Arsenal Squad Analysis by RP
Even though the preseason games may not give the complete picture, there is a clear change in tactics which were even observed in some of the matches during the last season as well. As we all know, Arsene is not the most flexible when it comes to changing formations or trying out various tactical switches (even though he has a tried a few things of late). This might have been mainly because of the lack of players that may suit different set-ups or for any other reason. But clearly this season looks to be different with the current squad. Even though there are only three players who were added so far (I hope we add at least another defender), this may be the season when a few youngsters may get a chance to prove themselves as well.
Wenger prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation as we all know, lets start from the front.
– Forwards : Alexis, Giroud, Akpom, Welbeck*, Takuma
I am sure everyone of us would love to see a forward added to the above list, but as it is right now, I hardly see anyone joining us, until and unless Wenger does a Ozil-like last day signing. However with the current options lets see how we can make the best use. As observed from last few seasons and the fact everyone agrees to, Giroud can’t do it alone, and has those lean spell of games where he goes missing. However, when there is support or competition, he definitely picks up his game. I personally feel Wenger should decide between using one out of Giroud or Alexis up front based on the opposition and the venue. If Alexis starts as a central striker, Wenger can also have a plan B with Giroud on the bench. I also feel Akpom has shown he has got a knack of being at the right place at the right time during the preseason (I know you will point out to previous preseasons). So he can probably be used when we are in comfortable positions and can be given a run in the Carling cup or FA cup – similar to how Iwobi was bedded into the team last season. Who knows Akpom might be our very own Harry Kane in the making (a bit too optimistic? maybe yes)
– Attacking Mid-Fielders: Alexis, Iwobi, Ozil, Ramsey, Campbell, Ox, Theo, Gnabry, Jeff
I guess injuries permitting, the central mid-field and attacking mid-field are two areas where Arsenal has a unique mixture of experienced and young players with different qualities. It looks like Iwobi will keep his place on the left side, which will help Wenger to choose whether to play Alexis upfront or on the right. Based on the preseason Ox and Campbell look to be competing for that right hand side of the attacking trio. However, Theo can be used from the bench on either of the wings. Since Ozil is going to join late, Ramsey may take Ozil’s role and it will be a good chance for Ramsey to showcase his credentials in that role, so that Wenger can opt for resting Ozil every now and then before a crucial tie. Gnabry and Jeff might get their chances in the Cup games.The only downfall is the confidence of the players. In the seasons gone by we did not get enough end product from players in these positions. Can we get a consistent end product from the attacking mid-fielders?
– Central Mid-Fielders: Xhaka, Coquelin, Wilshere, Elneny, Santi, Ramsey, Zelalem
Signing Xhaka early in the summer is a master stroke from Wenger. He looks tailormade for Arsenal. There is plenty of engine room and class in the central mid-field. Wenger may go for various combinations based on the opposition he is playing against. If you have watched Xhaka playing at Euros there is a certain class element he brings to his play like Xabi Alonso does. He can play the long balls very well and play the ball through the lines. We can expect a lot more service from the deep lying mid-fielders. And also by adding Xhaka we now have at least two quality players (Santi and Xhaka) who can play out from the back. Against strong oppositions and tricky opponents, we may go with a very defensive line up and we have the personnel to do the job as well, with Elneny and Coquelin. Wenger has a variety of options to rotate and try and pick various combinations. If Wilshere remains injury free, it will be interesting to see where how and where he will fit into this team. Moreover, Xhaka may well bring the best out of Ramsey. With Wenger recently admitting that the best position for Ramsey is in the middle of the park it will be interesting to see how he will pick the team. One things is for sure, the competition for places in the middle of the park is the toughest I have seen for a long time.
– Defence: Monreal, Gibbs, Koscielny, Gabriel*, Per*, Chambers, Holding, Bellerin, Jenkinson*, Debuchy
Wenger would have ideally wanted to try and continue Kosc-Gabriel for some more games this season. However as things turned out the center back position has become an area where we need reinforcements pretty badly. Even though this time the number is better compared to last season, the injuries to Per and Gabriel will force Wenger to dig his hand in the market. If the rumored target Mustafi does come in, he will bring in more aggression into the tackle. He is good on the ball and a good header of the ball. On the full backs, Bellerin and Monreal should carry on from where they left last season. They have both been brilliant. Gibbs and one out of Debuchy or Jenkinson may expect some game time in cup competitions. Chambers, Holding and Bielik may get a few opportunities to try and show what they can do.
– Keepers: Cech, Ospina, Martinez
With Szczesny sent out on loan to Roma, it looks like we are going to go with the same set of goal keepers as last season. Cech had a pretty good season apart from a few blips, Ospina looks to be content behind Cech at the moment, but he is definitely want to prove himself when given a chance. Martinez might be lucky to get a look in if both the keepers are fit.
In the second half of last season, when Koscielny and Gabriel were playing, Arsenal tried to defend from the front. If we continue to do that, with the current set of players, it should be more tactically viable. Alexis can start pressing from the front. Iwobi and Ox or whoever plays on the wings either side of Ozil should do a similar job. With Elneny, Xhaka, Ramsey, Coquelin available, I think we can play a high line so that Wenger’s tactic of keeping the opposition mid-fielders in their half may come to fruition. Apart from these, the general concern for Arsenal used to be the physical side of the game. Xhaka definitely is a player who likes to get stuck into the opponent. I may not be surprised if he gets a red card or two in this season, but hopefully it will not have any serious consequences. Moreover, with Xhaka, Elneny, Iwobi the average height of the team is also better now than it used to be. If both Xhaka and Elneny play in the center of the park, and Iwobi, Ozil and Ramsey play in the front three, with Alexis up front, we still have enough people who can head the ball pretty well. In the preseason it looked like Wenger was trying to use some different variations, with Elneny making those late runs into the box for some of the corners. On the whole, I still feel Arsenal are still at least one signing short, if not two, of getting to be recognized as genuine title contenders. However, I still feel we can give it a go if there are no further major injuries and the players perform to their full capabilities.