This is a very interesting View From The Enemy, as Nathan Blake from WalesOnline gives his full detailed instructions to the Cardiff team on how to cause a shock and beat Arsenal. It is extra interesting as we don-t often see opponents giving their view of how the Gunners play and the best way to counter Emery’s tactics.
So here we go…….
Don’t let them play their tiki-taka
Arsenal’s strengths are obvious. They have a team of seasoned internationals, including French and English stars on the bench, and they do keep and pass the ball so well.
But of the top six sides, they are the ones who can be ‘got at’ most, so to speak, and pushed out of their stride.
Cardiff play a back to front game and in the Championship were happy enough to concede possession a lot of the time, but do that against Arsenal and they will simply pick us off.
What the Bluebirds have to do is stifle that flow of possession, play higher up the park, don’t let the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka have the time on the ball to dictate play.
I don’t think Mezut Ozil will play, something tells me something is going on between him and Unai Emery. But if he does he, more than anyone, he needs to be shut down as quickly as possible.
Even if Ozil is 35 yards out on the touchline, he has this capacity of suddenly bending one over the top and the centre-forward – be it Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette – is onto it in a flash. Pressure needs to be put on Ozil straight away.
It would be easy in this game for Cardiff to sit deep in numbers, try to soak up pressure and eventually score from a set-piece. But it would also be very risky to let Arsenal have so much possession.
Be bold… step out, step up and let them have it that way, so to speak.
Gunners don’t track the runners
Xhaka is a passing maestro, Ramsey is a wonderful talent who we’d love to see back in a Bluebirds shirt. He’s shone often enough at Cardiff City Stadium for his home-town club in the past and Wales – we don’t want him having a big game again.
But Xhaka and even Aaron, and most certainly Ozil, have been accused of not tracking runners from midfield.
So when they’re coming at us, we have to be ready to counter in an instant once the ball has been won back.
Joe Ralls, Harry Arter and Victor Camarasa have to be ready to go, aware there may suddenly be space in behind and they’ll have a clear run at it.
Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil are wonderful talents, capable of scoring worldy goals, but the fact they don’t always track back has to be part of the attention to detail for the Bluebirds in training this week.
Bellerin can be beaten in the air
Arsenal’s back four is likely to be Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis and Monreal. Bellerin is rapid and at 23 clearly has his best years still in front of him.
But at 5ft 9in I think he can be targeted with deep balls into the box. I’d be asking Cardiff’s centre-forward – be that Kenneth Zohore or Gary Madine – to look to get on Bellerin’s shoulder and head the ball down into the path of Josh Murphy, Junior Hoilett or Bobby Reid.
Whoever plays out of those three needs to know what the tactic is and where to run as soon as the ball is played to the back post, where hopefully Cardiff will win the aerial duel.
Actually, the same can happen on the other side with Monreal targeted in a similar way.
Diagonal balls in, with runners on the go for knock-downs. That’s the recipe for success.
Can Madine end Cardiff’s goal drought?
The lack of goals is a little bit of a concern, although no more than that for me, but clearly it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
I can’t quite put my finger on why Zohore is not firing yet, but what I do know is that in the Premier League everybody has to play well – and particularly your number nine, who is expected to get the goals.
I wouldn’t expect Zohore to be prolific, but you’d hope he could maybe get a one in four ratio. But if he’s not scoring, perhaps Neil Warnock will look elsewhere.
I think Bobby Reid could do a good job up top, but he played there against Bournemouth and some were bemoaning the absence of Zohore and the extra physicality he brings. The point here is that you can’t play Reid as your number nine and continue with back to front football. He’s not built for that, prefers intricate little balls slipped through from a creative midfield which he can run on to.
If Cardiff are to persist with back to front the majority of the time, then perhaps it’s time to give Madine a go and tell him to absolutely harass Mustafi and Sokratis for 60-70 minutes. He’s got the power and physique to do that.
Then Zohore could come on for the last quarter, the last thing Arsenal will want. He too can play the physical game, but also has the ability to run in behind, which is something tiring defenders will dread.
Madine hasn’t scored a goal since his £6m move, I accept that. Not good enough. But I’d counter he hasn’t really been given a run as first-choice, albeit he hasn’t taken any opportunities which have come his way, either.
Does his lack of pace worry me? Not particularly. Glenn Murray is hardly a whippet, yet he scores Premier League goals for Brighton. It’s about pulling off defenders and knowing when to be in the right place at the right time.
Cardiff could counter Madine’s lack of mobility by telling him to simply work the width of the penalty box and have whoever plays from Murphy, Hoilett and Reid to provide the speed.
Madine to soften up Arsenal’s centre-backs and Zohore to come on and finish them off. I like that.
Halting the Gunners’ firepower
Aubameyang, Iwobi and Mikhitaryan – there’s an awful lot of technical ability there. The last two are wonderful with ball at feet, whilst Aubameyang is the most prolific player in the Premier League when it comes to consistently running on to the ball. He doesn’t play with his back to goal, just makes these non-stop runs in behind and is lightning quick.
Sean Morrison and Sol Bamba will need to be on their toes throughout and they have a dilemma. They need to be deep enough to deny Aubameyang the space – and he’s quicker than them, remember – but they mustn’t be so deep they leave the midfield and front men isolated.
I’ve already spoken about the need for Cardiff’s midfield to be right on top of Arsenal’s.
Precision is required. Cardiff have to find it.
Why the Bluebirds can win
Arsenal are seen as a top four team, but it’s in name only these days. They are in transition and haven’t made the strides of their traditional rivals up at the top.
Cardiff can win this one and I’ve just got a sneaky feeling an upset is on the cards.
Put it this way, I’ve said we’ll have one surprise from the upcoming games with the big guns of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Spurs.
I don’t think we’ll get a point from the last three, so this weekend has to be the one.
2-1 to the Bluebirds… and a stadium that is absolutely rocking.
Now that is what I call a top-class analysis from a real fan. He is obviously going to leave the ground disappointed that Arsenal upset his beliefs, but you can’t knock him for his passion!