Santi Cazorla is the new Dennis Bergkamp


Santi Cazorla played like Bergkamp last night to claim match ball

Is this another excuse to advocate a variation on 442? Yes unashamedly.

Does it have a basis in common sense? Yes undoubtedly

Am I suggesting this for all matches?  No consistently

Was this new piece inspired by Cazorla v Reading? Yes absolutely

I don’t do match reviews and I have not read many today but this is more a series of tactical observations leading to a relatively obvious conclusion. Well obvious if you concur with the observations and believe in selecting systems, formations and personnel from game to game as I passionately do, and Wenger hither too stubbornly does not! 

So here goes:

Tactical observation No.1 – Both centre backs stuck religiously to their defensive duties last night. Mertesacker always does but Vermaelen has not shown the discipline required this term as a senior player and captain.  He and Per rarely ventured over the half way line at all except for set pieces. Vermaelen has not scored this season in league – Good I don’t want him to. TV5 stick to your primary duty and you will not get caught out of position high up the field exposing Arteta or Gibbs.

Finally a performance of discipline and strength worthy of a skipper


Tactical Observation no.2 – The noticeably disciplined line held by our centre backs was matched by Mikel Arteta who stayed deeper than Wilshere virtually all the time. With Arteta sitting Super Jacky was able to play in a fair more advanced role. He was making foraging runs in all directions, playing give and goes with Santi, Ox and Poldi and dictating the games tempo to an Arsenal pace. Most crucially the deep lying role given to our Vice- Captain, which allowed Wilshere more licence in turn a freedom to play much closer himself to our main striker, in this case Theo.

Tactical Observation No.3 – The greater discipline of the 2 centre-backs and Mikel gave our 2 full backs the ability to bomb on. Link play and overlap our wide players.  Both Gibbs and Sagna (a different player to the Sagna at Bradford,) took full advantage. Both at times were our furthest advanced wide men and when they were, both Podolski and Ox seemed to know their roles. Either dropping back to cover the overlap our tucking inside for a return pass or cut back. Both worked hard from start to finish, admirably linked play with Jack and Santi and both when appropriate beat their full back delivered accurate, varied and telling balls into the box. This for me was Podolski’s best performance since Liverpool away and one that clearly demonstrated to me he can play an advanced left wing role or a left midfield role with ease. Ox too illustrated a greater maturity and awareness.

Sagna and Gibbo – Intelligent attaching full back play!


Tactical Observation No.4 – Theo as the central striker on this occasion showed superb movement. He was in perpetual motion, not always looking to make a run to receive the ball, but often running to pull the opposition defenders out of position. This fluidity and intelligence (yes Chris Waddle, this football brain!) allowed Santi Cazorla to truly operate in the hole behind him, utilising along with Ox and Poldi the space and pockets of room our excellent movement created. The further advantage of having the out and out pace of Theo Walcott playing on the shoulder of the last defender and the pace of Podolski (surprisingly) and Ox gives Santi, Wilshere and even Arteta the option of a long ball over the top or diagonally.  Any defence not matter how good they are is petrified of a player with the speed of Theo and just as in the good old days we have the players to pick those lobs, diagonals and through balls.

I think we can say with some certainty that is was the pace and the movement ahead of him, allied to the discipline and back up of Jack behind him that allowed Santi to effectively play as a No.10 last night.

Tactical Observation No.5 – All the above was possible because we were playing a team lining up with a four man midfield leaving 2 in the centre against in theory our three. However as our 2 in deeper players in Arteta and Wilshere are so superior to most Cazorla gets a free role. The greater all round discipline and tactical changes I have observed for me meant that in reality whilst we nominally lined up in a familiar 4231 the reality was actually very different.

I would strongly suggest that the team that lined up for the most part of last nights game looked very much like this:



The formation combined fluidity and discipline superbly. Discipline from Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Arteta (read Toure, Campbell, Gilberto.) Rampaging runs and positive overlaps from Sagna and Gibbs (read Lauren and Cole.) Excellent covering, link up play, running with the ball, insightful passing and final ball delivery from Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere and Poldolski, (read Ljungberg, Vieira and Pires.) Superb speed, movement and finishing from Theo Walcott, (read Henry.)

Now I am not saying by any means the class of 2012/13 is anywhere close to the level or ability of the class of 2003/4 so please don’t think I am. What I am saying is that for many games we play domestically the formation and tactics of last night, that worked so well between 2001 and 2005 will still be effective today.

And of course what I am am certainly contending is that last night, and I hope on many occasions into the future our diminutive Spanish magician did play in the No.10 role filled so brilliantly for so many years by the Dutch master, Dennis Bergkamp. Make no mistake we played a 4411 formation last night with Areta at the base, Wilshere at point and Santi quite expertly and with devastating results playing in the hole behind Walcott.


Bergkamp completing his famous hatrick v Leicester in August 97


Will be play this against Wigan? Assuredly yes – Won’t we Arsene?


Until next time thanks for reading.

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  1. Nice one Dave, as usual, very intersting read and optimistic. All above that, what counts is a win, 3 points and watch the table? we aint that far from second spot either.
    This was expected from yuo to back-up the feel good factor of win with a superb blog. Sati Bergzola:-)

  2. Pingback: Arsenal News
  3. Great piece as usual. Really praying that Theo signs for us. His ability is rare… So unique that any team that snatches him from us would have landed the jackpot. The lad is more complete than ever. Arsenal has schooled him well. Theo is the next Henry.

  4. I know you have been advocating 442 for some time now. We should have different formations according to whomever we play. We know AW is always gonna go for the attacking rather than defending tactic but we need to actually have a plan b & change tactics with a substitution if required. It just seems to make common sense to be able to play according to each game, as they say there more than one way to skin a cat. Thanks Dave

    1. Madge, I have to agree, although we will be set up to attack, AW doesn’t appear to want to change formation and I for one would like to see us adopt a more flexible approach. Other teams do it so why not The Arsenal? Our opponents have a pretty good idea what to expect and can have all week planning how to stifle us, sit on Cazorla for instance. Changing things around formation (and personnel) wise adds extra variables that our opponents cannot possible cover in their planning for games. Monday nights counter attacking did bring back memories of 2003/4, as did the back line standing still, hands in the air “offside ref”. I thought I saw Adams and Bould for an instant… The memories

      1. I thought like that, reminded me of the 2003/2004 football,but lets not get carried away, Reading were awful. Sometimes we don’t have a plan A let alone a plan B 🙁

      2. Amanda if we pace and move and run off the ball as well as we did on Monday any team would struggle. We did last 30 v City at Eithiad.

  5. ah yes inddedy Dave, i thought exactly the same last night..
    But the blog should come with a health warning “Might Cause Erections”.

    The thing that really killed me about Bradford was watching Santi at times even behind TV5, but never too far in front of him until very late on when we were chasing.. A player of his talent and vision really has to be operating on the edge of the opponents box ala Denis..
    Now he may not have the power and the ability to throw an elbow into the face of a lanky centre half, but with his skilld he doesn’t need to.

    I think Theo’s pace made their whole defence drop way deeper for fear of him getting behind them, and this also gave Santi so much more room.

    And i also truly think The Ox became a man against Bradford – not only cos he gave us a spark but the way he berated and shouted and the players around him, trying to push them on, and in Chamakh’s case cos he couldn’t make a 1 yard pass on an icy pitch – I’ve checked science books, and they say it’s physically impossible to produce such little power from a grown mans foot – anyhow it’s Chamakh,we’re used to it. But for me i was delighted to see Ox roar..

    But Santi oh Santi, a joy to behold when in that position. And totally agree, i thought and many others did also think Arteta was superb, numerous times i saw Arteta > Gilberto on my time-line last night..

    And to the comment above refering to a plan B, i think that’s already in place with the fleeting beauty of Olivier Giroud..

    Anyway, don’t forget the health warning the next time you use a headline like that.

    1. Ha.ha.ha. nice caption for headline…bro…
      need to add some more:-Might cause Erections and wetness…Ok?

  6. Santi carzorla is indeed a player.walcott played well 4 his first of playing in dat position him did well.i want wenger to buy gud players so dat we can champion league

  7. CLAP!CLAP!CLAP! for gunnerdave66….you are fast becoming one of the best analysis blogger. keep up the good work to appease us fans…nice to read and giving new hope for us fans towards our beloved club.
    Once again up with the goodness and GoGunners4Eva..

  8. Cazorla does little defensively which makes advocating for him to play further up his best position for the team. But looking at how our opponents tend to put pressure on Arteta to brake up our play and in that process outmuscling him, may make the MF of Arteta/Wilshire a bit light weight. That having being said, our opposition should determine the tactics. Another gr8 positive was Theo. He has suddenly bcom the player we’ve been waiting for. The board should give him what he wants cos getting a similar replacement, will surely be too expensive to afford

  9. I would love to see Santi emulate the role of Dennis, but we need to urge caution about expecting that, don’t we? Dennis was a once in a lifetime player. I do agree that playing Santi as a second striker could definitely work, and I like the comparisons to the invincible a side, especially when you look at how much covering Pires and Ljungberg actually did in their defensive duties. Poldi and The Ox are capable of providing more protection than those two did, which is good because I don’t think Vermaelen and Per are as good as Campbell and Toure, so the defensive side is the bit that needs more support.

    Good post mate.

    1. Chris I am not suggesting he is DB more that the formation and tactics allowed him to play the DB role

  10. Awesome piece Dave. I hope this weekend we continue from where we left but avoid leaking avoidable goals.

    We should sign Theo, fulfil his terms as long as we make sure he gets a long term contract.

  11. Very good blog.
    But you need to point out the faults he made in the match and others, when we were 4 up he started to get complacent, and not tracking back after he lost the ball. Same as others trying to get on the score sheet which lead to us conceding 2. Wilshere, Cazorla and Podolski decided to get goals instead of defend them. Although we played very well if reading done what newcastle done to us last season, no one would be talking about how well we played, the need of consisntency throughout the whole 90 is needed

    1. My you have a depressing view point. The goals were down to defensive error and in this role Santi would have now defensive duties other than high up the pitch which he did for 90 mins

  12. Nice one bro, its spot on, buh i still want to see cazorla at that wing, didnt i hear he was one of the best crosser in la liga ? Giroud needs all the crosses he can get…call it PLAN C !…we need all available points before chelsea and man city in January.

  13. Perfection…almost! 1 other thing I noticed was that Theo’s movement saw him drop back a fair bit, allowing others to run behind – he acted as a foil of sorts.

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