Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Bradford City in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Simon Parker for their views.
Arsenal will face a classic lower league challenge when they travel to Bradford City for the Carling Cup quarter-final, but Bantams boss Phil Parkinson is a good manager, and will have an appropriate strategy prepared.
Parkinson’s usual formation is a straightforward 4-4-2, but he’s also experimented with a diamond midfield this season. Against Arsenal, we could see a hybrid of the two systems - a standard four-man midfield, but with the wide players playing very narrow, to limit Arsenal’s dominance of possession in the centre.
Nathan Doyle - who played against Arsenal in the Premier League as a Hull City player - will try to prevent Arsenal’s advanced midfielder finding space between the lines, while Gary Jones is also a fierce tackler. That said, the two are both competent passers, so Arsenal must not expect to be facing pure scrappers.
Up front, Bradford’s strike duo is likely to be James Hanson and Nakhi Wells, a typical lower league partnership: Hanson is 6ft 4in and the target for aerials balls, while Wells is a smaller, quicker player capable of sudden powerful shots, in the mould of Jermain Defoe. Expect long balls and flick-ons, and Arsenal must be quick to the second balls.
Parkinson often sets his teams up with a solid shape, before attempting to win the game from the bench in the second half.
His substitutions are impressively brave and frequently successful - at the weekend, for example, he switched to a three-man defence late on, with striker Adam Connell replacing centre back Carl McHugh, and Connell hit the winner with a fine volley in the 1-0 victory over Torquay.
That is classic Parkinson - and although his players may tire against a top-flight side, he’ll use the bench to change the balance of his side.
Arsenal start as strong favourites, of course, but Bradford boast a solid midfield, a reliable strike partnership, a tactically-astute manager, and have only lost once in their last 11 games. This could be a tricky fixture.
SIMON PARKER, TELEGRAPH AND ARGUS
It’s Bradford’s first quarter-final for 24 years and is the biggest game for the club since their relegation from the Premier League in 2001. It’s a huge game for them and could be their biggest crowd since 1960 - with around 23,500 tickets being sold.
Bradford have been playing really well recently. They are a solid side with a lot of experience. This will be their 31st game of the season and Phil Parkinson has managed his squad very well. There were fears that the distraction of a cup run could affect their league form, but they’ve managed to carry on winning games. The ultimate priority is of course to get out of League Two and they are in quite a good position to do that at the moment.
Parkinson will change the formation occasionally, but Bradford are probably at their best when playing in a 4-4-2, and Nahki Wells will be a real handful for the Arsenal defence. He possesses real pace and anticipation and has struck up a good partnership with James Hanson, who’s more of a target man. Wells can finish with both feet and has 14 goals already this season.
I think it will be quite a close game. It’s going to be freezing cold and the pitch is going to be hard. Arsenal to win 3-1.
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