Picking my topic was easy this week. What else could top the amazing atmosphere at the Emirates where so many passionate fans led chants and cheers to the stadium hours before the game. There was such excitement about the match that fans even without tickets were walking to the stadium just to feel the excitement and presence of European football. That display was so impressive officials needed to delay the match to allow Arsenal fans to enter the stadium. Yes, even with the Wenger-Out brigade in full force, those Arsenal fans showed up despite missing the Champions League to support their team. So many Gunners fans marching and singing was an inspiration to me.
I’m so inspired by the home fans showing up en masse, let me see what others on Twitter said.
Oh. Wait, what? What jerseys are they wearing?
What language are those chants in?
Yikes, that was embarrassing.
So the fan support on Thursday was lacking, both from the few Arsenal fans who showed up and those who donated their tickets to away fans. One thing that did catch my attention, though, and gave me some hope for the future, was a mistake by Arsene Wenger. Arsenal, as we all know by now, started incredibly slow. The boss trotted out his back three as he is now want to do but Arsenal were too easily dispossessed in the midfield by Cologne. In fact, they had a hard time putting together consistent pressure on the visitors.
At halftime, Arsene Wenger did something he almost never did in the past. He brought on Sead Kolasinac and switched back to his usual back four. The formation change (and substitution) made an immediate difference. The numbers in midfield allowed Arsenal to set the pace of play and dominate, eventually come out with a 3-1 victory that seemed unlikely early on.
After the match, when he was asked if a back four is again an option for the club, Wenger essentially said it’s a definite option. “Because we played for a long time in a back four, it is easy for me to switch from a back three to a back four,” he noted. Some critics undoubtedly rolled their eyes at this statement and said that it was typical Wenger, pretending to be progressive but stubborn to the end.
I took it a different way. Before last season, we noted that Arsenal were stubbornly stuck in their ways. There was no desire to tweak formations or styles generally based on opponents, but rather the Gunners stuck to their ways. Now, with Wenger admitting he pines for the good ol’ days of a back four, our manager is not afraid to mix and match formations based on play or match-ups. Yes, it’s more of the same in terms of what we see stylistically on the pitch, but we’ve anted flexibility and slow, slowly we are getting it.
It’s Wenger admitting a small change that may not actually be a change, but as The Optimist, it gives me hope we will be tactically more progressive this season.