Santos Samba feet is Gooner be the answer

The season is over, the depressing sight of Chelsea lifting the Champions League trophy behind us and from the next day it is doom and speculation on twitter, on blogs and down the pub. Who will we buy in addition to Podolski (ONE OF THE BEST INTERNATIONAL STRIKERS IN EUROPE LEST WE FORGET) and who will we miss out on? Why won’t we break the bank for players unproven in the Premiership, but who the press tells as are worth £25 million? Why won’t we spend millions on young stars to replace the young stars we all forget we already have in our ranks? And of course why have we not begun to rid ourselves of the deadwood long since proven not to be good enough to help us challenge for silverware?

A few ‘1nildown2oneup’ answers come to mind. We are the only side to have already announced a major coup of a signing and the rest is speculation because the bloody transfer window is not open yet.  How can we moan about signings we are not going to make when we have no idea whether we are going to make them yet? Also those wanting to invest in the big name stars tell me that my stats are not important and you cannot judge a payer solely on stats. I concede you cannot in isolation, but if I was buying a creative midfielder I would hope to see a stack of assists and if I was buying a goal scorer I would be quite keen to see an impressive goal tally. So we have bought a striker whose goals ratio for Germany puts him probably only behind the greatest ever, Gerd Muller and his current compatriot Klose and who has hit 18 league goals for a relegated team in a top league. Yes his ratio is better than all time greats like Yurgen Klinnsman and Oliver Bierhoff and on a par with Rudi Voller.  Some of you tell me that the German league is not as strong as the EPL but at the same time plead for us to sign Holtby, Gotze of Kagawa. You cannot have it both ways and I will be astounded if Lukas is not a huge player for Arsenal over the next few years.

So perhaps we will buy a creative midfielder that so many crave, but I personally doubt it because Wenger feels that if he combine solid experience with our creative youth of Walcott, Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain he can attain a winning formula. For me this may work and today after this rant I want to focus on one player who I feel may hold a key for Arsenal in 20012/13 and who combines both creativity and experience and who barely featured this past season. No don’t worry guys I am not going back down the Abou Diaby road but I am edging back to another favoured theme. So before you put me in a straight jacket please hear me out because this idea that has grown from a seed into full grown tree of a solution.

I wrote my first blog in admiration of Andre Santos after his incredible second half performance against Chelsea. There is nothing about Santos that I do not admire, other than his lack of match fitness in September. We only lost 1 league game he featured in out of 15, he has the 5th best tackle rate in the EPL, his passion is effervescent and his team ethic is there for all too see. As someone reminded me the other day he went totally berserk on the touchline when Vermaelen scored at Newcastle, on the touch line. But today I am not intending to applaud his enthusiasm and his passion, but more to consider his talent and what he might bring to Arsenal in 2012/13 and for this Gunner he might even be the missing link, but not at left back.

    Flying down wing for Brazil

We lost Clichy and we all doubted Gibbs, Not his talent but his ability to stay fit. Well I hope he is through that now and his tackle in the dying moments on the last day of the season took as into the Champions League. For me Andre Santos is not a left back and he never will be but more importantly he never really has been. His ability going forward, his skills, his tricks, his final ball and crucially his shooting prowess belong to a left midfielder or a left winger. Well in case you don’t already know Andre Santos grew up a left winger and it was only latterly that Corinthians converted him into a wing back and this was his position when he moved on in 2009 to Fenerbahce. His assist and goal scoring record is that of a wing back or a left midfielder and not of a full back, but conversely his defensive frailties are equally that of a player playing out of position. Bottom line is that Santos is as much a left back as Dani Alves is a right back. Both played as wing backs together for Brazil and neither are accomplished defenders. Problem of course is that we don’t truly play a back 3 like Barcelona or Brazil to allow Santos to flourish and at 29 do we really want to teach him to be an out and out defender when he has so much to offer going forwards? No would be my emphatic response

So what is my solution for the talent that is Andre Santos? Well for me he is a left midfielder in a 442 or 4411, our old formation. A perfect left midfielder, Robert Pires style, but actually on his left foot, but equally with the talent and the skill to cut inside and link play. Now I am not saying Wenger will revert to the old winning formation but I am saying he should and I have been consistent in this. Even if he does not select this for every game we have been woefully short of a Plan B to change tactics against teams who park the bus.

This may be unpopular because selecting Santos not as a full back, means some fan favourites will miss out but I sincerely believe this truly would be like a ‘Wenger new signing’ to be unleashed on an unsuspecting Premiership and the key is not in his ability, which as a Brazilian international is not in question, but in his work rate and fitness.  I have read and re-read the comments from Fenerbahce fans when he left them and all of them said the same thing. That Santos is brilliant offensively, slightly suspect defensively and the all questioned his fitness for the English top flight, so this is the key is a lean and fit Andre with a full pre-season. For those who doubt me please remember that Santos has 3 goals from full back and all from the edge or outside the box, and the ones against Olympiacos, Chelsea and WBA were special. How often have we cried out for Arsenal midfielders to shoot from distance? Well Santos and Arteta the men for the job.

Please just take a moment to witness and marvel quite what a fully fit Santos can do. Crikey chaps it is almost Hazard like!

Maybe this was a one off but I assure you that is not the case and 10 goals in 52 games for the Turkish giants will back this up. No I am convinced that the only thing holding Santos back last season was fitness. He was just getting back to full tilt when he suffered the ankle injury away in Greece. When he came back he was only getting on for cameos but we did see him pushed forwards ahead of Gibbs and that for me was taste enough of what I hope is things to come. So here is my probably controversial selection of a diamond 442, last featured consistently in 2007/08, the closest we came to winning the Premiership with Hleb, Flamini, Fabregas and Rosicky in the four man midfield for the most part.

football formation


Yes, no Walcott, no Song, no Rosicky, no Gervinho and no Ramsey in the team I would choose for matches in which a fluid 442 was deemed the best option. This is not for impact and not just to be shocking, the more I have considered it the more I feel Santos is the man for the role on the left but not in defence. Indeed as it is not likely as you will all tell me that the stubborn Mr Wenger will change I would also see a role for Santos on the left wing, where Arshavin, Gervinho and most recently Benayoun have failed to make a consistent impression.  Don’t get me wrong in the 4231 I am sure Lukas Podolski would be first choice on the left wing but if he plays centrally should RVP be rested or facing in the worst case scenario not be here next season, I would happily see Andre Santos out there.

A further not insignificant benefit to building a younger side around the experience of Santos is that he too has the Arteta factor . What is the Arteta factor I hear you say? Well it is having a player of international class who has probably now missed his chance at international level playing for our club. Santos had a few good years in the Brazil side but would appear now at 29 to have been overlooked. This, as it quite obviously has been with Mikel can be a huge advantage to Arsenal, particular with a long summer for our European players and the African Cup of Nations qualifications and final ahead. Santos and Arteta being continually fresh will benefit us in the way that the evergreen Scholes and Giggs benefit the read side of Manchester.

For those of you still unconvinced of the merits of the argument and who think I am unhinged please take 3 minutes further to enjoy a compilation of a fully fit slimmed down Andre Santos destroying Turkish defences for Fenerbahce in 2009/10 and then tell me he cannot play left midfield for Arsenal next season.

     After all he is Arsenal’s Number 11

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and the debate on twitter and in the comments but I must stress this is not blogging to cause consternation I have given this much thought and I believe this would be beneficial for the Arsenal.

Until next time thanks for reading

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  1. Great article Dave. I like the idea of Santos on the left wing, I agree that he is probably best suited to the left wing if he can get his fitness levels up (which sadly Chamakh never managed to do).

    I’m not sure that I agree with him in a diamond formation because he won’t really be on the left, maybe in a 442 or a 4411 but not in a diamond for me.

    1. Daniel. It is not really a diamond just how we used to play 2000 to 2006 but used it to demonstrate that Arteta behind Wilshere. Same as with Gilberto just behind Paddy with Freddie on RM and Bobby on LM.

      1. Cool. Return to Invincibles formation would be good but I think we are lacking a bit in midfield to ever truly go back and by lacking I mean lacking in size. Our midfield used to dominate with size and strength and from 2006 onwards it dominated with technical superiority. We’re kind of caught in the middle at the moment with the players we have. Maybe a 4-1-4-1 would be good.

  2. Song and Walcott our most creative players?no.Walcott’s form has been woefully sporadic,and Song is a 1 trick pony (overhead volleys for RVP) who’s also been to lazy to get back and help defence.

    Rosicky deserves a place is the starting line up,in my opinion he was our shining light in midfield this season

  3. Fairly goo analysis but where does your teram selection leave Song? or do you not consider him good enough fro the team? Sure we do need more quality and experienced players but the bunch we have now can more than acquit themselves if they can just keep away fom injuries.

  4. Don’t disagree with the article. However, it is imperative that Arsenal have 2 fit full backs on either flank. I think the risk of playing our two strongest left backs week in week out would cause potential injury problems… for me, on the wings is where Arsenal have most depth.

    I just simply want Arsenal to learn from their defensive lessons from this season; to have a strong back four with adequate back ups.

  5. A fairly good analysis but where does your team selection leave our enforcer, Song; our qicksilver, Rosicky and of course, Theo? Are these people not good enough for your team. Sure our tesm needs quality and experienced players to beef up their performance but the current bunch can more thsn acquit themselves if they can keep away from injuries.

  6. Good article. Though I strongly disagree with deploying Arteta as an Anchorman. Asking him to do Gilberto’s job is asking too much. The Central Midfield role with Ramsey in rotation is far more sensible. While Wilshere and Andre could rotate the Left Midfield spot, especially with Wilshere coming off a long term injury. Rosicky did well on d right against Sp*rs and could rotate that role with Gervinho, giving us a Hleb style or Ljungberg style player. Walcott and Poldi as “9”s with Poldi moving to the deep striker role if RVP is not available.
    Its certainly workable with our current players and would provide more width than the current tactic.

  7. I agree he’s best suited at left wing than back, but not at the expense of already established wingers…

  8. Earlier this year Santos granted an interview where he said as a defender in Brazil, his first job was to attack then defend afterwards, even in one of my previous blogs, i had suggested Wenger bought another left back nd move Santos to the wings but thinkin bout our options in the midfield now Podolski, Gervinho, Ramsey maybe Benayoun, I think he will be better in defence giving an extra hand to the wingers when we go forward. That he is 29 dosent mean he cant improve the defensive side of his game afterall he has the 5th best tackle rate in the league nd am sure if he played more the stats will be better. What am saying is to let him improve on his defensive game while providing his attacking expertise when the team goes forward and am sure he can attain the perfect balance between offence nd defence. Great article as always Dave

  9. I don’t totally agree with u but in a way I do b,cos we need song in d team maybe in d attracting midfield cos he can pass beta than any players with have….but d other part of it I do agree but mine formation will be 4 1 4 1….and sadly I see vp leaving but all will be more beta now b,cos I do see m villa cum and sum gud players….I end dis by saying dis m.villa in d defensive midfield,songs and wilshere do some dirty job in d mid and arteta doing d passes to our new boy….and santos run d winger and 2nd half maybe walcot and alex but pls tell Aw we need some gud players to make d 1st 11 and d 2nd 11 beta and ok

  10. I don’t totally agree with u but in a way I do b,cos we need song in d team maybe in d attracting midfield cos he can pass beta than any players with have….but d other part of it I do agree but mine formation will be 4 1 4 1 & sadly I see vp leaving but all will be more beta now b,cos I do see m villa cum & sum gud players….I end dis by saying dis m.villa in d defensive midfield,songs & wilshere do some dirty job in d mid & arteta doing d passes to our new boy & santos run d winger& 2nd half maybe walcot & alex but pls tell Aw we need some gud players to make 1st 11 & 2nd 11 better

  11. I believe this is a well thought article, but I find it difficult seeing Wenger making these entire changes to the first team. Wenger has been fashioning the team to play a possession game which help in putting our opponents under severe pressure. He came close to success in 2007/2008 season as we have Hleb, Fabregas Flamini & Rosicky who hardly give the ball away except when fouled. Nasri is a testament to this as he was a direct replacement for Hleb. Just like Hleb, he too hardly loses possession and injury apart to key players, 2010/2011 would’ve been another season for us. In 2011/2012 we lacked players who could keep the ball apart from Arteta. Gervinho, Song & Walcott were always guilty of losing the ball in crucial areas putting our defence under pressure whenever possession is lost. I see Wenger still holding firm to his believe by bringing in a MF who can keep the ball. Barca have been so successful bcos of their ball possession quality,and even without a natural striker at times, they still find the net somehow. I think if we can get M’vila, Santos can be an added attacking force running at our opponents from the back. Gervinho for me has that directness in his game that will be of great value if he can perfect his touch in the final third. He has that pace & skills to run at opponents and he began to show that side of his game in our last 3 games. I will take M’vila over Song if we can get him, with Wilshire & Arteta in the MF then Gervinho,Rvp & Poldi as the front 3.

  12. Hi Dave,

    Interesting read and you make some interesting points and I actually like the team but as a few have said above Alex Song would be in the team, there is no way that Chamberlain would be ahead of Song’s experience and contribution this season.

    I love Andre Santos, technically and personality he is great and I could see him doing a more flamboyant version of what Yossi Benayoun provided this season. I also like the idea of Podolski and van Persie as strikers but still having most of our players central.

    The issue is that Wenger likes to match up in midfield and most teams would outnumber us in that area. You have selected all technical, small ball players. Without a Song, Diaby etc we would be frail against the likes of Manchester City. It may work if Alex Song played the double pivot with Arteta with Santos on the other side giving us a slightly lopsided diamond. This said I just do not see Theo Walcott being left out. When Theo is fit, he plays and the same goes for Alex Song.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the article and it certainly gives Big Macs for thought. Or something.

    1. Cheers Pal. Frustrated by some of the comments but I guess I knew this one would cause a few raised eyebrows. This is a team and a formation for certain opposition as we so often failed to break defensive teams with 4231. I would back it still and if there were 2 in midfield a la Petit/Vieira or Gilberto/Vieira these would be my first choice.

  13. Absolutely love Santos too, and I don’t think he’s such a bad defender when he stays behind the ball – the problem is he’s so far up usually he’s almost always tracking back when we lose the ball. Wrote a statistical pice on him a few weeks ago for EPLIndex.

    Still, as others have pointed out, it leaves the midfield really weak when we lose the ball. At 29, Santos is not going to get fitter in my opinion. Alex Oxlade will need time to develop the defensive side of the game which means Arteta would bear the brunt of defensive work in the midfield.

    Also, Alex Song made an average of 2.9 tackles per game, the highest of ANY Arsenal player – Arteta is next best at 2.5 – so regardless of how poor we think he was defensive, the Cameroonian’s contribution in defense was massive.

    I think AW really likes Santos too, he’s brought on the Brazilian as a sub in the last few games and he’s made an impact. While he may be used as a tactical substitute on the left wing, I do think he’ll give Gibbs a run for that left-back slot.

  14. Strange thoughts Dave, but I think its going to be just a thought and wenger wont think it twice, if ever he think it.
    First point is if andre is to be moved up the pitch as a left winger then where is a back-up to the left back? If you are suggesting to buy a new left back as a cover to gibbs, then do you want him to be better than gibbs or even worse than gibbs? If he is going to be better than gibbs, then where is the future of gibbs? Secondly, arsenal at the moment are well blessed with tricky/pacy wingers and with the addition of podolski and miyachi, will you honestly choose santos ahead of podolski /ox/gervinho/ walcott or even miyachi?
    In addition, we simply cant leave song on bench leaving arteta all by himself because both of them should be in the ground to cover one/another and hence to cover the defence. Considering the fantacy that we got m’villa, any two of arteta, song and v’villa will be picked alongside a attacking midfielder as rosicky[ramsey being his back-up]. Diaby[if fit] will be back up for any of these midfield positions we need for next season. And with front three of Podolski, vantastic and walcott, we will truly challenge for titles next season.
    For your sympathy, I will say santos can be used rarely as a left wing in extreme situations.

    1. I disagree with you on so many levels but find it astonishing that you would dismiss a formation that won as multiple trophies, with just one deeper lying midfield player. Has the world game changed so much since 2008? Younger fans seem obsessed with the DM role.
      The tricky wingers have done nothing and Myachi has shown nothing yet.
      What I suggest is a formation for certain games as for Wenger not thinking it I can only assume you were not watching the last few games of the season when he did exactly what I am proposing. For our usual formation I would play Podolski, RVP and Theo but we are often pedestrian and predictable against teams out to play for a draw and the 442 can be more fluid as it proved in Wengers early reign. Other top managers change personnel and formations based on the opposition and so should we.

      1. I agree. Too many people are fixated on the DM. In our current system we need a DM but until we changed the formation to best suit Cesc we never played with a DM.
        All we really need is someone who can make a decent tackle and is intelligent enough to know when to sit and when to get forward. Essentially, basic positioning sense like you learn in u14s football

  15. well just saw in that wilshere had another successful operation, so if he is back in time for next season, he will be sloted in for the rosicky/ramsey position i mentioned in the my earlier comment.

  16. Thanks for all comments and I knew most would disagree but please stop thinking we need an enforcer in a 442. Gilberto sat and tidy but he was not and enforcer. Petit did the same but again not an enforcer. The only player you might describe as such was Flamini. This formation needs a disciplined holding player, NOT some tough tackling ruffian. Arteta has proven he can pay the role in a 3 but Song much as we love him has not.

    Also my premise for 442 is in some games and not all and also rests on Santos getting back into shape he was in in 2010/11. If he does we have no better player to play left if we do play 442.

    Thanks again


  17. Dave, you write some truly great articles, but I really enjoyed this one! I enjoyed it because it creates excitement for next season, with players that we already have!

    I have been critical of Andre Santos at left-back. So I agree with you regarding his role as a left-wing – he has already shown glimpses of what he can do as an attacking winger, so I think it is a good point. In saying that, I was not too sure about Santos when he arrived at the club. I hadn’t heard too much about the lad. Your post has shed dome decent light on his capabilities, and now I am curious and excited to see a fit Andre Santos bombing forward.

    So excellent point made about Santos, which I am happy to accept, but what is most exciting about what you have posted is the formation you have suggested. I would genuinely love to see us in play in the formation you have illustrated. I think we would be really successful for a number of reasons, but I will focus mainly on the midfield on this one.

    I sincerely believe that our defensive frailties are largely due to a team that can only be described as a poor defensive unit (as opposed to bad defenders/defending at the back). I have joked before that Cannavaro in his prime would have struggled back there. With that said, I believe that the formation you have suggested may go a long way towards providing a solution to that leaky defense, while still maintaining our attacking qualities and flair up front.

    Andre Santos as a left-wing would serve well, both in attack and defense. Playing as a left-back internationally, he has the defensive qualities to support Gibbs (as if he were the natural left-back anyway). This will also hold true for when Gibbs supports in attack, something he loves to do, knowing that he has the freedom to do it more. We have already spoken about Santos’ attacking prowess. So we may well have a more rounded player in a position suited to someone with the ability to attack and defend equally.

    I also like the fact that you’ve included Ox in this formation. His showing against AC Milan in the CL exemplifies a player that is able to attack with real threat, while still supporting his defense (clearing loose balls from the chicken box at times). The lad worked hard all around the field, with great success.

    Couple these points with an experienced Arteta holding the midfield. Arteta will sit. He reads the game second to nobody I’ve ever seen. His distribution is exceptional (to launch an attack). He never loses the ball. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but he has a high rate of intercepts, breaking up play. Perfect with OX and Santos getting forward. More attacks on the break?

    Overall, we may look better defensively according to what you have suggested. And I haven’t even really gone into our attacking options, based on this. Ox and Andre have clearly shown how good they are. And Jack, with a bit of freedom, may be very successful behind a lethal front two. Jack is also well capable of supporting in defense as well, but the point is, we would look just as threatening up front.

    Well that’s just my opinion. But thank you for another pearler!

  18. A 442 would be great especially on tough away games like Stoke. I personally like Santos plus he’s very creative. Hard to disagree on anything on the blog.

  19. 4231 would seem to accomodate all our current players plus potential signing M’vila.the back 4 we all want,mvila and song in the holding mid,Gervinho,Walcott and Santos rotating on the wings.Arteta/Wilshere in CAM, RVP and Podolski rotating upfront as CF.the likes of Ramsey n Rosiscky would come in to sub hence minimise injuries-our archilles heel

    1. Nice one Kagz, I agree you, i’d include OX alongside wingers as well to rotate and get the right balance.

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