The debate on Arsenal’s contract rebels will rumble on and as long as it does it will only exacerbate the division of opinions on Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Neither performed at anywhere near the levels we know they are capable of last time out at the Eithad. The venue for their understated (being polite) performances only serves to emphasise the point in truth – Ozil because it represents for many another opportunity to shine in a big away fixture passed up, and for Sanchez as it was against the team and coach he seems to want to play for.
For me as well, the decision to start a player, who wishes to leave the club, ahead of our record signing, desperate to prove his worth to his coach and to a supportive fan base was a strange call by Wenger to say the least. Not quite up there with playing Chamberlain against Liverpool but not far off it.
Until Ozil commits his future to Arsenal, despite his protestations to the contrary, he will be viewed with suspicion by many Arsenal supporters, rightly or wrongly. As for Alexis, I suspect most of us, thought that despite his desire to leave the club, due to his nature and personality, he would still play at full throttle. Arguably he still is but it is becoming evident his efforts are increasingly soloist and he appears out of sync with some of his colleagues.
Against this back drop and with a growing call for increased involvements for Jack Wilshere, for club and country we approach the first North London Derby of the season. However before that we have a further international fixture – and for the English amongst us another chance to see the new 352 formation in action. This structure has been utilised by Conte at Chelsea on occasions this campaign and it does allow a team to play with 2 out-and-out strikers. I am sure you know where I am going with this…
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Arsenal against better sides can be overpowered and overrun in the centre of the park, particularly with Xhaka’s lack of pace. Ramsey is showing greater discipline but there are always occasions in games where his Swiss partner is left exposed. We have seen this too often of late. The 352 system allows Wenger to retain his favoured back three and his wingback, whilst allowing him to reinforce the central midfield with a third player. It also permits him to experiment with a partner for Lacazette – whether it be a big-man/little-man combination with Giroud, or a player willing to run beyond his hold-up and flicks-in: Welbeck.
This set up would also allow Arsenal to ease Jack Wilshere back into the central midfield with Ramsey and Xhaka, but – as you will have surmised by now – it also results in a starting 11, still strong but without the aforementioned rebels.
Bellerin and Kolasinac are still there for the team’s width which will be critical and utilised still more in this system, but it does potentially starve us of central creativity, putting huge pressure on Wilshere. That said – with our two wide buccaneers given more licence to attack, the additional crosses that hopefully would result play into the hands (or indeed heads) of the two strikers, particularly if one is Olivier Giroud.
The Giroud and Lacazette combination is one I am sure most Gunners would like to see and perhaps Deschamps would give it more than a passing glance. Giroud is constantly delivering for his national team and must be keen to gain more minutes for his club. The problem he has is that he is struggling to adapt to the 3421, having flourished in the previous 4231. I would dearly love to see how the Frenchman got on with a true partner and with genuine width in the 352.
I doubt Wenger will try this against Tottenham, with little time left once his players return from international duty – but I would put money on us seeing it in the near future.