Well this week feels better than the last after a wonderful display against Everton that we hope gave is a taster of what is to come, with both our new signings in the starting eleven. Add to that the dynamic display from a fit again Aaron Ramsey the cup positively floweth over with renewed optimism with two rather huge games at Wembley around the corner.
There has been much debate about poor old Alexandre Lacazette but he has much to play for still and will lead our charge in Europe of course. What interests me more is Wenger’s return to the long comfort zone of 4231 and what that could mean ahead of the NLD and the League Cup Final. Most particularly what interests me is that these two huge matches are arguably present the coach, for the first time this campaign with the option to select a full fit and trusted Ramsey and Wilshere in the same side from the off.
Many are frustrated with Granit Xhaka and would like to see the Swiss international make was for a double British pivot or others might suggest a reversion to the 433/4141 we have utilised in January. It is my hope and belief that neither of the above options will be chosen and that Wenger will stick with the old tried and trusted 4231 that worked so well, on the whole against Everton. However I think the player that may way well miss out for Wenger to accommodate Ramsey and Wilshere is Alex Iwobi and not Granit Xhaka.
Back in 2015 Wenger with injuries galore fell upon a central partnership of Cazorla and Coquelin which saw the Gunners go on a strong end of season run culminating in another FA Cup Final triumph. In the middle of the run Aaron Ramsey, hero at Wembley the previous season and a nailed on starter in central midfield before the latest injury returned to fitness. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been starting on the right of the three behind the striker but got inured himself in the Quarter Final win at Old Trafford, which saw our Welsh Cup talisman return to the side on the right flank.
Certainly Ramsey was fairly vocal about wanting to return to the centre but his manager was reluctant to break up a partnership in the centre that was working for the team. It took me a while to get used to Ramsey in the role as he naturally drifted infield getting in the way of Ozil on occasions, but once the players got used to the role and understood Wenger was still giving him freedom to time his runs into the box as long as he reverted to the flank when we lost the ball it was increasingly effective. Indeed at the time I recall writing that he could make the role his own moving out to the right as Invincible hero‘Freddie Ljungberg’ had all those years before.
So in 2017/18 is Wenger faced with a similar situation and might he use a similar solution? Well I am not sure that Xhaka/Wiilshere as a partnership has the same solidity and balance as Cazorla and Coquelin but I do think the manager might wish to somehow get all his form players into the team for Spurs and Man City. This being the case and making the assumption that he wishes to stick with thee familiarity of 42311 he can consider the same solution as 2014/15 and move Ramsey to the right of the three man attack support and move Mkhitaryan to the left of Ozil. However, given how effective Ramsey was on Saturday with his positional discipline, the fabulous timing of his runs and knowing when to join the attack, I think Wenger will leave the Welshman with Xkaha.
The 2014/15 solution is still available to the manager though and I suspect will see him take that course of action and try Wilshere in the three instead of Iwobi on the left. It might seem harsh on the young Nigerian, who had one of his bets games against Everton but in shirt Wilshere offers so much more creativity and vision than him. Moreover it gives good balance with a left footer on that side of Ozil. The added advantage is that from August to November when we were still playing 3421 Wishere in the Carabou Cup and Europa League was playing a more advanced role this season, which Ramsey has not really.
The clincher though is that giving Wilshere an advanced role over Ramsey plays more to both players’ strengths. Ramsey has the work rate off the ball in a defensive role and can make is later runs from deep, something Wilshere is less naturally inclined to do. Indeed Wilshere has often sat and pushed Xhaka further forward which has been less effective for the team as a unit. Whereas Wilshere has far more guile and creativity in his game, along with a superior ability to carry the ball and beat a man.
So here is the line-up I think we may and hope we do see for the NLD and the Premier League betting might shift in Arsenal’s favour at Wembley.
Shoe-horning the best players into an eleven may not always be the correct approach but just imagine the work rate combined with the vision of Wilshere, Ozil and Mkhitaryan behind Aubameyang this weekend. We know Ozil is highly comfortable playing with Wilshere and we have seen similar early signs with his new Armenian partner, so the interchanging of passing and position could be wonderful to behold. So on this occasion I think the shoe-horning it is the right thing to do and what’s more, I believe Wenger will do it.