The biggest criticism of Unai Emery this season is his chopping and changing of formation.
He has switch from 4231 to 3412 on a regular basis.
This chopping and changing led to a lack of consistency and cohesion. It is very different defending in a back 3 against defending in a back 4, for example.
When Arsene Wenger was at the club, the formation was pretty much always the same.
His early teams were 442, his later 4231.
You look at every successful side in history and they usually play with the same formation throughout history.
Sir Alex Ferguson employed 442 for most of the time, later switching to 433. Jose Mourinho always 4231. This season Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have rarely strayed from their favourers 4231 formations.
Consistency in formation leads players have greater comfort and positivity in what they are doing. They do not need to think about where a player is before passing the bal. They know the player will be there when they pass it.
Next season, Emery needs to decide what formation he is going to play, and this then defines who we will sign in the summer.
Formation and team play is more important than personnel. You could acquire the best XI in the world, but if you fail to play to their strengths you will fail as a team. You need suitable players for the system you will play.
The best example of this is France at last years World Cup.
Alexandre Lacazette is clearly a superior striker to Olivier Giroud, yet it is the ex-Arsenal man who became a world champion over the current Arsenal man.
This was due to France trying to get the best out of Antoine Griezmann – and Giroud was best placed to do that. A strike force of Griezmann and Lacazette might have had better individuals but not be a better partnership.
The formation that Emery wants to play next season will govern what players we sign. The best example for this is at left back.
Sead Kolasinac is a very good attacking wing back, but not a great defensive full back. He suits playing 3412, but will struggle in a back 4.
If Emery decides to stick with 3 at the back, Kolasinac is first choice. Nacho Monreal (who it seems is going to sign a new deal) is then adequate back up.
Kolasinac will not suit a back 4, however. And the feeling is Monreal can no longer be relied upon to play a full season at left back. A back 4 would result in Arsenal needing to sign a new left back. A back 3 would mean Arsenal do not need to make a purchase.
It is a similar situation on the right hand side of defence.
Ainsley-Maitland Niles will be adequate cover for Hector Bellerin as a wing back, but not so much as a right back.
A back 4 would mean that, ideally, we would have to buy a back up for Bellerin, whilst a back 3 would mean we could stick with the young Englishman.
Regardless of formation, Arsenal need a new first choice central defender.
In a back 4, Sokratis needs a solid partner. A new central defender alongside Sokratis, Rob Holding, Laurent Koscielny and Kostadinos Mavropanos would be sufficient. However a back 3 could result in the club deciding to keep hold of Calum Chambers.
Signings in the top end of the pitch will also be defined by formation.
The theory go’s that Arsenal need to sign width this summer. But this is only correct if we play 4231, not 3421.
In 3412, you rely on your strikers to “split” and create the width. Pierre-Emerick aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are both good at this. You then need a Number 10 who will get into the box between the pair to create the extra man when one is out wide. This is not one of Mesut Ozil’s strengths.
Aaron Ramsey would have been ideal to play Number 10 in 3412, but he is leaving.
If Emery does go 3412, we need to find a goal scoring midfielder like Aaron Ramsey. A Frank Lampard type player. This could result in Ozil leaving.
Instead of spending money on width, it would also see us invest in another top class striker.
As it stands we have Aubameyang, Lacazette and young Eddie Nketiah.
Playing Aubameyang and Lacazette up top would leave us with Nketiah as the striker option on the bench, and an injury to any of the 3 would leave us with no striker on the bench.
An option here could be we buy a winger who can play upfront, or a striker who can play on the wing. Someone like Anthony Martial.
If Emery went for 4231, Ozil would be more than suitable and Arsenal would not need to invest in a 4th striker – instead going for at least one winger; maybe 2.
Ultimately our summer transfer plans need to be defined by how Emery wants to play next season.