Forget 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 We Need to Play 4-4-2 by ES
A lot has been made of the fact that Wenger is playing the 4-1-4-1 formation this season and it has been offered up as the cause of Arsenal’s bad start. Of course there are other factors, players who are simply not good enough, zero tactical nous displayed by the manager and a thin squad but for the purpose of this article I will look at the formation.
The 4-2-3-1 we used last season worked reasonably well against lower table teams when it would give us wins, not by a significant goal margin but by 1-0 or 2-1 results. These results owed far more to the fitness levels of the team and the talent of some of the players.
This formation had glaring weaknesses, notably an exposed striker left freezing his gonads off at the head of the formation as we endlessly back…side…back… passed the ball and lacked direct attack and a high line when we were counter attacked.
4-2-3-1 was the formation that we used when we were humiliated by Chelsea, City and Liverpool, it simply didn’t work against fast opposition when we played such a high line. Against such fast opposition we were badly caught out with fullbacks ahead of our forwards on counter attacks and slow players, (no need to mention them by name – we all know who they are) being targeted by managers with a grasp of tactics.
This high line dictated by the 4-2-3-1 which on the counter was actually a 2-2-5-1 left Arteta as the closest thing to a DM shielding what was in effect the back 2, recipe for disaster when one of the back 2 and the stand in DM are the slowest players on the team and have some of the fastest most talented midfielders and forwards in the world running past them as if they weren’t there.
Even in the FA Cup final when playing Hull, Steve Bruce set up his team to expose the weaknesses in this formation and it was paying off for him big time. Arsenal got nothing but 2 goals behind by playing the 4-2-3-1 system and didn’t make any headway in the game until we switched to 4-4-2 when we suddenly became a danger to Hull and came back from behind to win the game.
4-4-2 was the system that worked so well for Arsenal through the glory years, it had the balance of attack and defense and allowed the team to counter attack and defend without exposing our goal.
Of course the 4-1-4-1 has seen Ozil pushed out to the wing as Wenger experiments in live games again instead of the training ground. This is a waste of a physically light player in the very physical Premier League; the 4-4-2 formationwould surround Ozil with 5 fast players to run onto his through balls, giving our midfield and forward players the opportunity to be where they need to be both to score goals and to benefit from the silky passes we know Ozil is capable of.
People appear to be forgetting the weaknesses of the 4-2-3-1 because of the terrible start to this season while Wenger experiments with 4-1-4-1 but remember the sting of those big defeats at Chelsea, City and Liverpool when we played that system. I think 4-4-2 and a grasp of tactics from a manager is what we need to save this season.