Tag Archives: She Wore

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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Are Arsenal actually in the middle of a glory period?

In researching for responses to yesterdays blog on how things at Arsenal are actually not as bad as what they seem, I ended up asking myself a question:

Are Arsenal actually in the middle of a glory period?

Now before you spit your tea out all over your monitor, hear me out.

Arsenal have won 3 FA Cups in 4 years. That is 3 trophies, 3 bits of silverware. Now some of you will already be saying the FA Cup is not enough. Well done for being brainwashed by Sky and UEFA to think that the only thing that matters is the Premier League and the Champions League.

I remember the days of the 90s, when we won the domestic cup double and then the European Cup Winners Cup in 1994. I could not tell you where we finished those years.

3 trophies in 4 years is a success, especially when you factor in that Arsenal’s hit rate since 1900 is just under a trophy every 4 years (give or take a bit of time for the World Wars). Interestingly, prior to 1996, it was a trophy every 5 years. So 3 trophies in 4 years is clearly well above our going rate.

Now I looked into it further, to try and establish what our most successful periods in our history are, and how does the current period compare:

What is clearly missing from the current successful period is a league title, but what is clear is when you look at the bigger picture, that over the 125+ year history of the club, we are in one of most successful eras. Don’t believe me?

Despite our reported demise, only 4 previous era’s have shown a better years per trophy period than the era we are currently in.

The above 5 eras span 37 years between them. That means that outside of these eras, we have had nearly 90 years of either no success, or just the single trophy.

Whilst we might all be a little bit despondent about the current era, history will show it in a good light, that we are in one of the more glorious eras of our history.

Embrace the success.

Keenos

Who can Arsenal face in the Europa League?

Arsenal have a genuine chance of winning the Europa League – as long as we follow Manchester United’s lead from last year and start to take the competition serious.

With the likes of Atletico Madrid, Napoli and Borussia Dortmund dropping into the competition, Arsenal have shifted from favourites to 2nd favourites, but the reality is, whoever wins the competition tends to be whoever takes it the most serious.

Last season, Manchester United were sitting in 6th place, out of the title race and a long way from Top 4. The Europa League represented both an opportunity to qualify for the Champions League and a chance to win a trophy.

The first would satisfy the money men, whilst the second would satisfy for the fans.

Personally, I do not care that you qualify for the Champions League if you win the Europa League. What is more important is the silverware.

Te situation Arsenal find themselves in is a little different from Manchester United, in terms of we are a lot closer to a top 4 position in the Premier League than they were 12 months ago. This might make Arsene Wenger prioritise the league over the Europa League, but this would be a mistake.

I would rather we win the League Cup than finish top 4. A visit to Lyon in May 2018 should be the priority for Arsenal.

Arsenal’s last European success was way back in 1994. Did anyone really care that we finished 4th that season? I imagine most can not remember where we finished.

The year before, Arsenal won the domestic cup double. They finished 10th. 1995 saw a 5th placed finish, but saw us make a second European final in as many years. 1995 was not a great memory.

My point is, if you are winning things, or making finals, league position does not really matter – unless you also win the league.

We need to get away from the Sky brainwashing that the Premier League and Champions League is all that matters. It is not.

I want us to win the Europa League.

The draw is about to take place, so how does it work?

  • There will be two pots of clubs for the round of 32 draw: the 12 group winners and the four best third-ranked teams in the Champions League group stage are seeded.
  • The group winners and four best third-placed teams in the Champions League will be drawn against the 12 group runners-up and the remaining third-placed Champions League sides.
  • The seeded teams will be at home in the second leg.
  • No team can play a club from their Europa League group or a side from the same country. Additionally, teams from Russia and Ukraine cannot be drawn together.
  • Games will be played in principle on Thursdays 15 and 22 February with the exact schedule released after the draw.

And who can Arsenal face?

AEK Athens, Astana, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic, Copenhagen, Steaua Bucharest, Ludogorets, Lyon, Marseille, Napoli, Nice, Östersund, Partizan Belgrade, Real Sociedad, Spartak Moscow

Bring it on.

Keenos