Alexis wins his 100th Cap tonight as a Striker in a Two – Why not at Arsenal?

In September I wrote a column for Shoot espousing a theory that Arsenal might consider playing Alexis in the formation in which he often thrives for Chile. I have revisited the theme once or twice since but tonight it seems appropriate as our Chilean superstar prepares to win his 100th Cap in the Copa America semi in a few hours.

Chile often operate a 4312 with a playmaker behind Alexis and Vargas and the Arsenal player thrives with a partner. With rumours that Juventus and PSG are keen to tempt him away from North London I wonder Wenger telling him he can play up top in a 2 might carry as much weight as further key signings. He has taken his international goal tally to 34 with 3 in the current tournament and who would bet against him adding to that total against Colombia. Definitely worth a few quid, using 2016 bet365 bonus code, as he lines up, in a few hours against his fellow Gunner David Ospina.

A system to get the best from our best
A system to get the best from our best

The joy of this fluid system is that not only does it get Alexis closer to goal but it allows Ozil playing behind him at least one mobile and fast target to hit. Not only that but with our embarrassment of riches of central midfielders it allows us to play 3 of them at once and not 2. As I have said recently the width needs to come from energetic full backs and it may explain wht Arsenal are limlked with young left-backs like Rodriguez and this week Douglas Santos.

This was the argument for the system I used back in September….

No today I wanted to consider the misfiring Arsenal attack and how an alternative team set up might assist us. My theory or solution proposal is born out of a growing concern about Alexis Sanchez and his role in the Arsenal team. Last season Alexis hit the Premier League like a whirlwind, surprising defenders with his combination of strength, pace, tricks, energy and of course finishing prowess.  After 6 league fixtures last September the Chilean firecracker had already scored on three occasions in separate games yet this season he is yet to get off the mark. Now this is a player who could not be higher in confidence having just assisted his country win their first Copa America in a century so what has changed?

Through the middle?
Through the middle?

From my perspective at least the problem is twofold and partly positional and partly that defenders are wiser to him one year in. At the beginning of last season Wenger deployed Sanchez on the right, centrally and on left before settling on the left flank role in his customary 4231, or sometimes in the 4141/433 used in away games against strong opposition. One can only wonder how much of an influence the player himself had on this decision as he publically admitted it was her preferred position enabling him to cut in onto his favoured right foot. Here for me lies the issue as whilst he is undoubtedly our best attacker and capable of the wondrous his play is so predictable that he needs to wondrous all the time.

Alexis is always on the touch line and easy to find for Monreal or Ozil but the white line is only ever his starting position and never friend to be hugged.  For a player, albeit loosely our left winger it is not easy to recall the last time he attacked his fullback on the outside and went for the bye-line to cross or cut back. This fact is now known by all defenders so our talisman just finds himself cutting inside into congestion and having to take on multiple obstacles, simply end up shooting into human barriers or passing back inside. His predictability in short is making our team play the same.

Surely the key for Arsenal and for the player is to change it up a bit as they say and restore the element of surprise to Alexis’s own play and in turn our own. We need to get our most exciting and potent attacking force of 14/15 back where we need him scoring and hurting the opposition, which he is not doing at present.

An obvious suggestion might be to ask him to switch to the right flank and to attack his fullback on his natural foot and I have long favoured this at least during the game to keep the opposition guessing but that is not the more radical thought I cannot shake from my mind. In the summer Chile shocked the football world by winning the Copa America. They did so playing an attacking, enterprising style of football, scoring 13 times in 6 matches and conceding only 4 and they did this primarily using Coach Jorge Sampaoli’s own version of 442.

Barring in the final when Sampaoli went with a back 3 against Argentina, Chile deployed a 4312 formation.  The system uses 3 hard working midfielders behind a playmaker, in this case Valdavia who in operates behind 2 industrious and fast strikers, Vargas and Alexis. Given our erratic start to the season and Sanchez’s apparent relative ineffectiveness in his current role perhaps Arsenal might consider adapting to the Chilean system with the same players and perhaps everyone might feel more comfortable?

Given that we are not playing with much width currently, barring that provided by the fullbacks and we are concerned at our lack of goals and players playing out of position perhaps it is time to try a new approach. We know from last season Sanchez looked uncomfortable as a sole striker and we know he thrives with a partner so how about we shuffle the existing pack and line up like Chile?

The more I think about it the more I would like us to see it at the Emirates. We have seen many top teams at the Euro’s reverting back to 2 strikers systems and a few years ago all the experts were saying 442 was dead.

Good  luck tonight Alexis and may your 101st cap be in the final. If you are a night owl you can get live updates here:


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