Wenger shuffles formation and Arsenal leave West Ham smelling golden

On many occasions, Arsenal meet opposition who deposit all 10 outfield players behind the ball and for the Gunners’ short passing game it stinks, like trying to pass through a narrow back-street while avoiding all the fly-tipping. West Ham dumped the same obstacles in Arsenal’s path yesterday afternoon and for around 65 minutes doubts were creeping in, would Arsenal score?
Undoubtedly, Wenger’s substitutions once again changed the course of the game. Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri kept the ball better than the battling Fran Merida and Jack Wilshere could, but it was more about how it altered the rest of the team than merely the quality of player in replacement.
Carlos Vela hugged the left hand side, and all of a sudden Arsenal’s back-street became a dual-carriageway. More gaps opened for Arsenal to manoeuvre within and it became a matter of time before Arsenal’s slick passing picked the lock to Rob Green’s goal. By the end, the Gunners could have scored three or four.
Wenger spoke of patience in the post-match interview and the fans must hail the professor for knowing the team would come good. Bang on time were Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo with emphatic finishes to win the game 2-1, although could things not have opened up earlier for the Gunners with a simple reshuffle of formation, rather than a change to personnel?
Arsenal have scored 51 goals in the Premier League alone this season, so the 4-3-3 formation must be working, right? Well, I’m torn, because Arsenal are looking a little frivolous up front with current injuries but finding the net still on a regular free-scoring basis.
At times, the 4-3-3 looks narrow and play is glutted as it was yesterday, so would a straight forward 4-4-2 not benefit certain players more, where they are comfortable within a shape that their youth experience has more than likely been based upon? For new players coming into the Arsenal side, an expectance to adapt to the 4-3-3 might be asking more than we think.
Theo Walcott is the best illustration of a player with all the brand values to beat defenders with a turn of pace, hug a few touch-lines, draw a centre back out of position here and there or even latch onto ball over the left-back’s head. Instead, he finds himself hidden or tightly marked as Wilshere experienced yesterday.
All the same, highly impressive this season has been Arsenal’s dexterity in finding goals within the most confined of spaces. In this kind of vein Arsenal are perhaps the only team in the Premiership capable of breaking down a team who set up completely defensive.
Perhaps West Ham had finally burnt out their engine in the last quarter, although Vela looked dangerous out wide and it doesn’t take much to see that some natural width changed the game in Arsenal’s favour. Towering new-age centre-backs can still outmuscle the Premierships’ thickset forwards, but they can’t handle a collection of nippy Tom Thumb’s spread across a football field.
To be fair to West Ham they could only play to the slim resources they had available on the day, and to give credit where it’s due, Gianfranco Zola’s men attempted to counter-attack Arsenal whenever the opportunities arose. However, this is not always the case as there are teams whose parked bus rarely leaves the depot.
These are the games calling for a 4-4-2. Sure, there is no guarantee it would work and obviously there are the reverse effects to consider. For example, could Arsenal cope defensively in a broader system especially without Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas?
As it stands, it is something yet to be considered and while Arsenal continue to be triumphant in a 4-3-3 I doubt it will. Perhaps there is room for 4-4-2 later in the season, especially if Wenger whacks out his chequebook this month.
For the moment I’m happy for Arsenal to get through games the way they are, plus I‘m confident that they will, but it is likely Wenger’s lads will come through it all reeking, as Arsenal are forced to take the back-street where Premiership managers continue to fly-tip.
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