I’ve enjoyed some of the most recent takes from fellow contributors to this blog, especially those that came in after the unexpected home draw against Wolves, the third consecutive draw in the league and the second in a row at the Emirates Stadium.
Although it is pleasant to watch the Arsenal fight back from an unfavourable position, we are perhaps getting dangerously accustomed to that and we have been running our luck for quite some time, now.
As mentioned by Mike in his latest column, the disappointing result we got versus Wolverhampton and the counter-performance we provided could be the best thing that could have happened to us before such a crucial run of games: results are no longer covering our faults and there is no room for self-complacency, everyone at the Arsenal should be on their toes.
It includes Unai Emery, of course, who must make the most of this international break and the fact that only a few of our players will be travelling to make some major adjustments.
The first and most obvious one would be the balance on the left-hand side, where Sead Kolašinac has struggled for form at the back and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang isn’t effective at all, at the front.
While replacing the Bosnian with Nacho Monreal would instantly improve our balance at the back, the solution to revive the Gabonese’s form might require more thinking.
The further he plays from the box, the less he produces – the problem statement is as simple as that.
In spite of his lightning speed, the former Borussia Dortmund frontman doesn’t possess the skills to beat his man or play it short with this teammates, which makes him rather easy to contain.
The obvious solution would be to shift him through the middle but, again, he doesn’t possess the qualities that Alexandre Lacazette has shown, in terms of ball retention and link-up play.
Again, the solution is not obvious at all.
Very much like his illustrious predecessor, Unai Emery is confronted to the dilemma of fitting a range of players into a system that doesn’t really suits them – when it doesn’t penalize them.
Since the beginning of the season, we’ve seen a handful of players struggling to adapt to the system – most notably the Gabonese and Mesut Özil, but also Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka – so it is perhaps time for Unai Emery to imagine a new system, a new formation to suits his most gifted players.
Shall it be the way, then no other system than a 3-4-1-2 seems perfect for our contingent.
In such system, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette would both operate centrally and have more chances to take advantage of their innate connection, while Mesut Özil would keep his preferred number 10 position and have more freedom to roam from one side to the other, combining with the surging wing-backs.
Centrally, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira would bring stability, coverage for the defensive line and control of the ball, while at the back the spaces would be much tighter and the patrolling of our box much more effective.
I do believe that we have the personnel to exploit this formation and I am adamant that the majority of our players would see their main characteristics enhanced by this system – with some unfortunate exceptions: Nacho Monreal would be shifted to centre-back, where is relative small size and indifferent aerial ability might cost him his place in the starting XI, and Alex Iwobi, who might find it difficult to play left wing-back but would prove an excellent back-up option for Mesut Özil in the hole – like Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
I can definitely imagine Sokratis leading the back line from a central position, with Rob Holding and one of Shkodran Mustafi or Laurent Koscielny on each side, while Hector Bellerín and either Sead Kolašinac or Ainsley Maitland-Niles have the engine to cover the whole flank and provide the much-needed width we need.
Finally, should things get ugly and should we desperately need a goal, our wing-backs could be moved higher on the pitch, in which case creative players like Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan could become valuable options off the bench.
I am fully aware that Unai Emery is a very 4-2-3-1 type of coach and he is very likely to stick to the current system and its numerous small variations, however it will take quite some time and some deep investments to build his own team – while switching formations might save us through these delicate times.