Scouting Report: FC Basel v Arsenal

We return to Champions League action at Basel on Tuesday night and, ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox examines our opponents in detail.


Urs Fischer is a bright coach who emphasises the importance of attacking football. This approach has worked well in domestic competition, but Basel haven’t fared well in the Champions League and yet to collect a win this season. 
More surprisingly, they suffered their first league defeat of the season at the weekend, losing 3-1 against a Young Boys side who played the entire second half with 10 men. Basel will be keen to bounce back here – with Ludogorets away in Paris, a draw is likely to take them into the Europa League.


Fischer sticks determinedly to a 4-2-3-1 formation despite the presence of two good strikers: Marc Janko, a huge target man, and Seydou Doumbia, a quicker, dynamic player who is usually favoured in Europe. Renato Steffen and Birkir Bjarnason break forward effectively from the wide midfield roles, and can switch flanks when required.


Basel’s players are comfortable in possession. Centre-backs Marek Suchy and Eder Balanta both have pass completion rates in the upper-eighties, while deep-lying midfielders Luca Zuffi and Taulant Xhaka are both comfortable in possession too. They are capable of dominating matches through steady, patient build-up play from the back.


Matias Delgado is a wonderful, old-school Argentine No 10 who pulls the strings from the top of midfield and can drop back into deeper positions to orchestrate the play too. He was only used as a substitute in the reverse fixture at the Emirates, but could start on home soil. Arsenal must stop him linking midfield and attack.


Basel have looked poor at the back in this season’s competition, particularly when defending crosses. Indeed, Arsenal’s opener in the reverse fixture came when Theo Walcott nodded in Alexis’ half-volleyed left-wing cross, and similar approach play might reap rewards here.
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