Arsenal’s attacking evolution makes me optimistic!

Thoughts on Arsenal – Current and Future by NepaliGunner

It is a good time to be a Gunner. We are on an 8 match winning streak, 2nd in the table, in the FA cup semi-final and the form team in the EPL. It is certainly in stark contrast to our fortunes earlier in the season. It says a lot about the team, the coaches and the manager to get to this point. 2015 has proven (at least to me) that this Arsenal squad has talent at the highest level and is a cohesive unit. Arsene Wenger constantly mentions togetherness and spirit in his press conferences, and I think he has really instilled a strong sense to teamwork and togetherness in this team, which is a great credit to him.

What has been interesting is the evolution of the playing style. We finally have a balanced squad (more on that later). But there has been a distinct change in formation and playing style which has been discussed. The now cited 4-1-4-1 has been fruitful, although using any one particular numerical formation to describe Arsenal is not accurate. However, the one thing in particular that I would like to note is a switch of flanks which has really affected our players and the point of attack.

With the purchase of Alexis last summer, Wenger got a player who is a clinical finisher and extremely energetic player in both attack and defense. What he brings to the team is a fast attacker who can also hound the opposition, and generally be thorn in the opponent’s defense for 90 minutes. Alexis is an elite player, and has done a wonderful job for us. But we also had another player who had a similar function before Alexis came in – Theo Walcott. What Alexis’ role is now is what Theo did for us, but on the opposite flank. Now, few would disagree that Alexis is the better player. But more importantly, Alexis has also facilitated a switch in our flanks which affects some other players. I think that’s what will define the upcoming summer and the look of the squad next season.

This pivot primarily affects Theo, who has lost the leverage he had as a player because Alexis can do what he does better. Furthermore, the change in the flanks also does Theo a further disservice. Not that he is necessarily bad from the left (the 6-3 City game last year is one example where he was on the left and scored 2), but I do think he is still better on the right. Regardless, Theo isn’t a guaranteed starter now which affects his future at the club. I won’t go into too much detail since it’s already been talked about a lot, but I do not see Theo staying at Arsenal this summer.

The other player I think this switch affects and in more positive manner is Jack Wilshere. I think he will benefit from the change in formation and the flank as a position opens up for him on the right that I think better suits his natural tendencies. I do think this is where Wenger’s vision also lies; one that makes me excited. Given the 4-1-4-1, and assuming Alexis is nailed on to start wide left (with Oxlade and Welbeck capable of filling in), we have 3 positions in the 4 behind the striker (Giroud) that are essentially up for grabs by Ozil, Santi, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ox, Welbeck and Rosicky (Arteta might be a candidate too if needed). I think with the amount of games we play, it is pretty easy to see them rotate and everyone getting games. As we also know, our injury record is not stellar so I do not see an issue with game-time.

Here are a couple of iterations of the front five that I see as very reasonable:






There are other iterations that are reasonable too, but these two are most likely as right now Ozil and Santi are also undroppable. So with that in mind, Ramsey and Wilshere will probably come in to the team alternately, but they can all play a part.

This is exciting because I think either one of this formation maximizes the strengths of both Ramsey and Wilshere. Santi has been a revelation in the center, and contrary to what many believe I think Ozil is quite effective on the left too. With the fluid nature of Arsenal’s play, I do not think the starting position is of particular consequence though it does have implications on the defensive side. Furthermore, I think Wilshere’s strengths also lie in playing further up front, and cutting in from the left suits him better (Napoli last year is one example). Either ways, I think this formation makes a lot of sense. This is essentially of how Arsenal have played in the past (remember when Benayoun would play on the left with Theo on the right). This switches the flank but is essentially the same formation. One I think can be very effective particularly given Sanchez’s ability and also Ox’s potential (does Sanchez-lite sound too demeaning?).

This switch also affects the fullbacks. With a midfielder on the right flank, Bellerin’s attacking instinct also becomes more of an asset as his overlaps provide more space for the midfielder. I think this is also a reason Gibbs has featured less this season, although Monreal’s form has been great.

I think it’s an exciting time with a clear vision. Just to indulge in the transfer speculation (which has very little value I realize), I think next season we won’t have Theo, Podolski, Joel Campbell, Diaby and Flamini, and we will bring in one mid-fielder. I think transfer activity coming in will be very little. It’s about continuity and keeping everyone fit.

With a summer off, all players should be fresh to start and we should have enough players to rotate well. I am optimistic, but then again I am optimistic every summer. However, this season definitely seems like major progress. I just hope I am correct in my assertions.


Tags Walcott Wilshere


  1. SoOpa AeoN says:

    Not commenting!

    1. davidnz says:

      But you did comment 🙂

  2. Hafiz Rahman says:

    1 comment

  3. galen says:

    I have watch several attacking combinations this season. I think we are strongest on the wings when we play OX and Sanchez out wide. You look at the big games vs City away and United Away this 2 were sublime out wide. But Playing them means one of Ozil or Rambo will have to be benched as cazorla and Coq is a must.

    Thats why we wanted competition in the first place. Everybody is debating about starting 11 players but i think its not important. If we want to be playing quarter finals and semi of Champion legaue combine with the league we need a good squad . Every body will play a role. No man can be on form all season. You also need to rotate players when they are burned out or fatigue.

  4. josh37 says:

    Great article!! When wilshere’s in form, his give and go, driving, direct style reminds me a lot of Rosicky, never seems to want to move backwards. If he can re-find those killer balls he used to have he can really add a lot… I really don’t mind if people still think we should sell Wilshere… Wenger pretty emphatically turned any notion of the sale down when he said ‘we are no longer in a position where we have to sell our best players’ which was a hands off warning as well as showing how highly he still rates him.

    One small tweak though.. It has been Ramsey who has been playing on the right recently but i believe that choice is mainly, as you’ve rightly pointed out, to add a lot more pressure to the opposing defence. Cazorla and Ozil have really been working hard to keep shape centrally and when you have a one man wrecking ball winning the ball back in ridiculous numbers behind them it’s really not an issue.

    But I do find it odd you believe Theo will leave with no replacement which would sort of put us all in on this current set-up. When fit and firing Theo is as dangerous a goal-scorer (not player! goal-scorer) as Sanchez. He’s our player who can change game in an instant, and even when he’s not seeing as much of the ball his threat in behind simply must be accounted for at all times and often keeps a full-back pinned back with him. There really hasn’t been many potentially 20 goal a season wingers in the league bar maybe Bale and Hazard in recent times but Theo’s last full season he was right up there with the best of them.
    2012/13 – 21G 14A all comps
    2013/14 – 13 starts 5 sub apps 7G 5A. Was in great form when the injury hit.
    2014/15 – he’s had 5 starts 8 subs and 3G
    Aside from the last season those are truly elite goal contributions for a winger.

    The way people are completely disregarding how dangerous a player he is capable of and was actually being quite consistently dumbfounds me. He’s had a year off, not back to anywhere near his best in the limited times we’ve seen him this season and we’re in a fantastic run of form. Just because he hasn’t been playing does not suggest he’s not in Wenger’s/Arsenal’s future plans for next season.

    1. galen says:

      True talk. couldn’t have explained it better. I watch chelsea last 3 games. U see how they have struggle. key players getting injured. Not enough rotation. key players out of form. its a shame we fxxxx up at the start of the season. that alone just says how important it is to have a big squad and been able to rotate. We need jack and theo next season.

      talk about selling key players simply because they are not in the starting 11 is a joke. We don’t have a starting 11. we have a form 11 and in football the best 11 is not always the best team. U need to play base on form and base on opposition tactics as well.

  5. says:

    NepaliGunner, good morning and how do you do? SanchezOzilwelbeck – trio playing behind Giroud and CoquelinCazola shielding our defense-line are my best Arsenal playing formation. But a playing Gunners starting formation which excluded Welbeck, have now evolved as the current Gunners best playing formation team. I think any of your 2 playing formations may be adopted by the boss for our away game to Hull City Tigers. But certainly not for our home game with Chelsea. And our away game to Man Utd also not for our Wembly FA Cup final game. Have a nice day.

  6. Mukaya says:

    i will not leave 100% fit Ox on the bench and play a 100% Jack… way.

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