Arsenal Tactics Talk – Swapping positions v Defined Roles. By Galen Sona
On paper, it was a partnership that ought to have worked. Ramsey’s best performances for Arsenal had come in 2013/14, when he was regularly paired with Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta. Xhaka seemed like a natural successor to Arteta: a deep-lying distributor who would be prepared to hold his position while Ramsey roamed forward.
Ramsey’s constant injuries and Wenger’s confession of what Xhaka is has been one of our biggest problems. at the beginning Wenger said he sees Xhaka as a box to box midfielder. The biggest problem arises from Wenger-ball which explains why so many of our midfielders do struggle when they have gone to different teams. Wenger-ball usually allows midfielders to swap roles which makes it so difficult for the opposition player to mark. You look at Song, Cesc and Wilshere and it was difficult to tell who the defensive midfielder was. It was a similar story with Diaby, Arteta and Ozil or Ramsey, Arteta and Ozil.
While managers like Pep or Van Gaal want players to have very defined roles and be only in particular area’s “Zones” of the pitch, Wenger constantly allows his midfielders to swap and move. There have been times Cazorla has been so deep and Coquelin is higher up the pitch and you are wondering what’s happening. This is a clear ploy by Wenger to deceive the opposition with the swapping of roles and movement in the middle of the pitch.
Wenger trying to convert Xhaka into a box to box midfielder at the start of the season, so that his swapping of roles can go into full effect, backfired. Two months later he corrects himself and says he sees Xhaka more like a Deep Lying playmaker.
Ramsey and Xhaka have now clicked as a partnership, due to defined roles and responsibilities and, Arsenal’s switch to a 3-4-2-1 system. Although the primary benefit of the new formation has been offering extra security to the centre-backs, it’s also had a liberating effect on Arsenal’s new-look midfield. What has changed for me is the fact that the players have clearly defined roles. there is no Wenger-ball swapping of positions. We are playing them to their strengths.
Xhaka is allowed to stay deep, using his brilliant distribution to control the tempo of games. Ramsey has got one of the biggest engines in the premier league. To be at his best he needs fitness, and with a run of games we have seen him travelling the pitch and going end to end from box to box with ease. While Xhaka can just stay in front of the back four and do his thing.
I hope the 3-4-2-1 is not just a quick fix. I hope this system is here to stay and we could switch to a back 4 with certain games at home . Arsenal’s central midfield has been their biggest problem all season, and we have now edged towards a solution. It’s taken way longer than we all anticipated, but Ramsey and Xhaka are finally getting the chance to show what they can do in tandem. With the support of a back three, the results have been good. The cup final will show us more of this partnership of Xhaka and Ramsey, and they must continue to develop this burgeoning understanding.
By Galen Sona