More than a Formation Change, Arsenal needs an Intervention


Hello Gooners, I hope you are satisfied with the win at the Riverside Stadium, although the performance wasn’t as convincing as it should have been.

There’s been a lot of talk about Arsène Wenger’s decision to play three centre-halves and two wing-backs, a lot of people were surprised by this sudden change and so was I, especially when I saw that Nacho Monreal was deployed on the left and therefore totally expected Gabriel to play right-back in a more conventional 4-2-3-1.

Not sure about you but I wasn’t particularly impressed by the boys: I really appreciated the solidarity and desire but, tactically speaking, we were as shaky as usual; of course, it being a new system we were somehow meant to suffer, but we were playing Middlesbrough and I feel we conceded much more than expected.
Downing first and Adama Traoré later in the game were a constant threat down the wings, Negredo alone was enough to keep Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel on their toes and, overall, we were extremely disappointing in possession and gave the ball away too often, as usual.

Rob Holding his own against Traore

Rob Holding his own against Traore

The only bright spot of the night was Rob Holding, by far the most focussed and composed player on the pitch, even when things heated-up towards the final minutes. At 20 years of age, the boy played fantastically well and shown great maturity in his only 5th Premier League game of his young career.

It took a fantastic free-kick from Alexis to break the deadlock as we weren’t really testing Guzan, then – after conceding another very sloppy goal – Mesut Özil came to the rescue with a close-range effort almost against the play, to win us an all-important match; I can’t recall any clear-cut chance created by our side, I can’t recall any well-built move that led to a shot on target, I can only remember of two late chances unforgivably wasted by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Reflexes? Cech.

Reflexes? Cech.

At the other end, Petr Čech was reactive (and rather lucky) to deny Ayala in two separate occasions, otherwise we would have suffered the ultimate blow in our unlikely chase for a Champions League spot.

I don’t know whether Arsène Wenger will continue with the 3-men defensive line or quickly move back to the more-established back four but I see that the system is not the issue, the lack of structure is.

The win against Middlesbrough was vital in terms of points but hasn’t shown anything different about this team and its manager, except a revived team spirit and hunger; it’s a good start, don’t get me wrong, but if Downing and Negredo have exposed our flaws so easily, what will Sané, Aguero, Ibrahimovic, Kane, Alli and Lukaku?

We may need a few more of these from this öke if we're going to win our next 7

We may need a few more of these from this öke if we’re going to win our next 7

I must admit I am really pessimistic about the end of this season, I can’t see the tactical plan nor do I see the leaders on the pitch who could carry the team through some very important weeks; Arsène Wenger said we need seven wins to aspire to qualify for the Champions League and those include winning at White Hart Lane, beating Manchester United and Everton at home and also grabbing the three points away from home at Stoke City and Southampton, among others.

Can a team that conceded three goals at West Brom – their sole win in 6 games – and three away at Crystal Palace suddenly find the resoluteness needed?

Perhaps the “new” formation will be the answer, perhaps the “new” formula (we’re the 17th team in the league to play three centre-backs, out of 20) will provide the stable platform we desperately need but we’re still short on confidence and very few of our players are actually reliable in their performances.

More than a formation, we need someone to stand up and drag his teammates out of the invisible prison made of fear and hesitations – and make them believe we can turn this season around, or at least try until the very last second.

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One Response to More than a Formation Change, Arsenal needs an Intervention

  1. Victor Thompson April 21, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    I agree with you Andrea that we did not play well against Middlesborough but I advocated months ago that we needed to shore up the centre of our defence. Koscelny and Mustafi were too far apart from each other and Monreal and Bellerin were so often out of position upfield that most teams exploited the gaps on both wings. We regularly conceded goals from raiding wingers and set pieces.

    If you recall the game when we beat Chelsea 3-0, we played delightful football and we cut through their defence like a knife. I appreciate that we played well but it was because Chelsea played a flat 4 at the back and their Centre backs ( notably Ibrahimovich ) were unable to cope with our midfield running at them at speed. They relied upon their full backs as usual but the openings we made were through the middle with fast crisp passing where the gaps between the centre backs were ruthlessly exposed. They never managed a single dangerous attack throughout the game.

    Conte consequently changed to a back 3 and closed the gap between the centre backs. Kante was employed along with Matic to provide support when needed and also to provide an instant link from defence to attack. It was an instant transformation and the result is there to see. We, on the other hand persisted with a flat 4 but it has been even worse than Chelsea`s because our full backs still insist on playing as wingers.

    Picture in your mind that we have Tony Adams and Martin Keown available in their prime. Would you see gaps between them as we do with Koscelny and Mustafi/Gabriel? We often saw Dixon and Winterburn bombing upfield but Parlour, Vieira or Petit were always in position to cover for them. We don`t have players of that calibre any more but we could at least tighten the defence as they did. That is why I suggested in more than one article that Kos and Mustafi should never be more than talking distance from each other and that Holding should be employed as the third member of the centre backs. He has shown in the few games that he has played, that he understands his role and he carries it out calmly and efficiently. That attitude would soon bring calmness and confidence into our defence.

    We have not lacked in goal scoring as the stats show, but we are dismal in defence and it demoralises the forwards who have to score 3 goals in nearly every match to win. I hate to say it but the answer for our present position is to establish a secure defence and build from that Mourinho and Conte style. If we get better players we can re establish our signature style of play later.

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