Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dealing with Bale

When Walcott signed in 2006, apparently Arsenal had a choice between signing him and Bale. One of our better players this season, Walcott's performances have massively improved, but his form has been nothing like Bale's showings for Tottenham.  Though he wouldn't admit it, I think this stings Wenger a little inside. Anyway, whether Arsenal are able to get a result on Sunday will no doubt be dependent on Wenger's ability to neutralise Bale's threat. Yesterday, Bale epitomised his importance to Tottenham - single-handedly  bringing down the West Ham team. So the question remains - how can Arsenal deal with Bale?

Now let me be clear here, I'm not claiming to be a tactical genius or that I have a fool-proof method to deal with him. Bale is one of the best players in the Premiership and, as such can tear apart any game-plans a manager might make. That said, there are some key factors that will come into play on Sunday which will determine whether Bale has a stormer or a quiet game.

Jenkinson or Sagna : If Sagna is fit he will likely play. On the surface the experienced Sagna should clearly play over the inexperienced Jenkinson, however in Jenkinson's defence he has played fairly well this season after a difficult debut season with the club. Furthermore Jenkinson's pace is clearly a factor that could play into the game as Bale's own pace will clearly pose a problem to Sagna who, as a result of two leg breaks, has clearly lost a step. That considered I would probably still pick Sagna  - for the first 60 minutes at least. Sagna's experience should not be understated as, against a world class player, a cool head is far more useful than quick legs. Psychologically the concept of facing 90 minutes against Gareth Bale would be far more daunting for Jenko than Sagna, who has been there and played against the best. Jenkinson is fairly tireless and I could see him bombing back and forth for the last  30 minutes in a manner that Sagna simply cannot.This would pose serious problems for the Tottenham defence and would also limit Bale's ability to run forward, as the joint threat of Walcott and Jenkinson would force him to stay back. In the last few games in  particular Bale has really thrived in the final periods of the game - so this could really have a massive impact on our ability to contain him.

Walcott - Obviously it is very important that Walcott tracks back to provide protection to the RB - that's a given - but what is equally important to keeping Bale quiet is the level of attacking threat Walcott poses against Tottenham. Neither Kyle Naughton nor Vertonghen are slow, but neither can match Theo. Given that Tottenham like to play a high line Walcott would have the potential to expose the Tottenham defence. With that in mind, should Walcott succeed in exposing Tottenham Bale would be required to stay back for extended periods. Obviously this is not a given, and would definitely require some luck on our part, as AVB could easily chose to drop the defensive line in light of Walcott's pace and Walcott may struggle to impose himself in the game or may even be played centrally. If (A big if) things pan out the right way for Arsenal on Sunday though, we could see Walcott being the stand-out Southampton graduate in the North London derby.

Arteta/RDM - In the 1-1 game against Manchester United, Bale struggled to impose himself. This was in no small part down to Ferguson's use of Phil Jones as a Defensive midfielder slightly to the right of center. This resulted in a restricted ability of Bale to cut inside, and also provided support to Rafael. Bale struggled as a result of this and posed no serious real attacking threat for any sustained period in this game. The issue Arsenal have in this situation is that we don't have any defensive midfielders in the mould of Phil Jones. Last season Alex Song would have been able to complete the task with consumate ease. Unfortunately due to his sale we are left with the relatively inexperienced Coquelin and Mikel Arteta, who is proficient but unfortunately not at his best in this role. My inclination would be to deploy Arteta in this role due to his calmer head, but unfortunately neither really instil a great confidence in me and an area we might struggle to contain Bale with may well be the inside-cut.

Anyway this is all I can come up with at this moment in time,
Feel free to leave any ideas or opinions in the comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment