Ready for a rumble, Gunners?
Yesterday’s game proved that the Champions League could be even more surprising than the Premier League – with Manchester City losing at home to Juventus and Manchester United defeated by PSV.
Tonight’s game against Dinamo Zagreb will tell a lot about our guys and their mental strength, because we have the potential to smash the Croatians but could easily fail if we don’t show up with the right attitude (Monaco, anyone?)
Arsène Wenger decided to rest to key players like Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerín and I didn’t expect this from the manager, although I was quite sure he’d be rotating some of his players seen the upcoming big game against Chelsea.
I was rather expecting to see Olivier Giroud getting a chance upfront and maybe Francis Coquelin being rested to give Mikel Arteta some minutes on the pitch but I was very surprised when the news broke that Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerín were not travelling with the team.
That led me to think that we could see something slightly different to the usual system, tonight, and that Arsène Wenger is planning to use tonight’s game to fine-tuning some tactical adjustments for the near future.
It’s becoming quite clear that Hector Bellerín’s presence at right-back is automatically keeping Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench, because the Englishman’s tendency to play very close to the lateral line is closing spaces for the Spaniard, whose constant runs and overlapping are a precious resource for the team; despite being at ease going forward, Mathieu Débuchy is a more conservative full-back and could provide the ideal cover for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to terrify opponents on the right wing and not having too many defensive responsibilities – hence I expect both of them to start tonight’s game and hopefully form an effective pairing on the right-hand side.
I expect the manager to revert to the not-really-appreciated 4-1-4-1 system, where Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla will have more freedom to roam forward and combine through the middle; playing two real wingers in the mould of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez would allow Arsène Wenger to stretch the pitch to its extreme width and force Dinamo Zagreb to open spaces through the middle, where our most gifted players could benefit from some extra freedom to dictate the tempo and find openings for their teammates; also, I expect Olivier Giroud to come back to the starting XI to make the most of the many crosses I expect our wingers to throw towards the box, either for the Frenchman to smash home or for him to bring down and pass backwards for our surging midfielders.
That sounds like a good plan, not only for tonight but for some league games where rivals will try to outnumber us in midfield.
We’ve been complaining about how much the Arsenal has tendency to obstruct the area in front of the penalty box, unable to stretch the opponents with wide players; we’ve been moaning about how easy it has been for a team like of West Ham to suffocate our play by closing spaces through the centre and I believe this setup could help us finding spaces elsewhere than “in the hole”; it might not be something very different to the usual system, on paper, but it could make a real difference for us – both in Europe and in the Premier League, a bit like what happened back in 2006.
As you surely remember, at that time Arsène Wenger used to deploy two different systems – one for the Champions League and one for the Premier League: in the league we were often playing a flat 4-4-2 formation, with Thierry Henry (or Robin van Persie) and Emmanuel Adebayor upfront, while in Europe – especially away – we played a more conservative 4-5-1 with José Antonio Reyes, Freddie Ljungberg (or Robert Pirès) and Alex Hleb supporting the lone forward, Thierry Henry.
I might be completely wrong but I feel Arsène Wenger is about to repeat the trick to make sure the team has enough solutions at its disposal.
Back in 2006, Robert Pirès was often sacrificed in the name of “The Balance” – injuries aside; this year it could be Aaron Ramsey who could play that role, although the Welshman could also play centrally – alongside Francis Coquelin.
Time will tell but this team looks more and more exciting!