Today I am delighted to introduce the follow up to the ‘If you were Wenger for a day’ article in which our writers selected their Arsenal team from a fully fit squad. It throw up some varied selections and indeed some interesting formations as well. In Part 2 in is the turn of Gunners Town readers who sent in their teams and formations.
I am delighted to kick off a fellow Arsenal blogger who I greatly admire and respect, Mean Lean from @Arsenalvision
I am more than likely going to be selecting the most common first 11 or at least that is what I imagine will be the most common. I doubt whether anyone would consider selecting any other back four although I believe Monreal gives us more going forward against weaker teams at home as he stretches the play more than Gibbs who tends to dribble inside. Whereas the Spaniard stays wider and makes darting runs in behind the opposition.
The great Arteta/Flamini debate has continued ever since the Frenchman re-signed for us this summer. Both have qualities that the other does not possess which I suppose is why his partner is vital when discussing this choice. Aaron Ramsey provides Arteta with the strengths that he does not possess himself, running power and natural athleticism being Arteta’s weakness. The Spaniard can pick up the ball from the back four and find the likes of Ramsey, Özil and company in between the lines. Without question the Spaniard has far better distribution and that is why I would go for Arteta if he was fresh. Theo Walcott’s diagonal runs from the right will make both Özil and Giroud better players and Santi Cazorla is a wonderful player who helps dominate midfield battles when he drifts in and supports Ramsey, Özil and Arteta. I want to find room for the Ox because I think he will be a special player but I can’t leave anyone else out. The same with Wilshere but at present he plays in Ramsey’s position and Aaron is ahead of him in terms of development at this moment.
That aside, I think the rest of the team picks itself. – Means Team
Next up is Tom Tucker @Satnav
So here’s my starting XI if everyone was fit. I’m sure there’s a lot that would disagree with me and give me reasons for why it would/wouldn’t work, but that’s why I’m not a professional footballer/manager/writer. I’d stick with the current formation of 4-2-3-1 because I like its balance when we get it right. I’m not quite there with the 3-5-2 as I’d have to drop one of my XI and I don’t want to. But I do like the possibility.
So here it goes… GK- Szczesny – He’s been outstanding for us this season and has made a fair few point-saving stops along the way (don’t ask me to name when and where but I’m sure a few of you can). Surely our No.1 for years to come and a contender for GK of the season behind Marshall at Cardiff. Fabianski has done enough in my mind to earn a new contract with his performances when called upon this season, but it seems as though he’s on his way in the summer.
CB – Per & Kos – An absolute no-brainer for me. What more can you say on the matter. The performance vs Spurs epitomises the way they’ve played together since Bayern away last season and their partnership at the heart of our defence has been a huge turning point for the solidarity we’ve shown this term. I, personally, wouldn’t change either of them for anyone on the market. Guess I had more to say.
RB – Sagna – Bac was a bit shaky last year, but you have to remember that he was returning to full fitness following his leg break and that takes time. Just ask Diaby! Many thought he was past it, but he’s shown again this season why he’s rated as one of the best right-backs in the league. We can but pray he signs a new deal but it’s looking bleak.
LB – Gibbs – He has come on leaps and bounds in the last 2 years and although Monreal gave him some stiff competition in the first half of the season, his slight dip in form lately puts Gibbs in my starting XI.
CM – Ramsey & Flamini – These 2 positions were the hardest for me to decide on. Of course Ramsey is one of the first names on the team sheet now thanks to his form over the last year and so the only issue for me was who to partner him. My decision may be a little controversial by picking Flamini ahead of Arteta, but I’ll explain my reasons. Yes, Arteta may be the better passer, the type of ball-recycling midfielder we’ve come to love and not to forget, he’s our captain! But for me, I can’t look past the winning mentality, the robust nature of his challenges. It’s his desire to win even though he’s been there and won it before. Although he only rejoined in the summer, he already has the respect of the squad and will only accept their best (he’s shown he’s not afraid of ‘having a go’ if you’re not pulling your weight).
Number 10 – Özil – He’s been up and down since his arrival, but that’s to be expected in his first season in a more physically demanding league, playing 90mins in almost every game will take it’s toll. Just look at Per in his first season. It’ll take time to acclimatise but I fully expect him to be the player we bought. Especially if we give him the kind of outlets he thrives on.
RW – Ox – Now I know this may seem odd at first, but stick with me. Since his return to the team (and a bit before his injury), he’s been outstanding and has given Özil a target for his through balls. He was so very nearly devastating on Sunday. He’s got strength, pace and isn’t afraid to try to beat the opposition full-back.
LW – Santi – I can’t leave him out. I just can’t. He’s brilliant and with Poldi unable to be trusted to start a game, he’s got to be in at LW. We all know he’ll drift inside and trade positions with Mesut too, confusing the hell out of their opponents. Basically they both have a free role in possession and can both play that killer ball.
ST – Now this is where I might surprise people most or maybe not. I imagine most would go for Giroud or Sanogo. I will say that I like Giroud and you’ll find me fighting his corner at 3.05pm on a Saturday when he’s fluffed a chance as he brings a lot more to the team than just goals. He really is a capable forward that can hold the ball up, bring others into attack, flick the ball on for a runner and even play the cute tippy-tappy football that led to THAT Wilshere goal. I’ll admit that we do need better though. For now though, I like Theo in my starting XI more. I like his pace. I like that he plays on the shoulder of the last man and has really improved his finishing. You don’t need to be a lump to play as a lone striker and I’m sure that, if given the opportunity again, he’ll prove that. I look forward to this XI being ripped apart in no time! 🙂
Happy to welcome our occasional guest writer @Yoii Ankit Sing who goes with the present formation but has Ozil on the flank and Santi back at CAM.
Ankit also has Theo up top and Diaby alongside Ramsey in midfield. “I don’t want to start OG because for all his hold up play, he slows down our game too much. Can bring him in the second half, but never start with him. He can’t offer the blistering pace in attack we lack. Arsenal have recently (last decade or so) been known for its quality attack and dominance in the mid, but for a year we have been ‘playing to our strengths’ i.e. defence, making us look like a Stoke with slightly more creativity. Something I can’t stand. As it reeks of few men ‘holding the fort’ kind of strategy.
“Not the prettiest. Not the preferred.”
Next up is my old pal Steve @SlGooner14 a great follow on twitter and one I have been debating with forever.
Below is my preferred Arsenal starting XI. This is presuming everyone is fit & against a mid-table side we really should beat at home.
I don’t think we do, or should, stick to a rigid formation. There should be scope for flexibility, especially with our attacking midfield three interchanging & Rambo joining in attack. Something I’d like to see more of, but rarely happens, is Theo switching flanks & cutting in taking on shots a la Henry. Although some don’t agree, I do still prefer Mikel sitting in front of back four; his distribution & positional sense is better than the Flamster’s. Although choosing between those two was the toughest call.
Gunners Town is happy to welcome Jakub Legutko @kuba_afc a Gunner from Poland.
Yaya have bigger influence than Olivier.
Pace on wings and Ox can also give great through ball. Özil is Özil. Arteta is best partner for Ramsey and Aaron is the best in club right now.
Gibbs will play bigger matches and Nacho will give him rest in matches with weaker oppositions. They are almost equal.
Kos and Per are class separately and together.
Sagna is better than Carl.
Wojciech is one of the best goalkeepers.
Stefan @MrLeverton is sticking with Wenger’s tried and trusted 4231 but finds no place for Santi.
A fairly standard formation and selection policy which is pretty familiar when players are all fit (even though that is rare). The big issue is 1 of the holding midfielders. Arteta, in spite of my doubts about his consistency and pace due to age, gets the nod ahead of the unreliable Flamini and Wilshere. I feel Wilshere will own the midfield in the future but needs to get beyond these injury worries and spending most of a game on the ground.
Another difficult decision was leaving out Podolski who is lethal in the box and Cazorla who’s skill with the ball is sublime. I just feel Özil has that killer ball in him when players are able to run beyond and none compare to Ox and Walcott on that front.
The defence is settled and while I wish there was an alternative to Giroud his ability to link with players facing away from goal is excellent and the 3 in behind him would appreciate it.
The first formation not to include Aaron Ramsey comes in from Harry Sutherland @HarrySutherland 4-2-3-1 formation when defending, 4-1-4-1 when attacking.
The back 5 is as expected
Wilshere — to join as fourth attacking midfielder when attacking to make a 4-1-4-1
Flamini — always hold and mops up the midfield to start the attack again when the ball is cleared from opposing team.
Harry has Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla either side of Ozil with Olivier Giroud up top.
Sean Kirby @arsenalamazing.
Here is my first team when all fit and bench. The formation is 4-2-3-1 with this line up; Szczesny; Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Sagna; Ramsey, Arteta; Cazorla, Ozil, Walcott; Giroud. Then the bench would have great backup with players pushing for the first team – Fabianski, Vermaelen, Flamini, Wilshere Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Podolski.
I think it’s a great shame that we have not had all these players available all season and if we did then I think we could really fancy ourselves for the title. I think the injury ‘scenario’ has to be looked into and dealt with and we also need to spend big money on a new striker and defended in the summer. Overall I think we have a really strong and competitive squad who just need two or three top class inclusions to help push them on. I think if we were to win the FA Cup and get CL qualification it would be a good season and something to push on from.
Sean agrees with Mean & Steve
Jon Beresford (@jonberesford27) I’d go with the following first eleven…
I’d start the majority of games with the above formation. The idea being that Flamini would sit and perform the role of DM while allowing Ramsey, Özil and Cazorla to have relatively free roles. I believe Flamini’s organisational skills would be the key to allowing Ramsey to get forward and add to Walcott’s runs. (Who I would instruct to play high up the pitch, off the back off the defender) Thus giving Özil and Cazorla options for the killer forward pass.
I’d be inclined to interchange Chamberlain with Ramsey/Cazorla dependent on the opposition to add more penetration and muscle when required. Against lesser opposition I’d field Arteta and possibly even Wilshere (as he matures) in Flamini’s role, in an attempt to dominate possession. My main problem would be Podolski. In an ideal world I would give him a run of games up top, but otherwise I’d be unsure where to beat utilise his skills. While my ideas are relatively unoriginal, I don’t think there is much more that could be done with our crop of players, than what AW already does with them.
John Cronin – @Iamjohncronin
Szczesny Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs Flamini Ramsey Walcott Ozil Chamberlain Giroud Formation: 4-2-3-1 (makes us less susceptible to counter attack unlike a 4-3-3) One big name missed out in Wilshere but although he is great in driving the team his goals/assists are worse at end of the day. Almost put Rosicky into the first team – but has great energy off the bench Cazorla was very very hard to not put him in but with Ozil now in I kind of feel he falls second best now as much as I love him. I always preferred him in the hole than out wide.
Flamini is included simply as he sits and can play at same intensity for full 90. A proper DM. Arteta is fantastic but has been a lot more sloppy in possession this year. Back 5 picks itself in my opinion. Ozil needs runners so thus Chamberlain and Walcott either side. Tempting to move Ramsey out wide and play Wilshere as a deep line midfielder but Walcott gets himself in great scoring positions. Sometimes I feel our regular line up all want to create but none to finish the move off.
Simon Gillespie @BigSiG87
Szczesny, Sagna, BGF, Kos, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Theo, Ox, Giroud
Formation would be 4-5-1 when defending with Theo and Ox dropping back to help. Then 4-2-1-3 with the ball, get Theo and Ox up and wide whipping balls in for Giroud. Theo could also stay up top and change to a 4-4-2 with him playing off Giroud with the good old little and large combo, I’d then have Ox on the left and Ozil on the right and get Sagna and Gibbs overlapping. In Europe that formation with the pace of Theo and Ox would dominate. For me teams in Europe find it difficult to defend against our quick counter attacks.
Si’s Sensations on the attack!
Steve Wales @Swales1968
Szczeney Sagna, BFG, Kos, Gibbs Arteta Wilshere, Ramsey Ozil, Walcott, Cazorla Based on fluidity of the attack Arteta (or Flamini) can drop back to cover overlapping fullbacks Sagna (Jenkinson) & Gibbs (Monreal). Wilshere (Rosicky) & Ramsey (Kallstrom) one to push forward running beyond the midfield/strikers while the other holds (think Petit & PV). A fluid attacking 3 who can interchange positions with pace and help from the fullbacks and runners from midfield. With players like Diaby, Rosicky & Giroud on the bench there is flexibility for a plan B & C .
Finally Ross Tommy @ReallyCrossRoss
This is Ross’s team and it came with these words – Just bloody go for it!!
Well there you go, a long read but interesting. On this sample of 16 fans Santi Cazorla, last year’s undoubted Player of the Year would not get in to the starting 11 of 25% of you.
Gibbs is selected head of Monreal by 10 of our writers and 16 of our readers. Perhaps if Wenger had not rotated so often it would be Gibbo and not Shaw being talked about for the World Cup.
As with our writers a few would still play Diaby ahead of most if fit which may be this season.
Unlike with our writers the majority of the fans seem content with the 4231 formation we currently operate.
In 26 selections over both blogs Vermaelen, our skipper, featured twice as a left back.
Finally despite their popularity when push comes to shove no one sees TR7 or Poldi as anything more than super subs. One is content to be so but I am not sure the other is!
Thanks for all those who sent in their teams and apologies if I missed your entry but the article was getting too long!!
Passionate 50+ ST holder who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since. He set up up his own site 1 Nil Down 2 One Up which he has now sold and since the summer of 2013 with a friend he launched a new project to offer new and aspiring Arsenal writers a home. Gunners Town is that platform and Dave writes here too. He is also the author of 2 Arsenal related books.