Ahh the silly season. Three weeks to go and I’m sure you’re all as eager as I am to read about potential additions that we’re looking at, but if the media outlets are anything to go by we are in a bit of a quiet period. Either that or they’ve finally ran out of players to link us to. Luckily, there was a very intriguing game on the weekend which, for me, displayed some very interesting changes I hope to see more of this coming season.
Now if any of you have listened to any City fan, coach or player in the last few days the result meant diddly-squat. However, due to a certain someone opening their deluded French mouth days before the game and feeling the need to point out our supposed weaknesses, I highly doubt being trounced three-nil in a semi-competitive fixture at Wembley Stadium with silverware up for grabs was high on their agenda.
The most surprising part of the result for me was our complete dominance in midfield. The addition of Jack in midfield alongside Arteta and Ramsey sacrificed the usual number 10 opting for a deeper energetic runner and it paid off big time. This combined with Santi operating from a deeper more central position on the left resulted in a much, much more direct play with bursting runs and ever-changing triangle combinations that City were simply unable to deal with. City’s willingness to commit numbers forward did not match their willingness to help out in defence and our slick positive movement carved through the reduced numbers and was a strong deviation from our often slower build-up play.
The most consistent problem we came up against last season was teams that pressed us hard and choked the midfield of the space required to be effective in a patient passing game. With our counter-attacking outlet in Theo and our midfield runner in Ramsey gone it made us look pretty average against the top teams. Committing the extra number or two in a tighter midfield with Sanchez tirelessly working to stretch the defence should work wonders against teams who employ this tactic, and if the quick combinations pay off and break the lines there will be loads of space in other areas to hurt the opposition. It not only provides an opportunity for Wilshere to play in a deeper role with less defensive responsibility, but if Wenger sees any future in his midfield experimentation with the Ox the squad could really see benefits as well.
I still believe Wenger will continue to field the two advanced creative players against weaker sides that sacrifice possession for numbers in defence. Though when the opposition’s tactical philosophies warrant the tactical variation it does pose a potential headache in regards to our German enigma and in my opinion, the most creative number 10 in the world Mesut Ozil. Cazorla did very well to stake claim to the left as his combinations and passing were incisive and in and around the box he posed a consistent threat when he joined the attack. It was a pretty complete performance and if he can bring that form into the coming weeks Ozil will have to bring his best to stake a claim to being that automatic starter we all know he’s capable of being. His performances on the wing for Germany in the World-Cup suggest he is more than capable of showing positional versatility if it will benefit the overall team and should be up to the challenge.
I, for one, am extremely intrigued if and when Wenger will use this change in tactic. Our away fixture against Beskitas will provide an early opportunity to give it a try as their only chance in qualification is to use the home crowd and our jet-lag to their advantage and put in a convincing first-leg.
They’re sure to come out of the traps at full speed so direct, counter-attacking football could hurt them early on.