It appears the pressure has made old Arsene go a bit bonkers, but, it worked I guess.
The change from the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation to the increasingly popular 3-4-3 was a shock to most but, it got Arsenal a much-needed three points against Middlesbrough with a 2-1 win.
However, Manchester City, at Wembley, in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday is a very different prospect to relegation-threatened Boro at The Riverside.
The main question is, will Arsene stick with the three at the back, or end his managerial renaissance within a week and revert to four in defence? I suppose we’ll get the answer on Sunday.
But, for the next 10 minutes, I’m in charge.
I’ll be honest, it appears the ‘tactical genius’ of Wenger may have rubbed off on me, while I’ve also taken a bit of Spanish inspiration and gone even more bonkers.
So, I’ve decided to stick with the back three.
Petr Cech remains in between the sticks, no surprise there. I don’t think the Czech stopper got the credit his performance on Monday deserved. Boro bombarded the box but, Arsenal’s number one used all his experience, commanding his area and making some crucial saves. The injured David Ospina would usually play cup games but he is unavailable and while Emiliano Martinez would probably like I game, he’s not going to get one.
The three central defenders remain the same as Monday evening.
Captain Laurent Koscielny will marshal the defence in the centre, with Gabriel to his right. Shkodran Mustafi would have occupied the Brazilians spot if not injured but, I am left with little choice but to start Gabriel. Well, I suppose I’m left with a big choice, a 6ft 6in one in the form of Per Mertesacker but, I can’t bring myself to do it. Rob Holding took his opportunity in the starting XI and impressed against Boro, so the youngster retains the left centre-back role.
Now, this is where things get a bit weird.
I’ve decided to go with a 3-6-1 formation. You could call it a 3-1-4-1-1 but, there is method behind my apparent madness.
We know how Pep Guardiola and Manchester City like to play. Their possession-based game with five in midfield often frustrates teams, so I’ve decided to outnumber them and cramp the middle of the park with as many bodies as possible, in order nullify any midfield threat and stifle the creativity of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
Granit Xhaka will play as a lone holding midfielder, adding a bit of extra protect in front of the back three. While I want him to break up play and try not to get himself sent off, I need him to get us moving forward quickly whenever we gain possession.
The four in front of him, from right to left.
Hector Bellerin was taken out the firing line against Middlesbrough, and rightly so in my opinion, but, he is needed in my system this Sunday. His pace will be crucial in getting us moving forward quickly as we look to cause havoc for a shaky City defence on the counter. We all know he likes to get forward and that he can be a solid defender on his day, so I feel the right wing back role will suit him well.
If you read this series every week (which you should, I mean, why wouldn’t you?) then you’ll know Mohamed Elneny is a personal favourite of mine. His energy and tenacity will be vital in pressing and closing City in midfield, so he returns to the starting XI.
Alongside the Egyptian is Aaron Ramsey. He had a decent game on Monday night, assisting the winner with a nicely cushioned chest pass. With just one up front and what I’ll admit is a more defensive formation, Ramsey’s driving forward runs will be needed if we actually want to score.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played on the right at the Riverside and impressed both offensively and defensively. Because I despise Nacho Monreal and I feel that Kieran Gibbs, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott will not do the job I need them to do, I will ask Ox to switch to the left. As with Bellerin on the opposite side, I will need him to get up and down the flank, doing his fair share of attacking and defending.
I don’t know what they’ve been feeding Mesut Ozil in recent weeks but, whatever it is, keep cramming it down his throat till he can’t stomach any more. Often called lazy, the German has shown a lot more willingness and energy in recent weeks, even stunning the world into silence, followed by mass hysteria with his slide tackle against Middlesbrough…and he scored the winning goal of course. Maybe he just trying to drum up interest from Bayern Munich or Barcelona but, quite frankly, if he puts in the same performance as Monday and wins us the game, I couldn’t care less. For now anyway. He gets the attacking midfield spot.
Now you can probably guess who’s up front.
That’s right. It’s the man, the myth, the legend…Yaya Sanogo! Do I need to explain why?
So that’s all from this week’s I’m th…
You definitely didn’t fall for that did you?
Of course, it is not Yaya Sanogo, it never will be, regardless of how many hat-tricks he scores for the under 23’s.
Alexis Sanchez plays as a lone striker. I need him to press high up the pitch and pressure Manchester City into mistakes, while just generally causing as much chaos as possible. I know his size and stature as a lone striker against Vincent Kompany (yes, I thought he’d retired too) is probably a bit of a mismatch but I’m expecting Ramsey, Ozil and the wing-backs to provide support for the Chilean in attack, while also fulfilling their defensive duties.
So, do I appear as crazy now as I did when you started reading?
I probably do yes.
I know that the formation and tactics might be a risk in a cup semi-final that holds huge importance but, in the words of Second World War general and military tactician, George S. Patton;
“Taking calculated risks, that is quite different from being rash.”
My risk is calculated. I am confident that we can stop Manchester City playing and suffocate them in midfield to win the game.
But, Arsene is slightly less bonkers, only just slightly but, slightly none the less. I find it unlikely he will go with a 3-6-1 or a 3-1-4-1-1, I doubt he’ll even stick with a 3-4-3, although I’ve known to be wrong in the past.
We’ll just have to wait and see.