I wake this morning with eyes redder than the sun and a tired body more achey than Vic Akers having not had a good night sleep followed by a 26 mile marathon and then a game of football.
Once again there is very little by the way of Arsenal-related news except Thomas Vermaelen stating that he wants to stay at Arsenal forever. Thomas has been a great signing for us and proves, along with Koscienly, that the myth around Wenger’s ability to sign defenders is just that. He still has much to do to improve some of his defensive work, but he’s firmly established as one of the first choice centre halves and long may that continue.
With no other news to ponder, I wanted to share some thoughts on the current Arsenal formation and the 25 man squad rule the Premier League has in place. Over the last six months or so, when not worrying about whether RvP will leave, we will get Champions League football, or which games we were about to win/lose, I have also intermittently thought about some of the calls from Arsenal fans to change the formation to a 4-4-2. Indeed, I myself have found my thoughts leaning towards a formation change during the darkest recesses of last season, but have always wondered whether it should be a short-term ‘quick fix’ to being a goal or two behind, or a fundamental shift in tactical thinking from Le Boss.
For about four years now we have adopted a ’4-3-3′ formation, modelled on the successful Barcelona teams of the last half decade, and tried to replicate their success to little effect. The formation is a classic ‘looks good on paper’ scenario, as it allows for a loan striker to be given close proximity to pacey wingers who can utilise their speed to get in behind defences and provide options for the loan striker and attacking midfielders to take advantage. And clearly Arsene is an advocate of this idea, as he made the shift from his title-winning blueprint of 4-4-2 to this 4-3-3 formation.
I don’t really want to debate whether or not we should change back to the 4-4-2 formation to see whether we can replicate the success of the Invincibles. Enough has been said on other blogs about the potential for this tactical change. What I do want to do however is to share thoughts on whether or not, even If Arsene WANTED to, we could change our formation back to 4-4-2.
I know that comment seems a bit stupid. After all, the simple mechanics of moving players around the field to do different jobs is simple enough, but there are a few obstacles that currently stand in our way if we want to revert back to a successful 4-4-2 in my opinion.
Firstly, there is our club culture. One thing that Arsenal do, from the youth team to the first team, is adopt the same formation and the same style of football. The benefit of this is evident when you see players come into the first team for Carling Cup games and some can slot easily into positions as if they’ve been playing there their whole lives.
Secondly, our players. The composition of this current Arsenal squad is made up of a glut of players who are moulded to this formation. The back five stays the same irregardless of the formation so that is fine. But to cater for the squad game, we have a number of central midfield moulded players (Ramsey, Diaby, Rosicky, Wilshere, Arteta, Song, Coquelin to name but a few) and although many of these players CAN play in wide positions, putting square pegs in round holes has never really worked on a long term basis. Think back to the Wiltord days – he was a good player but never really excelled in that right midfield role.
That last point brings me to the main fold of my argument. I don’t believe that with the current 25 man rule you can have enough players to effectively choose between two formations. Certainly not with our injury record. Arsene and Ivan Gazidis have said themselves that we have a big squad and that we have to be mindful of the 25 man rule. For us to now start a ‘pick-n-mix’ approach to our formation would require ready-made right and left midfielders to be bought in. And again, because of our injury-prone squad, you’d probably need to get a couple on each side. Yes, there are players like Arteta and Walcott who could ‘do a job’ for us, but how many of us want to see players played out of position? I certainly don’t. Also, what happens if one formation starts getting results and we adopt it almost unanimously? We would be stuck in the same position we are currently in – players on high wages being paid to occasionally talk to Arsenal Player.
Again, I want to stress that I don’t want to go into the tactical advantages for both formations, as I’d be going over already well worn ground. But I just think that sometimes its worth considering the issues that could affect the team we all know and love should the club make such root and branch changes to the way in which our football is played.
Something to ponder on a Thursday.
Have a good one people.