First, I must point out that I’m a man of diverse opinions. I try to dissect each Arsenal game I watch, and due to the awesome uniqueness of these matches, there are often new observations.
Although I still believe so much in 4-1-4-1 and its endless benefits for this current Arsenal side, the lack of the most important personnel (top defensive midfielder) to practice it at the moment, and Arsene Wenger’s unwillingness to give Abou Diaby a run of games in that position makes me believe that a switch to 4-2-3-1 is imperative to defending our creativity.
Time to ease Arteta and Flamini out?
Like everyone in the universe knows, Arsenal have lacked a genuine technical defensive midfielder for a while and the assembly of creativity at Arsene’s disposal means he needs to find a collective security for his offensive system.
In essence, Arsenal perhaps now need to defend their weaknesses with their instinctive strength – creative perfection.
To achieve this, there is a need to quit fielding Arteta/Flamini as first choice anchors because their weaknesses affect the effectiveness of Arsenal’s attack. They either lack the physical or the technical ability to compliment the offence, which will always be Arsenal’s main strength.
Now the only way to defend in this system is to avoid running out of ideas. Therefore, this strategy calls for the use of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla as pivots instead. Here’s why.
Yes of course they don’t have the physical presence we all crave for but they give us a better chance of using their positives (intelligence, aggression, speed of attack, fluidity, dynamism) to outweigh their shortcomings (height, ball recovery, defensive instinct).
It is a risk is worth contemplating when you have such plethora of creativity. You’ve got to feature as many as possible from the start, with the assurance that there are still enough hands to call upon from the bench. (Yes I know a couple are injured).
Of course the other option is to keep using Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini in front of the back four for the purpose of finding balance, but in truth, it doesn’t make us less vulnerable. It only prolongs our false sense of security, which will continuously be exploited throughout the season.
Having the right blend of midfielders on the pitch would suit attackers such as Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott. This ultimately leads to an offensive dominance that protects Arsenal’s defensive culpability.
There are different ways of utilising these options. In matches against lesser opposition, a Wilshere-Ramsey pivot with Ozil just in front will be appropriate. This combination is suitable for these kind of games due to the little risk of being too exposed in midfield, which in turn affords us the chance to have a constant go at teams who prefer to keep 10 men behind the ball against Arsenal.
Chambo for the big games
Against the top sides, a triangular pivot of Wilshere-Ramsey-Ox/Santi behind Ozil gives us the added collective security we will need, when defending.
This is where Chamberlain’s pace comes in handy as I believe his pace is more useful in the middle than on the wings due to his build, tenacity and ability to track back.
The stocky midfielder also is very much willing to get his body in the way and likes to get stuck in 50/50 challenges like Wilshere and Ramsey. His engine compliments that possessed by the duo, and should be used in the crunch games to make up for the absence of a proper shield.
More so, I find him too predictable on the wings trying to go outside his marker and his crosses are easy to defend, unlike the deliveries players like Theo/Antonio Valencia/Jesus Navas provide from wide areas. Instead, he’s more difficult to mark when driving through the middle and that’s where his quick feet come alive.
With his willingness to dictate the pace of games, the 21-year old will also help Arsenal build quick attacks. His shooting ability would also be exploited more in a central position, something Arsenal can immensely profit from.
Serge Gnabry however, is made for the right wing. Like Chamberlain, he also possesses great close control, but his slickness on the ball and ability to provide the perfect pass from wide areas gives him an edge.
Blunt Moments of Sharp Brilliance.
The partnerships between Thierry Henry and Robert Pires, Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor, and Alex Song and Robin van Persie where extremely brilliant because each of these combinations could happen in a flash, at any point in the game.
They were direct, blunt and purposeful moments that yielded instant results. All it took was a brilliant run and an exquisite pass out of the blue, that left dozens of defences in their wake.
We’ve seen similar combinations in this team with Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey but it is Theo Walcott who should be the main beneficiary of this killer instinct move.
When he perfectly times his runs, the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey and Cazorla can pick him out with sumptuous diagonals, which is an escape route from Arsenal trying to score the perfect goal, with six million touches.
With Jack often dictating the pace of our attacks, his passing range will be extremely useful in exploiting the space at the disposal of Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez, as well as our rampaging fullbacks.
The front three
I firmly believe that Arsenal will create in abundance when Theo is partnered with Welbeck, considering how many players we have who compliment the movement of both players.
This makes the duo more difficult for the opposing defence to stifle because of the uncertainty to push up or sit deep and allow the likes of Ox, Santi and Jack to drive at them and shoot.
Meanwhile, Sanchez’s decision making must be quicker to join the party. Obviously he possesses the best qualities on the ball among our attacking options but tends to delay a bit before releasing it.
With Theo returning, our counter attacks will be quicker especially alongside Welbeck but Alexis must be on the same wavelength in order to take advantage of those pacy moments.
In the early Wenger years our French midfield partnership of Petit-Vieira and later the Franco-Brazilian pair of Vieira and Gilberto helped Arsenal build a solid base and gave the team an identity.
Its a bit different this time as Arsene has the British partnership of Jack, Ox and Aaron, with an embarrassment of creativity and pace in Cazorla, Ozil and Alexis, Walcott and Welbeck He will make his job much easier if he allows them become the club’s modern identity.