With Arsenal succumbing to their 7th defeat of the season, maybe it’s time Arsène Wenger rethought his tactics.
The defeat to Swansea, for me, reinforces that fact. I am not taking anything away from Swansea’s excellent performance against Arsenal or away from the great job that Brendan Rodgers is doing there when I say that as Arsenal were out passed and out played, and penalty or no penalty, Swansea deserved their win. Arsenal have good players at the club, but it might be time to shake things up tactics wise.
The rise of both Tottenham and Manchester City now means the fight for a top four finish is a lot tougher and after the defeat to Swansea looks much more unlikely that Arsenal will qualify for the Champions League, the first time in Arsène Wenger’s tenure.
He has already stated that he does not intent to sign any players during January on a permanent basis, which is frustrating an already frustrated fanbase, but when you lose in the manner you did against Swansea, surely you have to start admitting it’s a bigger issue than just the players on the pitch.
Time to change?
Arsenal fans have been frustrated by many of the players performances, particularly Theo Walcott’s. Many feel that he is not being fully utilized on the right of a three man attack, but Walcott showed in the defeat against Swansea what he can do when he is given a good enough through ball. With the emergence of youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (AOC) and his performances on the right, people are calling for Oxlade-Chamberlain to be given a run of games in the Premiership, but is there a way that Arsenal can incorporate Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain? I think there is.
While across Europe new formations are coming into play, such as Barcelona’s or Napoli’s 3-4-3, maybe Arsène should look at what has worked in the past, and even this season in the Carling Cup, and revert back to a 4-4-2 with Oxlade-Chamberlain playing on the right of midfield and Walcott up front. Walcott would be able to sit on the shoulder of the defender and when the ball comes through capitalise the use of his speed and make it a more effective weapon. He may not be as clinical One-on-one with a goalkeeper as Thierry Henry, but if the keeper is forced into a save the resulting loose ball could be turned into a goal or the very least a corner.
Walcott and Robin van Perise would compliment each other well, much in the same way Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry did, though van Persie would be more of a goal threat than Bergkamp, and before anyone jumps on my back the highest goal tally in one season Bergkamp had was 22 in all competitions, so RvP is much more of a goal threat. How they would line-up It may be hard to envision Arsenal in a 4-4-2, but I can very much see it. The central pairing of Song and Wilshere would work wonders as both players are combative and while also being very comfortable on the ball. Jack Wilshere is much better technically, but to have two central midfielders that are happy to get stuck in and win the ball back, you have a great base to start an attack with. You just have to look at Song this season, he already has 5 assists to his name, one off them being that beautiful pass for RvP’s wonder two feet off the air volley.
Having four midfielders rather than three would also make things easier on the squad. They currently have 14 midfielders at the club, some are out on loan this season, but will be looking to come back and fight for a first team place next season. If Benayoun doesn’t make his loan move a permanent one then that number would go down to 13 midfielders at the club. I have already have said that Song and Wilshere would be my first choice pairing for the centre of midfield, so the other players would be looking to make more of an impact off the bench or when covering for the pair.
Frimpong or Coquelin would be in for an injured or suspended Song, and Ramsey or Arteta for Wilshere, leaving Rosicky, Lansbury, Denilson and Diaby somewhat out in the cold. Rosicky is not getting any younger, and Diaby is not getting any fitter, leaving Denilson, who is on loan at Sao Paulo, and Henri Lansbury, who is on loan at West Ham to compete with Ramsey and Arteta. I would like to see how Denilson does when he comes back from loan, and hope they give Lansbury a chance, but I imagine that they are going to be sold on.
With AOC on the right-hand side of midfield and Wilshere and Song in the middle, that leaves the left-hand side of midfield. Out of the remaining players currently at the club, Benayoun could player there, but it would probably be Andrei Arshavin. Miyaichi might be a contender next season, but I would like to see him given a chance this season.
At the back
This may surprise people, but I don’t think Arsenal’s defence is all that bad. If Arsenal didn’t have all the injury problems they have, they would be in a much better position than they are now.
I believe that Kieran Gibbs has the potential to be as good as what Ashley Cole was for Arsenal, and like I have said before, only if he could stay fit. Unfortunately the last time I said that, the next game he got injured. Andre Santos is good cover for Gibbs, and Jenkinson is good cover for Sagna. Jenkinson was thrust into the first team and he handled himself very well. He still has a lot to learn, but he definitely is a good stop gap for when Sagna is unavailable.
Djourou is not suited to the right-back position that he currently is filling in for as too many times he has left his defender vulnerable and open to be run at. When Sagna is fit and back in the team that wouldn’t be happening as much and Arsenal will be in a lot better position than they are now. I am not fully confident with Djourou in central defence either, nor am I convinced with Squillaci, so maybe another defender in with those two leaving would be beneficial to Arsenal.
The partnership of Koscielny and Vermaelen is a very good one. In the more technical games, against teams like Barcelona, Koscielny is more suited to partner Vermaelen than Mertesacker. Mertesacker and Vermaelen work well when faced against teams that are going to play the long ball like Stoke. The versatility that Mertesacker and Koscielny gives Arsenal is great, but it only is versatile if Vermaelen isn’t injured.
As for the goalkeeper I think it goes with out saying that Szczesny is the first choice.
Time to sign
Having more technical and tricky players out wide rather than speedy players would give Arsenal more to work with. Walcott is not innately good with the ball when he has to dribble past a player and pick out a pass, but Oxlade-Chamberlain is. He has already shown Arsenal fans what they can expect from him, and he will only get better. In the Olympiacos game, on more than one occasion he was being double teamed, or even triple teamed, but he still managed to keep the ball and deliver a good cross. If Walcott was in the same scenario it would have ended up with Walcott losing the ball or a poor cross to nobody.
With the 4 man midfield and 2 up front, I would be expecting van Persie to be dropping slightly deeper to act as a link player. With him just a little bit behind Theo and just in front of the midfield, playing between the lines, there would be a greater threat of goals than there currently is.
With the new formation, new players are essential, also there would be a need to see some players leave. Andrei Arshavin, Johan Djourou, Sebestain Squillaci, Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner would go on the transfer list, and be looking for a defender and a left-sided midfielder.
The want-away Chris Samba is just the type of player that could do well at Arsenal. He is big, strong, dangerous in the air going forward and in defence and is good on the ball. With so many games to be played in the Premiership, Champions League and FA Cup, four central defenders of that quality are essential. I have left out the Carling Cup as the way Wenger using that competition to help develop new players is something I still think is the right thing to do.
A quality left-sided midfielder would complete the team in a 4-4-2 formation and that would be Eden Hazard. He has the passing ability, dribbling skill and the touch that Arsène requires of all his players. Hazard would be able to link up well with Gervinho, having played with him at Lille before Gervinho moved to the North London club.
Youngsters Joel Campbell and Wellington Silva, if he they get their work permits, could also be in the mix, but more likely Ju-Young Park and Carlos Vela would be fighting for places. With the squad they currently have I still believe the good old 4-4-2 would give the cover, add the numbers in midfield to control the middle of the park while also giving width as well as give Walcott the freedom to run at players and not worry about playing people in or covering for Sagna or Jenkinson on the right.
Robin van Persie would also not have to be relied upon as much as he currently is, so with the pressure not fully on his shoulders to perform, he should be able to fully express him self on the pitch, leading to more goals for the team and just as many for himself too.
The ideal starting line up next season would be pretty much the same as I would have it now except for Hazard on the left. There could also be the possibility of Vermaelen at left-back as he is very effective going forward, and could link up with fellow Belgian, Hazard, and have Samba next to Koscielny.
So this would be the line-up.
I believe that it is better now than waiting till next year to chance up the tactics slightly, and I would start with Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and play Arshavin or Benayoun on the left and see how well Walcott could do up front with van Persie. If in the next two months it doesn’t work well when Gervinho comes back from the Africa Cup of Nations, he can have a run of games.
Arsenal’s next game is against Manchester United, so how would Arsenal line-up in my suggested 4-4-2 formation.
I very much doubt that this formation will enter Wenger’s head, but if you ever seem him, suggest it! who knows he may listen.