Arsenal Tactics – How Wilshere and Ramsey SHOULD play together

Is the Wilshere-Ramsey partnership a problem? Or is it just the way it is being executed? by Usmanov

Whether we like this formation or not, the much spoke-against 4-1-4-1 formation has come to stay. More so, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are the two players crucial to this strategy being in the scheme of things for Arsenal this season. So unless either one of these players is out injured for a long time, we should expect to see this setup for very long periods this season.

While I feel that the EPL title (or any other title for that matter) is an expensive price to pay and a sacrifice too much to make just so that one system or player comes good in the unknowable future, I do wish that this 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 setup comes good after all. I am just a fan so I can only wish while Wenger makes all the decisions. But yeah, I have been thinking a lot about this setup ever since we saw it introduced in the off-season. I can recall that especially after the Community Shield victory against Manchester City, I was filled with optimism and excitement about this setup in its early stages. It was expected that it will provide protection for our aging/makeshift defensive midfielders -that it will make us play with more directness and purpose, and in the big games against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, give our midfield more control and rhythm. But I am afraid all of that hope, all of that optimism and excitement has been replaced with pessimism and confusion since then. So I have come to the conclusion that the setup is not the problem. The execution of the setup has been the problem thus far.

So how do you make sure this setup is executed properly to produce real results?

To begin with, the personnel employed to execute this setup are crucial to its success. Two central midfielders, nonetheless physically “small” in stature and with similar levels of technical orientation can work together in the same setup as long as they have got some kind of organization going between them. It is very important that they understand and execute their individual roles to the maximum. Prime example is the partnership of Xavi-Iniesta at the heights of Barcelona’s world domination. It is very true that technically and tactically, Ramsey-Wilshere is very far below from the level Xavi-Iniesta was during those years of domination. I agree that Wenger’s tactics is not exactly the same as Pep’s tiki-taka. However, a thing or two can be borrowed.

1. For all his superior vision and un-matched eye for the final pass, Xavi rarely, if ever, played as the most advanced CM. Instead, he was played as the most withdrawn CM in the Xavi-Iniesta partnership, playing under the radar. Why? Because he possessed a certain type of calmness and maturity in his game. He had the engine and he himself was the engine that kept everything and everyone together and running. Defensively, he was the more responsible and proactive one in the Xavi-Iniesta pair. And he was content with that.

At this moment in world football, no single player can imitate Xavi in this way. However, it is very possible for Aaron Ramsey to model his game around Xavi’s. Ramsey can’t be too old to mold himself and to be molded especially when he is not going to be changing his position altogether. Apart from the goals he scored last season, he also showed that he already possesses similar qualities to Xavi’s. He has that engine in him to run the entire game. He can be a calm influence in midfield. He is more matured and defensively responsible than Jack Wilshere. Right now, for things to work well in this setup, he just has to be content with being the withdrawn CM and playing under the radar so he can keep things running together in midfield. He is capable of that.

2. Wilshere on the other hand, can take up the Iniesta role. He is the most attacking of the pair. He is a better dribbler and runner from midfield with the ball. He can buy time and create space for his strikers when he does that. He possesses all the flicks and tricks. He can be the most adventurous of the CM pair. However, he needs to do the right things at the right time. He needs to know exactly when is the right time for him to give a pass after a dribble. He needs to know when not to dribble at all. He needs to balance every aspect of his game so that he can be consistently effective in this setup.

3. Sergio Busquets was the protection that Xavi-Iniesta pair had in midfield. Busquets is not known to be the hard-takling bully of a defensive midfielder. However, he has that positional sense and awareness to intercept and break down play. More importatly, he has the physical capabilities and engine to go with it.

The Ramsey-Wilshere pair will also need such protection. At the moment, our options in the defensive midfield role is too limited. We do not have a Busquets. However, we might be able to use an ‘Arteta-like-Flamini’ kind of player. A player with the positional sense and awareness to break opposition play along with the physical capabilities to go with it. Can Diaby play that role in the mean time? Is that Wenger’s plan? Will we see this player come next year? Whatever been the case, for this Ramsey-Wilshere partnership to operate even at 50 percent level of the Xavi-Iniesta partnership, it will need this type of DM in midfield.

In summary, I think this setup will eventually work. When? I do not know. However in the mean time, it still pains me that our season is suffering because this system has not been executed properly. I hope that Arsene Wenger somehow manages to make this setup work by making the players execute it to produce the desired results.


Tags Iniesta Ramsey Wilshere Xavi


  1. fred cowardly says:

    The problem is Wenger likes Wilshere too much. If a player isn’t performing well he should be benched from the start and fight for his place. I don’t know his best position anymore. I’m also worried that Wilshere will be the excuse for not getting another midfielder this January. Wenger will probably keep faith in him. However, with Diaby injured, Flamini and Arteta aging, in my opinion it would make sense to get a top DM.

    1. muffdiver says:

      it made sense to get a top dm after gilberto silva left.

      how long ago was that?

      1. goonerby1 says:

        Should have got Song back !

      2. Usmanov says:

        I am writing a badass article on that. *in haywill’s voice* But admin needs to post it though 🙁 . I am sad now 🙁 🙁

    2. ArnSam says:

      Ramsey Wilshere combination = Arteta Flamini combination. unfortunately none works for us.
      but wenger makes the calls and gates the blame most, it’s up to him to see it…

    3. galaxygooner says:

      Wilshere is a one trick pony. He moves in a straight line and thus,very predictable.
      Get the ball,
      run a few yard with it,
      get into other players spaces and bringing the opponents with him,
      run out of space,
      and start looking for teammate with whom to do a dying minute one-two.
      He loses the ball and starts jogging back.
      His key starts says it all. Only
      1 goal
      1 assist
      My verdict : He is definitely not arsenal quality and is probably more suited to Liverpool kind of football. I rate Ross Berkley of Everton higher. You can see the impact he has made on his team since he returned from injury. In our case,we play better without wilshere.
      We need a midfielder who can consistently give the final ball to Satchel and welbeck.

  2. Thando says:

    I dont know how many times we should say this, that jack and ramsey should not play together.we should rotate them,we almost lost both of them against spurs

  3. th14 says:

    The only time those two should be on the pitch together is at full time and on the touchline when one is comming on for the other.

  4. goldfish27 says:

    Comparing whilshare- ramsey to Xavi-Iniesta pair what a Joke……am laughing already…hahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahah best joke of d century

  5. Twig says:

    Wilshere and Iniesta are two completely different kind of players. Iniesta is more mobile and crafty. I think mobility is Wilshere’s biggest problem. He seems a little bit too static and one dimensional. Plus he needs to learn how to tackle more carefully. He keeps getting himself into dangerous tackles hence cannot stay fit.

    1. Usmanov says:

      Less about the styles, more about the mindset. One is calmer and calculated(Xavi), the other(Iniesta) is adventurous. It creates a balance -the type of which needs to be struck in the Wilshere-Ramsey so it can work at aleast 50% level of its potential.

  6. Twig says:

    I have a dream…

    _____Draxler Sanchez Walcott
    _________Diame Ramsey
    Gibbs Koscielny Mertesacker Debuchy

    1. muffdiver says:

      martin luther kings was better

      1. Twig says:

        What don’t you like about my “dream” @muffs?

        1. NY_Gunner says:

          You kept Mert in there…

          1. Twig says:

            He had a solid game over the weekend. He might be getting back to his best form you know.

  7. vijaygunner says:

    just abandon the 4-1-4-1 formation, if wenger wants to get the best out of JW10 and AR16 let them fight for their place in the starting 11

  8. Dan.M says:

    Welbeck Walcott

    Ox Arteta ramsey


    Working for west ham and worked for Liverpool

    We could press and counter with speed using this formation

  9. Aldo says:

    It might not just be the tactics that prevent them both playing together, but mentality as well. When Jack was out last season, Ramsey was the one driving the midfield, passing around to drift inside into scoring positions. He was the central figure.

    Jack on the other hand is a greedy little “bastard”, demanding the ball and driving it into the penalty box, what often ends up in misplaced passes and tackles. It’s an environment where Ramsey can’t really thrive.

    But of course, I might be wrong.

  10. ruelando says:

    My concern is they feel like its too easy to get in the side, their selection is not on the merit of their performance, but on favoritism . each player should be competing for the chance to play in the final eleven and you see that attitude on the field they do not look hungry for the game.

    I am sure if they were in another team they would have to be working a lot harder than what they have been doing for Arsenal this season, i fear our manager has not been demanding that they prove their worth to the team by working for their game.

    i actually did not mind seeing Ramsay on the bench and was glad wilshere was suspended, they both need to sit and watch arsenal play without them for a while, give campbell, rosicky and coquelin more time to show they can do just as well and probably even better.

    If you want to be the british core for arsenal, you have to earn it, these two playing together weakens the team, not to say they cant but they both need to know their roles in the team and apparently there is not any definition of their roles at arsenal and what they are suppose to do

  11. Usmanov says:

    May eventually turn out better(no kidding).
    I can’t remember exactly how (undoubtedly great) Xavi played when he was 22/23 or Iniesta when he was 21/22. But I am certain their partnership grew to become invincible when their age bracket was 25-28.
    Don’t write off the Wilshere-Iniesta yet.

  12. TH14atl says:

    They should not be in the side together. Wasted article. 4231 was working fine and had us on top of the league for a long time.

    Alexis (Ox) Mesut (Santi) Theo (Campbell)

    Ramsey (Jack) New CDM (Arteta)

    Nacho/Gibbs New CB (BFG) Bosselny (chambers) Debuchy (Bellerin)

    If we look like this coming out of January then we have a chance. Give Mesut a run of games in the 10. Give Campbell solid minutes off the bench to get a rhythm/confidence.

    1. goldfish27 says:

      TH14atl… are a better than Wenger…wenger have lost it and favouritism is killing arsenal Fc…Wenger Out

    2. goldfish27 says:

      TH14atl… are a better manager than Wenger…wenger have lost it and favouritism is killing arsenal Fc…Wenger Out

  13. Sango says:

    I tend to agree with admin on a number of points which lead to plan execution. But my view is slightly different in this way;
    1. To properly execute a 4-1-4-1 formation you need the right type of personnel in your team. The players must have the following attributes; physicality in key areas, good tackling skills, quick to close down small spaces, quick to switch from difference to counter attack & deadly on set-pieces. This is a rugby executed formation as you can see and there is no other way around it.

    Now coming to arsenal the players are mostly of small frame, seriously lacks the physical quality for this formation to work (as we saw Diame easily brush Flamini aside to score). Above all our players are not drilled for a 4-1-4-1 formation as they seem not to have a clue about it. They are renowned passers of the ball, athletic and terrific in tricks, dribble and body swerves. These attributes are way off the mark suited for a 4-1-4-1 formation. I tell you we were so luck against Hull & Anderlect in Belgium. If it was any other team in the mold of Dortmund could have had our butts on ice after the game as a result of a good spanking.

    The current arsenal team can expertly execute a 4-2-3-1(attack) & 4-4-2(defensive) formations. This depends on how the coach correctly picks his team.

    1. Usmanov says:

      Hmmm… Interesting!
      Kinda agree with You.

    2. Jogon says:

      This current Arsenal team has a bunch of players who play basic football ( pass to whoever is free and run your ass up and down the pitch), completely no vision, they are not aware of their surronding and just switch off when they dont have ball at their feet. The players need to understand the purpose of the pass they have made and what its outcome will be. The reason these players get a high % of pass accuracy is because they do the basic passing (1 meter passes) without any clue of what they are doing. I always try very hard to analyse what these players do on the pitch and dont get it. It is really frustrating to watch a player just running around the pitch like a headless chicken without any purpose . Most fans just enjoy seeing a player running up and down doing basic passing and they will say he is a hard worker but at the end there is no end product FFS.

  14. Robin Vanpayslip says:

    I don’t really think Wilshere can emulate Iniesta. Wilshere’s game is always to run from deep with the ball and then pass and move around the box. Everyone once in a while he manages it and it us amazing. Rest of the time he is just annoying.

    The reason Ramsey worked so well was that he also came from deep but without the ball. TBH we don’t really need a CM to actual run with the ball – more to just pass, move and be available again.

    Wilshere is basically playing like a winger through the middle and I doubt even Iniesta could do that considering the middle is always packed.

  15. Usmanov says:

    ” TBH we don’t really need a CM to actual run
    with the ball – more to just pass, move and be
    available again.”
    Man, I feel like french-kissing you(eww!) for laying out those golden words. Totally SPOT ON!
    However, I feel like Wilshire can definitely be an Iniesta if he somehow manages to do the simple/right things CONSISTENTLY.

  16. Mick The Gooner says:

    I’d be fine playing Wilshere and Ramsey together if Ramsey was played as box to box and Wilshere at No.10, with a quality defensive midfielder. But is Wilshere a better number 10 than Cazorla or Özil? I’m not convinced. So for me, Ramsey and Wilshere don’t play together.

  17. Usmanov says:

    Your comment completely summarizes the main point. Thanks man!

    PS: One of them has to be content with “allowing the other shine” so to say. I say Ramsey is matured enough to be the one.

  18. Usmanov says:

    @Mick the gonner.
    He is not playing as a “no 10” per say. I will suggest he plays as the most ADVENTUROUS central midfielder in a 3 CM system.
    Not as the most ADVANCED.
    Ramsey on the other hand should be focused on transitioning play through calm passing and intelligent movement in/out of spaces in the central area, rather than running box-box.

  19. marviniz says:


  20. LoCkAy says:

    Ramsey on the pitch and Wilshere on the bench where he truly and essentially belongs.

  21. atid says:

    I don’t really care for any of the aforementioned formations. In my view the most successful formation was the one used by wenger in his first 9 years and that is 4411 this way we would have players competing for places in their best positions. The current squad would have 2 players competing for each position in defence (if we include bellerin and hayden) and 3 players competing for each of the 6 advanced positions. For the main striker role I would have a choice welbeck giroud and sanogo the 6 wide players would be Walcott chamberlain gnabry sanchez podolski campbell and the 9 central players fighting for 3 slots would be ozil cazorla rosicky wilshire ramsey diaby coquelin flamini and arteta.

    I really don’t care who plays out of any of our players as long as they are in form, fit and not over used. The squad has good depth when you look on paper, but in certain areas we are lacking quality and some players are nearing the end of their arsenal careers. Rosicky, arteta, flamini, coquelin diaby and may be even cazorla and podolski could really all be replaced, may be not all once but certainly over the next 4 windows. That is 6 central players and one wide man.

    That for me is more important than whether wilshire and ramsey can or should play together.

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