Hi fellow Gooners, I’d like to share some of my thoughts about a very important – although nervy – win at Selhurst Park, would you mind reading this blog?
Playing Crystal Palace away from home is not ideal when you are already desperate for a win, therefore I wasn’t utterly confident about us getting the three points against Alan Pardew’s men; I was positively surprised to see the Arsenal fly off the blocks and produce some scintillating, entertaining football in the opening twenty minutes.
It was all about high pressure, quick exchanges, sharp movement and through balls, the poor Crystal Palace team couldn’t really cope with our intensity and quality, they somehow resisted until the 16th minute, before eventually capitulating to Olivier Giroud’s brilliant acrobatic finish – despite a terrible cross from Mesut Özil (oh, Adrian…).
Then came Ward’s equalizer and Alexis Sanchez header to win us the game, but you already know it.
I was as anxious as you all were, I was as worried as Arsène Wenger looked in the dug-out and I just hoped we could hang on our lead and bring three points back home, hence my attention drifted from what I wanted to focus on: our formation.
I was surprised and disappointed when I saw that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – the man of the moment – was dropped from the starting XI, therefore I wanted to see what Arsène Wenger had in mind. Aaron Ramsey isn’t a winger, he doesn’t possess one single quality that makes a good wide player, yet the manager keeps playing him there – keeping a proper winger like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench.
I started watching the game and noticed how the Welshman and Alexis Sanchez kept moving inside, allowing space for Hector Bellerín and Nacho Monreal to move up on the pitch and – most relevant – going untracked by their opponents; now, that’s interesting: is Arsène Wenger playing a variation of the old 4-2-2-2 formation mainly used by Brazilian Clubs and by Brazil national team?
That could actually explain the abundance of skilled central midfielders; I thought it was a kind of hoarding disease but there might be some logic in that, after all!
Here is my logic – We have Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla playing in front of the back-four, making sure we protect our defensive line (Le Coq) and have enough quality to start every move from deep (Santi Cazorla), without having to fire long balls to our striker. Then we have one formal playmaker fluctuating between the lines, free to move from the middle to the left and back and another central midfielder, initially deployed on the right wing, allowed to drift inside and combine with our playmaker – benefiting from the fact of being untracked because in no man’s land between the full-back and the midfielders. Finally, we have a left winger who is actually a striker who just loves to cut inside and pop-up in the box also often untracked for the same reason. Lastly we deploy an old-fashioned striker who holds the ball, combines with teammates around the box and ofte occupies the minds of both centre-halves.
This well-organized anarchy results in three players (mainly Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez, but Jack Wilshere will join the mix at same point) bombing into the box from different positions, to join forces with our striker and free space for full-backs to gallop on the flanks and curl balls into the penalty area, or around it.
Now, you are the defending full-back or centre-back: how do you cope with that? Well if it works well perhaps you don’t!
Of course, it’s all on paper and there’s a long way to go, but that set-up allowed us to create five clear chances in less than twenty minutes! You must concede it COULD work…
We will find teams suffocating spaces and staying behind – or parking the bus, if you prefer – but in that case we’d have men able to stretch them wide, namely Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, so we do have a plan B.
I am really looking forward to see what the approach will be when Liverpool arrives in town, on Monday. I feel we are getting sharper and sharper and our game will surely benefit from that: more runs, better passing and – most important – better finishing.
Had we converted just two of the five chances we had before Olivier Giroud scored, the game would have been finished before Crystal Palace could realize it actually started.
Hit first, hit hard and then hit again.
Still, if all this sounds too abstract, make yourself a gift and look for videos of Brazil national team at 1982 World Cup: they might have lost to Italy (yay!) but played some unbelievable football during the whole tournament and deserved better.
Yes, they were using the 4-2-2-2 formation.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.