Is the Wilshere-Ramsey partnership a problem? Or is it just the way it is being executed? by Usmanov
Whether we like this formation or not, the much spoke-against 4-1-4-1 formation has come to stay. More so, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are the two players crucial to this strategy being in the scheme of things for Arsenal this season. So unless either one of these players is out injured for a long time, we should expect to see this setup for very long periods this season.
While I feel that the EPL title (or any other title for that matter) is an expensive price to pay and a sacrifice too much to make just so that one system or player comes good in the unknowable future, I do wish that this 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 setup comes good after all. I am just a fan so I can only wish while Wenger makes all the decisions. But yeah, I have been thinking a lot about this setup ever since we saw it introduced in the off-season. I can recall that especially after the Community Shield victory against Manchester City, I was filled with optimism and excitement about this setup in its early stages. It was expected that it will provide protection for our aging/makeshift defensive midfielders -that it will make us play with more directness and purpose, and in the big games against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, give our midfield more control and rhythm. But I am afraid all of that hope, all of that optimism and excitement has been replaced with pessimism and confusion since then. So I have come to the conclusion that the setup is not the problem. The execution of the setup has been the problem thus far.
So how do you make sure this setup is executed properly to produce real results?
To begin with, the personnel employed to execute this setup are crucial to its success. Two central midfielders, nonetheless physically “small” in stature and with similar levels of technical orientation can work together in the same setup as long as they have got some kind of organization going between them. It is very important that they understand and execute their individual roles to the maximum. Prime example is the partnership of Xavi-Iniesta at the heights of Barcelona’s world domination. It is very true that technically and tactically, Ramsey-Wilshere is very far below from the level Xavi-Iniesta was during those years of domination. I agree that Wenger’s tactics is not exactly the same as Pep’s tiki-taka. However, a thing or two can be borrowed.
1. For all his superior vision and un-matched eye for the final pass, Xavi rarely, if ever, played as the most advanced CM. Instead, he was played as the most withdrawn CM in the Xavi-Iniesta partnership, playing under the radar. Why? Because he possessed a certain type of calmness and maturity in his game. He had the engine and he himself was the engine that kept everything and everyone together and running. Defensively, he was the more responsible and proactive one in the Xavi-Iniesta pair. And he was content with that.
At this moment in world football, no single player can imitate Xavi in this way. However, it is very possible for Aaron Ramsey to model his game around Xavi’s. Ramsey can’t be too old to mold himself and to be molded especially when he is not going to be changing his position altogether. Apart from the goals he scored last season, he also showed that he already possesses similar qualities to Xavi’s. He has that engine in him to run the entire game. He can be a calm influence in midfield. He is more matured and defensively responsible than Jack Wilshere. Right now, for things to work well in this setup, he just has to be content with being the withdrawn CM and playing under the radar so he can keep things running together in midfield. He is capable of that.
2. Wilshere on the other hand, can take up the Iniesta role. He is the most attacking of the pair. He is a better dribbler and runner from midfield with the ball. He can buy time and create space for his strikers when he does that. He possesses all the flicks and tricks. He can be the most adventurous of the CM pair. However, he needs to do the right things at the right time. He needs to know exactly when is the right time for him to give a pass after a dribble. He needs to know when not to dribble at all. He needs to balance every aspect of his game so that he can be consistently effective in this setup.
3. Sergio Busquets was the protection that Xavi-Iniesta pair had in midfield. Busquets is not known to be the hard-takling bully of a defensive midfielder. However, he has that positional sense and awareness to intercept and break down play. More importatly, he has the physical capabilities and engine to go with it.
The Ramsey-Wilshere pair will also need such protection. At the moment, our options in the defensive midfield role is too limited. We do not have a Busquets. However, we might be able to use an ‘Arteta-like-Flamini’ kind of player. A player with the positional sense and awareness to break opposition play along with the physical capabilities to go with it. Can Diaby play that role in the mean time? Is that Wenger’s plan? Will we see this player come next year? Whatever been the case, for this Ramsey-Wilshere partnership to operate even at 50 percent level of the Xavi-Iniesta partnership, it will need this type of DM in midfield.
In summary, I think this setup will eventually work. When? I do not know. However in the mean time, it still pains me that our season is suffering because this system has not been executed properly. I hope that Arsene Wenger somehow manages to make this setup work by making the players execute it to produce the desired results.