ARE ARSENAL STILL PLAYING WITH THE HANDBRAKE ON? by NO
When it broke into the media outlets that we had captured Alexander Lacazette, I was elated. I wondered after Alexis Sanchez’S exploits in the 2016/17 season, what it would mean for Arsenal to have someone else as effective in shaking the net as Sanchez, the prospects of a new season, despite missing out the Champions League, looked mouth-watering.
However, as the new season unfolded, things have not really gone according to plan. In the last season, the top performers for Arsenal were Sanchez with 24 goals and 10 Assists. Giroud had 12 goals with 3 assists. Walcott had 10 goals with 2 Assists. Ozil had 8 goals with three assists.
This season, it does not look like our top scorers will match these numbers. After 13 matches we have we scored 23 goals and conceded 16. By this time last season, we had already scored 28 goals and conceded 13 goals. The saying goes that the best defense is to attack. In my opinion, if you score more frequently, the chances of conceding less are high as the opposition, especially those that are not of similar quality, will misstep and stay away from attacking you. There are already some games that we lost points because we did not score when we should have. Games like Chelsea, Stoke city and Watford comes to mind. That for me is seven points lost. It was even possible to draw the game with Manchester City. There are also games we have won but not as convincingly as we would have liked. Burnley and Swansea are such games that we had a meal made of our nails as the game proceeded.
Which brings me to the question in the heading, are we playing with the handbrake on this season?
Last season, we played 22.214.171.124 and changed sometime towards the tail end of the season to 126.96.36.199. This season, the system means that we have 3 players closer to goal mouth while last season we have 4 players in there. The new system means we have doubled our force in the defensive midfield area from 2 last season to 4 this season. Where we had six defenders, we now play with seven.
Somehow, with more personnel focused on stopping goals from going in, we are conceding even more. Makes me wonder, did Wenger somehow bring in two Alexis Sanchez (With Lacazette coming in) and therefore decided to sacrifice a man in attack with the hope that we will score even more goals anyway?
What this has done, is that someone like Sanchez is now further away from the opponent’s goal. It has also meant that those passes that find the extra offensive player and are converted are no longer being followed up on. There was also the need for wingbacks to add something more to attack which granted they are doing, but last season players like Bellerin and Monreal were sensational. This season they are looking just slightly above average.
What has remained the same is that we are still having two anchor men playing in the central midfield just like last season. Which makes me think we probably need to readjust something to get things right. Perhaps, we are still learning to gel with the new system change. But that argument would be feasible if we started this season with the new system. We started last season with no less than 10 games, which should have been enough time. Secondly, Wenger had enough knowledge of the system he was to deploy in the new season and should have signed more players with this in mind.
What therefore is the solution?
Here is how we line up in the 188.8.131.52 pattern
Maybe, we should consider tweaking it a bit to have a 184.108.40.206 pattern. This would push Alexis to the front closer to the goal of our opponents and help give assistance to Lacazette. It would of course give Ozil an isolated Attacking Midfield role, but Ozil in my view thrives in such situations and I wouldn’t worry about his isolation. An isolated Lacazette and an underperforming Sanchez are a worry though. In the 220.127.116.11 pattern, this would be the lineup.
Or maybe we should consider a more adventurous 18.104.22.168. pattern. In this one, we will need to have one anchor player given the role of utility player and depending on the pattern of approach in attack and defense at the moment in play, this utility player would move to become the second Attacking midfielder, which would be his natural position or move back to become the second anchor player or even move forward to attack. In my view, this is a role Ramsey would thrive in if he keeps a disciplined display and does not stick too long attacking, he would. With the 22.214.171.124 pattern, this would be the first XI. Wilshere too can match with our needs.
126.96.36.199. will require a very focused approach with Xhaka required to keep his cool and execute an almost flawless transition with Ramsey and Kolasinac and Bellerin would need to come into the assistance of Xhaka and Ramsey occassionally. However, Arsenal is usually a very mobile team and this constant transitions in the centre of the filed may just be a good thing to get opponent defenders out of position.
I would go with this generic 188.8.131.52. What do you think would work to get Arsenal scoring more freely again and release the handbrake?