WTTGT Writer: Thomas Koornhof
When we review Arsenal’s 2010/11 season, it is almost a unanimous decision that the defence was the greatest concern and the reason the Gunners could not cross the finishing line on so many occasions.
It is also well known that set-pieces contributed to most of the goals conceded. In attempt to solve this issue, Wenger plans to “add height” to his defence by dipping into the transfer market. Players like Samba, Cahill and Mertesacker are all linked with a move to the Emirates.
Now, while this height helps with clearing aerial threats at goal, the attributes of these players might open way to direct attacks. So it is in a way a sacrifice of one defensive tactic for another. But, what if it were possible to not need any sacrifices?
By beefing up Arsenal’s midfield, they are forcing the opposition to rely on long balls and risky passes, thereby cutting off the lack of quality attacking options, and also reducing the pressure on defence. Perhaps a change in formation could be the option to do so?
Moving from a 4-3-2-1 formation to a 3-5-2 formation, would mean Arsenal have more control in the midfield and an obviously greater range of attacking options. Also, Arsenal would then effectively have room for Nasri and Fabregas in central midfield positions (provided that both players stay for another season). Wingers can play on either side of the midfield duo (Walcott, Hazard, Arshavin, Downing to name a just a couple), while someone like Song can occupy the defensive midfield role. Van Persie can then be paired upfront with another top striker and this attacking formation, with the quality Arsenal possess, would be scary for any team to face.
While it may seem risky to pull out a defensive player (from four to three), in open play the risks are diminished by the natural way Arsenal play their game. In one word, possession. While when defending set-pieces, it is easy enough to bring players back to fall into defensive positions.
To conclude, if players like Samba and Mertesacker were to don the red and white, their presence would be priceless from set-pieces. At the same time, their less fluent ground game would be less of a concern with more emphasis and possession in the centre of the field. More attacking options, check! More strength in attack, check!
It’s easy being a football manager…