I tend to write when inspired and in all honesty nothing about Arsenal at the moment, barring Nacho and Hector inspires me. If not inspired then my other impetus for scribing thoughts is the nagging idea that won’t go away. This piece falls firmly into the latter came, obviously and was there even before Wednesday’s debacle.
The nagging idea is around how to get the best from an under-performing Alexis but it blends into thoughts as to how we can combat Spurs and beat them in the NLD. In all honesty you can add in my MASSIVE frustration at this season’s version of Arsene Wenger who seems to have reverted to his 8 year 4231 type having pleasantly experimented with alternatives for particular matches in 2014/15. I am not talking about throwing on an extra striker to win a game here; I am talking about how he sets the Arsenal team up to face the particular opposition.
Many more able tacticians than I will argue that there are variations within the structure and the structure is fluid. They may be correct but essentially the system without the central midfield control given to us by Cazorla has gone and yet we have not adapted to his loss. All we have done is play 2 totally different players with different attributes where Santi and Coquelin were and now a Non-Santi alongside Coquelin. Wenger had the whole of the January window to buy a Santi replacement and he elected not to do so probably hoping Wilshere would be available to him.
Of course all the above is irrelevant despite being immensely frustrating and we are where we are and we do have Elneny fresh and we have to assume rated by the manager and his staff. This being the case, at least in my simple head we need to look for a structure that uses the attributes of what we have available not one that was built for players not available. Add to this the fact that for whatever reason, and I have my own private thoughts, Alexis is not seemingly able to do the work front to back that we have come to expect and in an attacking sense his position and what he will do from the left has become predictable. Now the 2014/15 version of our Chilean dynamo when cutting from the left, even if expected had the speed, quick feet and guile to beat one of two and still get his shot away and on target. The current version is struggling to do the same so I personally would like to see a formation that gets him more central, closer to the goal and means him having less work and tracking back which he is simply not doing as he once did.
Now for the NLD, in normal circumstances, with a fit squad I would advocate the 4141 we used so effectively at the Etihad, Anfield and Old Trafford in 14/15 when our esteemed manager listened to his team and adapted to strengthen in the middle of the park. But without last year’s Alexis and Ox on the outside of the 4 I hesitate on this. We could play this with Ramsey on the right and Alexis on the left but for the reasons I have stated I am not sure the Chilean is up to the task and I believe we need to have the Welshman’s energy in the centre against Spurs. The system I would love to see for Saturday and indeed perhaps more often is perhaps a variation on the diamond but It was the formation that too Chile and Alexis Sanchez to Copa America glory last summer. This is not a new idea from my perspective as I write about it in my Shoot column way back in September 2015. I see this starting line-up as 4312.
The set up gives Wenger the flexibility to utilise two mobile strikers, something I know thousands of us want to see, but at the same time gets the best of our talisman Ozil and allows us to pack the central midfield with our only fit and viable central midfielders (sorry Mathieu). One might argue it lacks width but our best width comes from our 2 fullbacks now. I would love to see the system utilised or at least tried anyway as I suggested in September but for this Saturday it also gives us the best chance of combating a highly energetic , fast pressing and closing down style which had served Tottenham so well and got then to where they are, which tragically is above us.
On Saturday if this was adopted it would allow Wenger to crowd the midfield with Ramsey, Coquelin and Elneny because make no mistake we will have to counter Spurs energy and battle in that area and in essence stop them playing. From what I have seen of Elneny he has certainly has the attributes to play at a high tempo and nullify the likes of Alli. I was otherwise engaged getting depressed on Wednesday evening but I gather that it was how West Ham beat them – Out Press the Pressers
This is a sentence from the BBC match report that tells Wenger what his team need to do;
“Mauricio Pochettino’s team pride themselves on pressing their opponents but had the tables turned on them ruthlessly by their hosts, especially in a harrowing first 45 minutes in which they were run off their feet and out of position.”
Having a solid back 7 in a four and 3 should allow us to win the ball back early and hit Spurs on the break with quick transition to a mobile Ozil, free of all the onerous defensive duties, who in turn will have two fast and mobile strikers to find. For me alongside Alexis this role is made for a fresh Danny Welbeck who like the rest of us, had to watch most of the Swansea match frustrated on the side-lines must be desperate to get a full ninety of the most part of one under his belt as he pushed for a place on the plane to France and make up for lost time with the Arsenal. One of the side’s most memorable performances last season saw the combination of Sanchez and Welbeck destroy Galatasaray and whilst I have always supported Giroud I would like to see if the two pacier strikers can bring the best out of each other and give our magician some moving targets to hit. Too many of Ozil’s recent assists have been from dead balls and I am sure we would all like to see his vision utilised to the full with the Danny and Alexis making diagonal runs and curving runs in behind.
Anyway I have rambled in long enough so here is the team to nullify Spurs in midfield, counter at pace, get the best from the attacking threat of Alexis and Ozil and to win the game. With the added advantage that by setting his team up differently Wenger and the Gunners would have the element of surprise.
The added advantage is that the same 11 can also revert or adapt to a 4231 with Ramsey on the right and Alexis on the left. I would love to see him try it but even if he does not I suspect this may be the 11 who start the NLD.
It won’t happen of course but I feel considerbly better for writing it.