On occasions in football either through luck, good judgement, adversity or a combination of the 3 a coach or manager can stumble upon a winning formula, when least expected.
Many of us will remember the World Cups of 1986 and 90 when the late Sir Bobby Robson turned potential disasters into winning success stories. In 1986 he was deprived of his two most experiences and influential players in Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins by injury and suspension. These guys had made a poor start but to lose ‘Captain Marvel’ was a disaster. Up step Glen Hoddle and Peter Reid who steered us beyond the group and to the fateful ‘hand of God’ quarter final. Wilkins free of suspension never made it back into the team. Why change a winning team?
In 1990 Robson came closer to ultimate success losing on penalties to Germany in the Semis, but again not with the team or indeed the formation he started with. After a dreadful opening draw against the Irish with a conventional 442 the senior players suggested the team shift to a back 3 with wingbacks and Mark Wright came in as sweeper and went on to score the goal against Egypt that took through as group winners. However in that game Robson was again injured and in came Steve Mcmahon and then David Platt alongside Gascoigne and it was Platt who scored the goal that took as through against Belgium in the last 16. In this game the 5,4,1 and been changed again into a 5,3,2 with Beardsley returning to partner Lineker.
So why am I taking us on a trip down memory lane? It could of course be just to prove that a good manager is flexible, and I have questioned Wenger’s ability or willingness to change tactics and formations in games or to suit oppositions. It could also be to suggest that Wenger might wish to listen to senior players more often, another valid point certainly. It might be to demonstrate that one player’s misfortune is another’s opportunity. In reality it is some of all of the above that I saw come together on Sunday afternoon against the old enemy.
There are two themes that I have returned to more than once since I began blogging last year. One is the case for returning to a winning 442 formula and another is the contribution to our attacking play from our fullbacks. You know where I am going now but I felt a huge satisfaction on Sunday because I saw both themes echo through our performance in the second half particularly. However it did not quite transpire in exactly the way I had envisaged and I cannot say as to whether it was planned, coached or whether it was just a bunch of intelligent players reacting on the pitch to the situation they found themselves in at 2 nil down.
Firstly a brief look at Sagna and Gibbs. As I pointed out last week we have had 2 assists from our full backs in a whole EPL season to date. On Sunday we saw Sagna back to his old rampaging self and Gibbs also involved in some fluent attacking play on the left. Indeed Gibb’s clever feet and vision in an interchange with Alex Song began the sweeping move finished by a resurgent Rosicky. Sagna of course finished the match with a goal and an assist to his name, but there were numerous other quality crosses he swung in from the right flank. What is still making me smile is the fact that he had stayed in the box for his goal„ when the initial move broke down, which I am sure 9 times out of 10 he would not have done. Of course Gibbs began his career as a left winger so there is more to come from him I am sure, or Santos.
Now for the meat of the blog, and my reading of the fluidity of the second half formation. I am open fan of 442 and feel the current 4,2,3,1 is faltering due to a lack of incisiveness and vision from the central attacking midfielder. If we are to continue with it we need in the longer term to invest in that position. In the short-term as I wrote a few weeks back (and many disagreed) Rosicky is the man for this role and he proved that will some style on Sunday. I for one was delighted for him and as one kind reader reminded me “There are a few more symphonies to be composed by our Little Mozart yet.” However what has intrigued me was the subtle change to the formation, as we attacked with pace against Spurs, because much as we hate to admit it they are a good side and they just could not live with us for 55 minutes, even with an extra defensive midfielder thrown on.. The rigidity of our formation normally allows teams set up well, and to keep us out due to the slowness of our build up, without the incisiveness of Fabregas. For me the selection of Benayoun was perhaps the key but catalyst was Walcott. Theo on several occasions including for his second goal was well in advance of RVP and there is no doubt that for long spells in the second 45 we were set up as a 442 with Theo playing as a second striker to devastating effect.
What was so impressive for me however was how the midfield 4 remaining so effectively adapted the formation to allow Walcott his freedom. To me players shifted into a very flexible diamond. Rosicky was in the main at the fore of the diamond, Benayoun naturally tucked in slight from the left and either Song or Arteta held the base and the other the right dependent largely on who initially received the ball from the break down or from the defence. Having said that there were times when Benayoun stayed back and Song and Arteta were ahead of him and if you watch Theo’s second it was Rosicky who held back. Now as I say I somehow doubt this came from the training ground and it worked so well due to the maturity and experience of Arteta, Song, Rosicky and of course Benayoun on the day. The discipline of this flexible diamond allowed Walcott to play further up than he has this season, support RVP and most crucially utilise his pace more directly rather than in vain on the wing. We have to be honest and accept he could easily have had a hatrick and his finishing was lethal.
There two burning questions therefore is could we start with this formation and can our other possible inclusions, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey adapt as intelligently as the older heads? My answer is that yes I feel this fluid attacking formation will give us the pace back into our attacks allowing us to break swiftly and decisively. And yes I believe AOC could play for Benayoun, but I am not sure Gervinho could. I think Ramsey could slot in for Rosicky or Arteta but he needs to step up his game. Gervinho I think could also play the Walcott role.
The formation and personnel alternatives might look like this and I feel this would give an attacking set up from the outset for teams set up to keep out the 4,2,3,1. It could also be switched to during games as it was with such devastating impact on Sunday
Sagna Kozza TV5 Gibbs
Arteta (Ramsey) Benayoun (Oxlade-Chamberlain)
Walcott (Gervinho) RVP
Until next time and thanks for reading.
Like what you read? Then follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66