With the Gunners managing only 9 goals in 9 Premier League games along with no open play goals in their last 5, it’s certainly not been the start Mikel Arteta would have envisaged. Arsenal went into the game against Leeds looking to take three points back to London and stay within close proximity to the teams ahead. But with Nicolas Pepe seeing red in the 51st minute, the Spaniard would definitely have been the happier of the two managers regarding the end result. Next up for the Gunners is a tough home fixture against the tricky Wanderers.
Since Nuno Espírito Santo gained promotion with his side back in 2018, Arsenal have failed to win either of the two encounters at the Emirates. Arteta will be aware that his team are in for a battle come Sunday evening, especially when you consider the style of football Wolves deploy. Despite playing a back four against Southampton on Monday, it’s likely that the Portuguese manager will resort back to his favoured 3-4-3 system. It’s a formula that has brought consistent success against the so-called ‘big teams’. Essentially, they sit deep, surrender possession and remain resolute with a back five.
In possession and in transition, the wing-backs push forward and partner the front three. Arsenal have struggled to break teams down who deploy a low block, which plays into the hands of the visitors.
The hybrid 3-4-3 has brought success against the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. But the problem with this system is that its not sustainable against teams who sit deep because there isn’t a player who is playing in between the lines, and essentially the distances between the midfield and attack are too large.
Other problems associated with the hybrid 3-4-3 is that Arsenal’s teenage sensation Bukayo Saka is instructed to be the link between the midfield and attack. But the issue with this is that the 19-year-old is utilised as a left wing-back out of possession. In situations where the Gunners win the ball back in midfield, the youngster has to travel a fair amount of distance before he can influence proceedings in the final third. Furthermore, when Lacazette is given the nod to lead the line, the Frenchman’s consistently dropping deep, with only the two wide attackers ahead.
A 4-2-3-1, however, allows the Gunners to play an extra midfielder which theoretically should improve Arsenal in an attacking sense. Even though Meslier was untested, Arteta’s men looked more fluid in attack during the opening 25 minutes playing this formation. Joe Willock, who despite had a poor game, showed how crucial it is to have someone who can occupy space in between the opposition backline and midfield.
The Gunners’ best opportunities this season have come predominantly through the wide areas. Both Tierney and Bellerin have demonstrated their quality in the final third, and had their fellow teammates been more clinical in front of goal, the pair would have claimed at least a few more assists under their names. If Arsenal are to walk away with three points on Sunday, these two will be crucial in providing supply lines and creating width.
Whilst the onus will be on Spaniard’s side to take the initiative, Arsenal must be cautious of the threat Wolves provide on the counter. Leading the line is the Mexican Raul Jimenez, who has been a consistent performer for the visitors. His ability to drop deep, bring others into play and run towards the channels is unnoticed by many. Goalscoring wise, the No. 9. has netted 4 times already this season for the Wanderers.
Adama Traore is always a threat and one who will test Kieren Tierney throughout the course of the game if selected. But the two wide attackers who may get the nod ahead of the Spaniard are Daniel Podence and the exciting young Portugues talent, Pedro Neto. Both direct and have caused opposition defences plenty of problems already this season.
Arteta should persist with the 4-2-3-1 system because it suits the current squad profile. With uncertainty surrounding the fitness of Willian, Saka and Partey, it will be interesting to see who Arteta selects. Reiss Nelson is a player with tremendous quality. The former Hoffenheim loanee is great with both feet, possesses the ability to go past players with his dribbling and close touch control, intelligent off the ball movement and makes the correct decisions in possession. With the 20-year-old inside left forward putting in a stellar performance against Molde, he’s certainly pushing for his first Premier League start this season. Lacazette played in a deeper role on Thursday, and despite failing to impress, Arteta may give the Frenchman a chance to make amends from previous poor displays.
With the likes of Spurs, Chelsea and even Manchester United starting to hit form, its essential that the Gunners perform. With Arsenal winless in their last two games, and a fiery North London Derby to follow afterwards in the League, Arteta knows that anything but a win for his team on Sunday will not suffice.
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23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.