If Wenger wants to play the 4-3-3 system, he has got to ensure that he selects the right players, in the right positions. I personally have concerns with regards to Wenger’s team selection which frustrates me as I believe this new system could work wonders. Wenger has often baffled me with certain line-ups over the course of the last season or two and there are indications that the same may happen this season.
The system sets up as follows:
The team can be divided into 3 parts with players given for each (current injuries in bold)
Sagna, Eboue / Gallas, Vermaelen, Djourou, Silvestre (Song) / Clichy, Gibbs
Cesc, Diaby, Ramsey, Denilson, Song, Nasri, Rosicky
RVP, Bendtner, Theo, Eduardo, Arshavin, Vela
My first concern regards the central striker role. I have the feeling that Wenger has Robin Van Persie in mind as first choice. I have my doubts about this. We saw last season that Robin is not suited to leading the line; he is at his best when he is a withdrawn forward. He excelled in the 4-2-3-1 system last year and he does the same for Holland wide on the right in their 4-3-3 system. This is where he should start for us.
Van Persie likes time on the ball and likes to try and find the right ball at the right time. He likes to carry the ball and find space on his left foot; all things that a lone striker is rarely able to do. From the right hand side RVP has the opportunity to cut inside onto his left either to cross the ball or bring others into the game. He can make supporting runs from there and also find time to get shots off. Teams will be very scared of Van Persie coming inside onto his left as it is no secret he can hit them. This it self allows space for Sagna to overlap into the space, as well as midfield runners to exploit gaps left by committed defenders.
Another reason I was worried by Wenger’s selection of Van Persie through the middle was that Bendtner was shoved to the right. If I had a choice as to who would be the focal point, it is Bendtner. The guy can hold the ball up better than most in our side but most importantly, he has the aerial ability to cause teams problems should the full backs get crosses in; something Van Persie does not really possess. It just makes sense to switch those two around if they are to be in the side.
That said, I also worry that Wenger under estimates the impact Eduardo can have; I presume this is due to his injury. However, if anyone watched Barcelona last season, Samuel Eto’o did not do nearly as much link up play as Eduardo showed in the Rangers win. Eto’o was there to put the chances away that were created for him by the likes of Messi, Henry, Iniesta and Xavi. There is no better finisher in the league than Eduardo in my honest opinion (maybe Torres actually) and with the likes of Arshavin, Cesc, RVP around him, all he needs to do is put the ball away. He is decent in the air due to his timing, good spring and also his awareness of chances that will come his way.
I am worried that Wenger feels RVP needs a focal role in the side but I really think he can provide so much more from the right. Van Persie’s recent comments suggest he wants to help the team as much as possible, in terms of goals or assists and I personally think we will benefit much more from his talent if he is given almost a free role in the mould of that given to Messi.
In some ways, it is a good problem to have. Wenger has many options up front which can only bode well in our search for dominance once again; however, my next worry is at the back. This problem is more to do with squad depth and my opinion that Wenger is concentrating too much on quantity rather than quality.
Granted we have Gallas, Vermaelen, Djourou, Silvestre and Song that can all play centre back. However, if we get one injury during the African Cup of Nations we will immediately be are short at the back and short in midfield. With Song absent, Silvestre will be 3rd choice CB and we saw how that worked out last year. Playing Silvestre in the hope he suddenly becomes a world beater seems to be Wenger’s personal mission to prove the fans wrong. We may go into the season with him as our 3rd choice centre back anyway should Vermaelen not make it. If Song covers at the back then we automatically lose our ONLY option as the tough tackling defensive midfielder. Does he consider Song a defender or midfielder? Right now he must use him as the DM as we do not have another player in that destructive mould.
I can see Denilson doing well in one of the central midfield roles, at least until one of Rosicky or Nasri return. Song seems to be the man trusted by Wenger to do the shielding job. If he needs to cover at the back because Wenger believes we have enough depth already, then we are short in midfield as a midfield three out of Cesc, Denilson, Ramsey and Diaby just does not cut it I am afraid. This brings the whole question over a new signing and I do not want to suggest any signings as I do not want to raise any hopes. Wenger will not sell Diaby in order to bring in a more experienced, accomplished player. I think there is too much loyalty towards players he wants to do well. Diaby may well be a good player but his constant injuries and lack of consistent form suggest he will struggle to make it here. Sometimes a player has to move on if circumstances are not right. It happened with Aliadiere for example but I think Wenger is on another mission with Diaby.
The system suits the players we have brilliantly, only if it is right. Henry has learnt that he can have a massive influence on the left for Barca. Van Persie must learn that he can achieve the same at Arsenal. Bendtner is our plan B up front and is similar to how Barca will now play with Ibrahimovic leading their line. The midfield must be balanced and this makes Song crucial. He cannot be used at CB too much otherwise our centre midfield will be far too weak.
Wenger must show his tactical skill this season. He has made the right decision to change system, but that is not enough. Team selection is just as important. His selection for the FA Cup Semi Final was poor and I will be watching this closely over the coming months, hopefully ready to praise him.