Last week on the 1st July Arsenal’s long association with Nike ended and new era begun with a new kit manufacturer in Puma. Last night we witnessed a new kit launch exactly a year and a day since the last away kit was unveiled with the assistance of our ‘British Core’ on the side of the Emirates. Last year the new return to the old with the traditional yellow and blue heralded a return to trophy success. Just as being in keeping with the club’s tradition in 2013/14 brought with it the FA Cup there is now serious hope that the new kit deal and the lucrative financial clout that comes with it can prove a further stepping stone on the path back to where the supporters, staff and players alike want ‘The Arsenal’ to be. I am delighted what I have seen that the club and PUMA appear to have recognised the importance to the fans of our traditional colours and the design holds true to the red with white sleeves. The temptation to move away to make a statement has been resisted and I for one am content to see it. I see Southampton FC are reverting to red and white stripes for 2014/15. I am all for tradition and pleased to see that, although it is a shame they will not have any of their old players to play in the new ‘old’ colours! So as Arsenal look forward now to a pre-season culminating in the Community Shield with their new yet retro kit and we perhaps look forward to something else returning that was a firm Arsenal tradition? I am of course referring to my broken record theme of 442 or at least that of having 2 strikers. However don’t worry because despite seeing a second striker being thrown on twice to win at Wembley I do not envisage a reversion from Wenger to the old ways entirely. Although for me the key to the old 442 or 4132 was the holding midfielder whether he be Peter Storey, Manu Petit of Gilberto.
What I do think will happen now we have been successful in securing Alexis Sanchez and if a new younger more athletic defensive midfielder such a Scheiderlin or Bender arrives is a difference in our 4231. I know many want to see a new out and out striker to replace Giroud but I am not among that number and more importantly I don’t believe Wenger is either. Arsene has often referred to Ollie requiring more support in attack but just perhaps this has been misinterpreted? He may have meant to share the load and rotate or he may have meant to play alongside Giroud in a 2 striker system. There is however a 3rd alternative interpretation I would like to explore. I have written on this before and the theory is not my own but one picked up from coaches both at Portsmouth and Bournemouth Academies. It is a simple rule for playing the 4231 system and one that I think we have not followed in the past few years as well as we might have. The rule is very simple and I can still hear the coaches shouting it to meyson who played left wing “Liam when the attacking is coming from the right wing you have to be the second striker.” Yes that is it. Profound, amazing, obvious or all of the above? In the 4231 the striker, in our case Giroud, can become isolated if one of the wide men does not become the second striker when the ball is arriving from the opposite flank. Now in 2012/13 in the first part of the season in the case of Podolski and for the whole season in the case of Walcott we had that. Both wanted to play more centrally in a partnership so both are keen to come in from their flank to join Giroud as often as appropriate. The problem does not lie with Theo Walcott but it does lie with Podolski and Cazorla.
If I elaborate as we move into 2013/14 Podolski has the knack of becoming the second striker but lacks the other attributes to play on the left wing. Santi Cazorla has many of the attributes and the work ethic but when playing wide left virtually never gets in the box when we are attacking from the right to back up Giroud. Many will disagree but Santi never truly worked out there and most of his success goal threat wise came when playing at CAM. The problem therefore is evident, if you agree with the coaches and the theory that one winger should always become the second striker if the 4231 is to be at its most effective, Were we still playing say the 1998 formation with one attacking winger in Overmars and one box to box midfielder in Parlour things might be different but we are not, Consequently if we can secure a new DM I think both wingers need to be part winger part striker, both able to supply quality ball into the box from their own wing but equally be a predator and join the main striker in the box when their peer is attacking on the opposite flank.
In essence my theory therefore is with Sanchez secured he and Theo Walcott will play either side of Olivier Giroud and I envisage they may switch flanks during games. It is only my contention and not based on anything more than an educated hunch but it makes perfect sense. Even more so as I believe both Sanchez and Walcott could at any point in a game or for a particular match equally partner the Frenchman should Wenger change tactically to a true 442. Furthermore in some games he could easily rest Oliie and play either centrally with Campbell, Ox or Podolski as cover. I stress however also that I believe the new DM needs to arrive as well for this more adventurous style to work in practice and perhaps our fullbacks could show more restraint. If we can keep Theo fit I see no reason why both he and Sanchez could not score 15 to 20 each in support of the main striker and both have proved it over many seasons already.
New Kit, New Dawn, New Players and New formations or New Kit, New Dawn, Better Players making the old formation more effective??
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