other hand, Arsenal have been poor away from home and this calendar year they have lost all their away games. They have also conceded in all their away games. But against Manchester United, the young gunners stood up to be counted and ironically, in areas of the pitch that Arsenal have struggled for consistency.
These are the defence and the defensive midfield. Two players especially, Ainsley Maitland-Niles – who won the man of the match and Konstantinos Mavropanos. For Maitland-Niles, despite playing against Pogba and Nemanja Matic, he still got the man of the match – in a game we eventually lost. Mavropanos put up a performance that shut out Lukaku. Wenger needs to be brave and field these two players against Atletico.
Arsene Wenger’s team is often the most predictable team you can get. He will stick to the same pattern for a long time, play players in similar roles even when it is not working and stick with his players even when they are not performing. Atletico Madrid must be warned about Lacazette’s threat just like Germany were warned of Diego Maradona in the 1986 world cup finals.
In that final, Lothar Matthäus was asked to follow Maradona everywhere. Maradona did not score in that match, but Maradona had a hand in two of the three goals Argentina scored. He passed to the assist provider, Hector Enrique for the second goal scored by Jorge Valdano and he assisted for the third goal by Jorge Buruchagga. If we assume that Diego Simeone does not have plans to cut off Lacazette’s influence in the match up, then Arsenal will have learned nothing from the first round where they deployed hardcore tactics that got a player sent-off within the first 15 minutes of the match at the Emirates, and apparently there are some reports coming from their players that they were prepared for that kind of scenario, and trained for it.
Wenger, should wear some tactical gloves for once and use Lacazette to steal the match away from the Madridians. If he is to play the Maradona effect on the game, he could play Lacazette on the wing and Welbeck as centre forward. This will force the Lacazette markers to come out and meet him in the wings and there they will have left their post in defence unattended. Second Lacazette has the fight in him and he could get into loose balls from that position, arriving later into the box when every defender is committed. If they come for him, they will again let Welbeck have room. My team would therefore be the following:
In this pattern Ozil is playing in his favoured role and Maitland-Niles get a reward for his performance against Manchester United just as Mavropanos get the nod for what he did with Lukaku and Sanchez to do the same with Griezmann and Costa. Inspiration Arsene Wenger is a respected manager.
The players are well set up to reward him one last time. Wenger must tell the story of how the arsenal of Thierry Henry, Ljungberg and Fabregas went into Madrid underdogs and beat them in their own grounds with their dazzling stars in the team. He must tell them to repeat the story. He must remind them that Atletico are beatable and non-other but Chelsea and Seville beat them in the same stadium. Arsenal can get past Atletico Madrid and the template to do this is not hidden somewhere in some cave. Come On You Gunners (COYG)…
Liverpool and Real Madrid were both on the better side of the officiating this week, and we would be lucky to have our fair share of the decisions, and the only way for that to happen is to not annoy the referee and his assistants, and you never know, in a fair and open game, we may just have the creative edge.
Can Arsenal work wonders and power past Atletico Madrid?