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Arsenal to revert to 4 at the back?

It was early April 2017 when Arsene Wenger made the move from 4 at the back to 3 at the back.

We had just been taken apart away from home to Crystal Palace, and were on a run of just one win in 8 in the Premier League. We had also been knocked out the Champions League 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich. Things we bleak.

Against Middlesbrough, Wenger tried out 3 at the back. We were unconvincing in a 2-1 victory.

The next game cemented the formation change, as Arsenal beat Manchester City in the FA Cup. A victory against Leicester followed before Arsenal went to White Hart Lane and lost to Spurs. That defeat would prove to be Arsenal’s lone loss post-Palace as the side won 8 out of 9 games, including the FA Cup Final against Chelsea.

Fast forward 8 months and it feels like we are at a crossroads once more. Having failed to win 7 out of 16 games, Arsenal are out of the title race by December.

It is not just how many points we are behind Manchester City that it is a concern, but how many games where we have looked shakey at the back, and toothless upfront. Even games which we have won this season, many have been unconvincing victories.

Is it time that Wenger dropped 3 at the back at returned to 4 at the back?

There are many things to consider

Nacho Monreal

One of the losers in the switch will be Nacho Monreal.

The Spanish full back has been one of our players of the season playing on the left hand side of a 3 man defence, but playing in a 2 man partnership is very different to playing in a 3 man partnership, and Monreal will lose out.

Sead Kolasinac has also been a stand out performer, and it would be illogical to drop him for Monreal.

Hector Bellerin

On the other side of the pitch, Monreal’s international team mate would actually benefit from the switch.

Bellerin has been poor this season. He has neither the skill level or crossing ability to be our main outlet out wide.

In the back end of last season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain excelled at right wing back, as he bought an attacking players ability to the wing back position. Bellerin is better in defence, but not as good going forward.

Returning to 4 at the back would see Bellerin play a less important role going forward, and this will be a positive.

Who in the middle of the defence?

Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny looked shakey in a two together last season, and time is winding down for Per Mertesacker. Rob Holding and Calum Chambers look further away from the first team than at any point in their Arsenal careers.

That would lead to Mustafi and Koscileny being the only option. But is it solid enough?

Formation, formation, formation

If we go to 3 at the back, there is a huge debate to be had as to the make-up of the midfield.

Once view is to go 2 up top. Play Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud together. Mesut Ozil in behind, then a solid midfield 3 of Grant Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey (who is now injured) and Jack Wilshere.

Whilst the midfield 3 would certainly provide more cover, the midfield would end up very narrow. And then what is the point of playing Giroud with a narrow midfield – he relies on service from out wide.

The answer would then be that the full backs provide the service, but that in turn exposes the defence which at that point will have two central defenders rather than the current 3. And it brings Bellerin back to being the main creator on the right.

The second option would be to go back to 4231 with Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Ozil playing in behind a loan striker. There is some debate as to whether it would be better for Lacazette or Giroud to be that loan striker.

4231 would also see old problems be exposed as Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka are incapable to shielding the back 4.

A final solution could be the old Christmas tree. Play Ramsey, Wilshere and Xhaka in central midfield, with Ozil and Sanchez ahead, then Lacazette up top on his own.

Whilst this would put expectation on the wingers once more, Ozil and Sanchez would be able to drift out wide to assist them – Like they have done this season when we have bought Giroud on to chase games. Also the lack of Giroud would mean that our game is no longer all about getting the ball out wide.

And what if someone leaves?

Ozil or Sanchez leaving (and depending on who would come in) could also alter the decision making process.

Someone like Thomas Lemar is an old school winger, he will get quality balls into the box. He would suit someone like Giroud.

Whilst the likes of Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka are more centrally based players who would suit the narrower formation of playing Lacazette, and the flexibility to drop into wide positions when required.

Time to sacrifice the league?

Maybe the long term solution will be to sacrifice the league this year? We are not going to win it, so perhaps we should use the Premier League to experiment and prepare the team for the Europa League and FA Cup.

We have 7 games until Nottingham Forest away, and then another potential 8 games until we face Ostersunds.

That is plenty of time to decide on, train and implement a new formation to concentrate on competitions that we still have of winning.

One thing is for sure, it is not going to be as easy as simply going to 4 at the back. There is plenty to think about.

Keenos

 

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The Premier League set to ruin your weekend

Tomorrow the fixtures are out. This news is always met with a great deal of excitement from Arsenal fans (and fans of all clubs). The key dates people look out for include Spurs home & away, who we will play Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. You always get that analyst who tries to show the Premier League computer is corrupt by highlighting how many (and how few) away games top sides play after Champions League ties.

This week the Premier League has also begun floating ideas in preparation for the next TV deal.

The ‘leak’ of information certainly feels political. When a party leaks a policy to garner public opinion to then decide whether to go ahead with it or not. Or they leak a more extreme version of the policy so that when the actual policy is announced, people think that’s not too bad even though it is still disastrous.

The Premier League is already planning to increase the amount of games sold to TV companies at home and abroad by around 25-30. This will leave them attempting to schedule more games in an already crowded weekend. With a ban on 3 o’clock Saturday games and the lunch time, early evening Saturday, and lunchtime and afternoon kick offs already talent up with various Premier League and Championship games, the schedulers will have to try and come up with new times and days to get everything scheduled.

The Friday night kick off proved to be very unpopular with a TV audience, and the Monday night kick offs fill match going fans (and the travelling faithful) with dread.

In recent days, the Premier League have floated / leaked two new options.

The first is to have an earlier kick off on a Sunday. Either an 11.30am kick off or noon. This will be horrid for away fans.

12.45 on a Saturday is already a nightmare. Especially if you have to travel the length of the country. I remember a game against Wigan resulted in a 6.30am start at Euston. The beer was flowing much to the horror of the general commuters. To then introduce an even earlier kick off on a Sunday morning – and perhaps over an hour earlier, simply does not take away fans into consideration.

Of course, we occasionally do get pre-noon kick offs on Saturday and Sunday. I remember Arsenal playing Spurs at 11.30 and noon previously. But these have always been local derby’s for security reasons. Not Newcastle travelling to Bournemouth for an 11.30am kick off.

If Arsenal were drawn away to Newcastle on a Sunday in August at 11.30am, it would be impossible to get a train from London to Newcastle. The first train in is at 11:38. Even for a noon kick off, this train is pushing it tight to walk up the hill to St James Park. This will be replicated up and down the country.

The Premier League could offset the issues by ensuring these kick offs involve local sides only. Arsenal playing Crystal Palace, or Manchester United against Everton. Southampton v Bournemouth. But they have never taken this into account previously and have always just given TV companies free reign over which games the pick for which TV slot, no matter the logistics of travel.

The early kick off would be for one reason, and one reason only. To increase the TV ratings abroad.

Noon would be 7pm in Bangkok, 8pm in Beijing, 4pm in Dubai. The early kick off will be to maximise profits in the East, ensuring they have at least 1 game on a Sunday in their prime time slots.

Now the foreign fans reading this will probably be thinking that’s brilliant, no more waking up at 2am to watch the EPL. Thank you much EPL. Well my response to the is F**K YOU. If you do not want to get up at 2am, support your local club. This will just be another move by the Premier League that shows they have 0 interest in the real fans, the local fans, and are simply just chasing the foreign billions.

The globalisation of football is ruining the game for the local fan.

Today we then have an announcement that the Premier League are also considering night games on a Saturday. 7.45 kick off.

This is the opposite of the early Sunday games. Instead of fans not being able to get to games, they will no longer be able to get a train home. Of course, this targets the lunchtime USA audience in the west.

The aim will be to attract a larger share of the TV audience in the UK, but it will be doomed to fail. Remember when BBC lost Match of the Day and ITV started broadcasting the highlights (I think it was called The Premiership? – Beautiful Day was the soundtrack). The show flopped. Why?

Because Saturday evening is family TV time. X-Factor. Britain’s Got Talent. Strictly Come Dancing. Beadles About. Noel’s House party. Light entertainment for all the family. The kids then go to bed. Watch the 10 o’clock news. Send the misses to bed and watch Match of the Day in peace.

7.45pm Saturday is simply not a popular time to attract big TV audiences for football.

All these floated ideas highlight is once again, the Premier League are more interested in the TV audience then the match day fans. Away sections will be empty for the early kick off Sunday games. Saturday evening will see grounds half empty as families decide to stay at home, as people have other things already arranged.

Match day fans are already stretched time wise. These moves could be the straw that breaks the camels back.

When we started SheWore.com in 2013 it was a risk. No one involved had ever ran their own website before. And with the Arsenal blogging world so over crowded, we wondered if it would really be worth it

Previously the articles and blogs ran alongside message boards creating a natural flow of traffic as people looked for a corner of the internet to discuss Arsenal. With the advent of Social Media, it became clear that message boards were about to die out, so the decision was made to create the blog as a stand alone to run alongside the Twitter and Facebook pages.

Yesterday we passed through the 2,500,000 views.

We would like to thank every contributor, every reader, everyone who has shared the blogs on social media, or emailed them to their friends (or in one case printed it off and bought it to the pub to show their mates

A special thanks to all those who have ever contributed to The Arsenal and Me. A brilliant collection of stories from old and young, around the world, male and female.

In 2013, even a hundred thousand viewers seemed a lot. We now get over a hundred thousand views a month. 2.5m views is an incredible considering we are not experts, not wannabe journalists, just a bunch of simple Arsenal fans who want to share their view.

We will as always strive to be better, increase the quality, and not stoop low with click bait headlines chasing the hits.

As we look forward to hitting 5m, the offer is always open to anyone who wants to share their view on the club, whether you be Wenger In, Wenger Out, or are simply Arsenal and have a story or view you wish to share. We want your blogs.

Thanks again to everyone. Up the Arsenal.

Keenos

Gunners lucky to avoid defeat at Old Trafford

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With many Arsenal fans heading up north on Saturday morning confident that Arsene Wenger could finally earn a Premier League win over Jose Mourinho, supporters would have returned to London with mixed emotions. With the Gunners looking to close the gap on the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool at the top of the table, Wenger’s men produced a lacklustre display, with a late Olivier Giroud goal handing the North Londoner’s an undeserved point. Remaining in fourth position in the Premier League standings as a result, the football tips now look less favourable surrounding Arsenal’s chances of claiming a first title since 2004.

arsenals-olivier-giroud-scores-their-first-goal

United went ahead through a well taken Juan Mata goal, with Nacho Monreal caught out of position for the umpteenth time at Old Trafford, with Mesut Ozil and Co failing to have any impact on the game, perhaps feeling the effects of a busy international period. Having recovered in time to make the starting eleven following his exploits in South America, Alexis Sanchez started the game brightly, but showed signs of tiredness in the second half. Substitute Giroud found the back of the net with just minutes remaining, and although Arsenal will have ultimately gone home pleased with a point, a faltering United were there for the taking. After yet another big match in which Arsenal failed to impress, the football tips page from bookmakers Coral currently have the Gunners at 12/1 to win the title come May next year.

Wenger himself surprised many by starting Aaron Ramsey at Old Trafford, with Alex Iwobi dropping to the bench, and alongside midfielders Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny, the trio failed to get to grips with United’s high pressing game. With this year’s title race looking likely to be one of the most competitive in recent history, Wenger must put faith in his squad players, although many looked like they were not up to the task this weekend. Arsenal face Bournemouth this weekend, and with Jack Wilshere ineligible to play against his parent club, Coral offer the Gunners as the overwhelming favourites for three points in their football tips.

It remains to be seen just how far this group of players can go this season, however Arsenal’s record against the so called ‘top four’ must improve, with just one win against Chelsea to show for themselves so far.

Ray Hobbs