How Arsenal will line-up after January – and Wenger should revisit old tactics


In 1996 when Wenger came to Arsenal he started his first match October 12th 1996 against Blackburn Rovers which he won 2-0 was patterned in a 3.5.2 pattern. He had Hartson and Wright with Mason, Vieira and Platt in Centre Midfield, Dixon and Wnterburn as Winbacks and Bould, Adams and Keown as the back three. He won 2-0.

By 1997, Wenger had identified Dennis Bergkamp as a player to build a team around. Within a year of his appointment Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit were signed to form a midfield pairing behind the Dutchman, and Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka arrived as targets for Bergkamp’s incisive passing. In defense he had Winterburn, Adams, Keown and Dixon. With Seaman in Goal, the pattern was 4.4.2.

The second 4.4.2 was formed in 2000 when Anelka, Overmars and Petit left. In their place arrived Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and the defense was Cole, Campbell, Keown and Lauren and Lehmann in goal. Toure made his way for Keown. Henry had the freedom to work the channels, run at defenders and seemed to be appearing from all corners. Bergkamp was executing a powerful between-the-lines role with Pires and Ljungberg coming in as ‘inverted wingers’ – both players moving into central areas from wide starting positions, Pires to create and Ljungberg to score goals. The more technical full backs were given more license to add in attack. To support Vieira in midfield, able replacements in Edu, Gilberto Silva, and later Cesc Fabregas were available. Meanwhile, in attack, Thierry Henry became arguably the world’s most feared striker. But you need to read his assists numbers to know how important his contribution to goals was. This resulted into the most successful Arsenal squad, it went on into an unbeaten title-winning season in 2003/04 and a Champions League Final appearance in 2006. Bergkamp and Hendry looked to have developed a telepathic chemistry of attack that no one in Europe wanted to face. However, there was a pretty strong a strong defense and a very disciplined midfield.

And new players came into the team. Bergkamp, Pires and Ljungberg went and in came Nwankwo Kanu and Robin van Persie, Jose Antonio Reyes, Tomas Rosicky and Alexander Hleb and in defense came Emmanuel Eboue and Gael Clichy replacing Lauren and Ashley Cole – but the basic balance of the side remained. During this period Arsenal won two Premier League titles, with four second place finishes, and reached six cup finals, winning three.

Both Eduardo and Emmanel Adebayor were played alongside Van Persie in a 4-4-2, but by 2009 Arsenal had adopted a 4-3-3 variation and before long the lone striker was introduced. With Van Persie operating as a lone striker, Wenger wanted to add a third central midfielder and give his wide playmakers more attacking freedom. At full back both Clichy and Bacary Sagna continued to be ambitious with their attacking runs, but now lacked the defensive support previously afforded to Arsenal by a flat midfield four – as a result Arsenal became particularly vulnerable down the flanks. In attack, neither Adebayor nor Nicholas Bendtner were capable of replicating Van Persie who was almost always unavailable.

In midfield, the balance was lost as both Abou Diaby and Alex Song was touted as Vieira replacements, but obviously lacked the disciplined presence of Petit, Edu and Gilberto that gave the team the defensive balance it required. Fabregas and Nasri were getting forward to support Van Persie, Arsenal need at least one of Diaby and Song to operate as a reliable defensive shield, but neither player possessed the positional discipline to provide such a service.

By 2013 Van Persie Wenger’s side were not a title-challenging side with the forward, but his goals did cover up a lot of flaws and stole a lot of points. Without the one player capable of fulfilling two attacking roles, Wenger opted to return to a creator-goalscorer axis, signing Santi Cazorla to play as an advanced playmaker and Olivier Giroud to lead the line.

Arsenal lack in natural holding players was met with the arrival of Mikel Arteta to join Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey as technically sound midfielders more adept at dictating play than shielding a back four. In attack, the transformation of the wide forwards from technical playmakers (Hleb, Rosicky, Nasri, Andrey Arshavin) to direct attackers (Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) took away from the team the creativity and tact that once defined them. Arsenal continued to aspire to dominate possession and press aggressively, but now had a forward line better equipped to counter attack and a back four uncomfortable with defending with a high line.
By 2015, Arsenal had brought in Ozil, Sanchez and Welbeck and Arsenal potentially looked like it would be a force if Wenger planned around this new attack axis. However, Wenger kept the pattern if play. Sanchez would be deployed on the left, Ozil in the Centre and on the right, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Welbeck and Ramsey at times. No one seemed to make the right wing their own. Certainly Wenger did not seem to want to pick from the market a dedicated right winger like he had Alexis on the left. Soon, Giroud was out of form and Alexis moved to Central Forward. In the left again there was no one to replace him and Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla were key here.

In the centre, again there seemed to be rotations with Cazorla, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain etc. getting to play here especially when Arteta left. Cech had been brought in and Arsenal had a goalkeeper one could vouch for.
In my view, Arsenal have been a team in transition for the last 10 years and have never settled into a team. That made it hard for there to be built in group success. It has also wasted talent of players when Wenger has been asking them to play in roles that their skill sets are not meant for. Very talented players were never given their best environment that complimented their talents like Wenger had managed to do with the Invincibles of 2003/04. Giroud, Alexis, Welbeck and now Lacazette are truly capable attackers, but they work very poorly in isolation and need an attacking team-ship. It has been the reason we did not go on to pick the goals we should have been picking over the years from the many chances and possession we have been able to have. We field like a team that already has 5 goals to nil and going for a second game in the robin round format and we just want to sneak in one more goal to get it over the line. If we succeed in bringing in Aubameyang we must pair him up with Lacazette and Welbeck can be the third striker if he stays in the team. I kept wondering why we never got to see Alexis pairing with Giroud and finally with Lacazette upfront. It is not a must that we play wingers as players in the central and backline can explore the wing places as well as a mobile attacking duet like Aubameyang-Lacazette can explore these areas. Wenger must have a pattern in place, get into the market and buy to fill the roles that his pattern involves and ensure that those brought in are capable of the duty they are being brought for. It is not supposed to be trial and error line-up. He needs a team vision and he needs to share the vision to his prospective sign ups and needs then to see what they are coming to do at Arsenal FC, how that will take the team forward and even the trophies we can challenge.
Arsenal actually played 2017/18 with seven defenders! Talk of lack of balance. (We played with defending minded wingers and add the defending minded central midfield). The confusion leads to players in the central midfield to join in attack and forgetting their duty as transitioners of the team (turning defending into attacking and start the first defending of any attack to us).

Here is my dream lineup based on the current Arsenal transfer stories; Play Pattern 3-2-3-2 (3.5.2)


My squad Vision would be as to have each slot rotatable with at least two dedicated players and a third player available.

Central Forwards: Aubemenyang, Lacazette, Perez, Welbeck, Akpom – Bring Back Perez from loan and Play any 2 in a match. If not sell Perez and Welbeck and buy one accomplished striker and one young striker.

Attacking Midfielders: Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Malcom, Iwobi, Reiss Nelson – Bring Back Joel Campbell from loan. Play any 3 in a match. Possibly buy one more player.

Central Midfield: Ramsey, Wilshere, Xhaka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Joe Willock – Replace Ramsey and Elneny by selling them and buying new players. Play 2 players in a match.

Left Back: Kolasinac, Monreal – Pick one player in a match – Need one or two more players

Centre Back: Koscienly, Mavropanos, Mertersacker, – Pick One player for the match – Need to replace aging Koscienly and Mertersacker – 2 More players for a two-year transition. One senior and one youth system.

Right Back: Bellerin, Mustafi, Rob Holding. Pick One player in the match. One more player from the youth system would be okay. I note Mustafi and Holding have been doing central Defense a lot, but I feel they can push Bellerin for this role and bring balance into the squad.

Every player in the squad knows, their playing position, knows their colleagues/competition and training needed for the position. Wenger must stop this madness of utility players. Players who are rotated into every position and have no specialty. It is one way that he has succeeded in not making his players tick. Granted, Monreal, Koscienly and Mustafi can play several roles here in defense. But they must be developed into a single position holders and only used in other parts in times of crisis.

What do you think?



  1. John Legend says:


    “Arsene knows best”

    We have seen nothing with the downward spiral. Arsene appears to me like a man out to prove a silly and delusional point. He feels he knows what he is doing but does not. He feels he loves the club but in the real sense, he HATES Arsenal.

    We need our Arsenal back!!!

  2. McLov says:

    Özil on the wide won’t work.

    Le Dictator won’t change his formation.

    We will fudge up Nelson situation as well.

    And Aubameyang is still a faraway dream..

    1. Nikkogunners says:

      Here, i have three Attacking Midfilders…Not Widemen. Wenger used to play Ozil and Sanchez at two Attacking Midfielders, here i have proposed three…

  3. Midkemma says:

    I would be tempted to see the old WM formation but I do not think it would work in the EPL right now, I do think that the old 4231 could work with the right players or for AFC, the diamond 442.


    I know Auba is playing as a CF but he can play on the wing, he would offer us a real counter attacking threat and with Laca goal poaching instinct… Either Laca will find himself in space or he will make a gap for Auba to run through on goal.

    Ozil would have a lot of fun choosing which deadly pass to make with attacking potency of that front line.

    I aint a fan of Mkhi but hey, if he helps us get Auba then why not? Could always look to sell him at a later date… Maybe look to use him as part of a deal to get Fekir or Griezmann in the near future?

    1. Midkemma says:

      Forgot diamond XD

      Def the same, from Midfield;


    2. arie82 says:

      Y starting to thinking like wenger, playing players in different position from their natural position.
      Auba is monster goalscorer CF, why put him in the wing.
      Make duet with laca, we got duo amazing CF

  4. kronologik says:

    ”And new players came into the team. Bergkamp, Pires and Ljungberg went and in came Nwankwo Kanu and Robin van Persie, Jose Antonio Reyes, Tomas Rosicky and Alexander Hleb..”

    dude, Kanu was there b4 van persie started to shave lol

    1. Nikkogunners says:

      Coming into the first team…not arrival at Arsenal

  5. Sue says:

    Still no signings….Jesus this is killing me!!!!!

    1. Bur says:

      Are you surprised?

      1. Nikkogunners says:

        Entire Arsenal Attacking units seems to be going… in 2010 Wenger went looking for Ligue 2 players like Giroud…lets hope he does not go panicky raiding the championship

    2. Coldzero says:

      We aren’t going to sign anyone of note- it’s all the usual smoke and BS as usual from Arsenal.

      My guess is Alexi will go, but there will be no one in return.

      The Aub rumour doesn’t have any legs in it I don’t think, why would he come to Arsenal at the moment? The Malcom deal seems like the usual Arsenal propaganda – his club have said there has been no contact from Arsenal at all.

    3. COYG_CA says:

      Sell first! No bank money will be spent. Must get the $ from outgoing first!

  6. Twig says:

    What if we don’t get to sign any of Auba, Mkhi and Malcom?

    1. Sue says:

      I hate to think!!

    2. Nikkogunners says:

      very huge possibility you know…Wenger doesnt even like Auba…

  7. Chamber says:

    These articles with lineups including players no where close to signing for Arsenal are so annoying..

  8. MagnaGraecia says:

    Welbeck – never a top talent. Fergie knew a thing or two.

    1. Maks says:

      I agree, Wenger bought him just to compensate for rvp sale but it was bullshit.

  9. CorporateMan says:

    Hi Nick, this is excellent stuff. Can’t wait for Mr Wenger to step aside so you can take over. Why are we looking far when our perfect solution is right here with us. COYG!

  10. Grandad says:

    Interesting article but how could anyone with a degree of football knowledge include Mustafi and Xhaka in the team for the future? Arsenal F C needs to be rebuilt from top to bottom but until a certain Frenchman departs all our speculation is academic.

    1. Ray says:

      Exactly, Mustafi and Xhaka??????

      FFS come on!

    2. RSH says:

      The lineup was for after January. We’re not going to find a Xhaka replacement in January. And Arsenal can buy any defender they want, and they will quickly become terrible under Wenger. Personnel is not the issue with our defense. Bellerin, Mustafi would both excel under better management. Holding too. It’s no surprise he was good when he first came, but then went bad one summer later.

  11. Kroenke Out says:

    Auba would be a great buy, Mkhi is an alternative to Ozil leaving not a natural Winger. With both Alexis and now Walcott leaving we actually do not have any 1st team wingers. Iwobi is still a B team player for me. I think we can play 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 with this team. Although we still dont have a midfield enforcer, (Xhaka instead of Kante??? really Arsene??) and we have a need for a real quality defender.

  12. Maks says:

    Whats the point writing about tactics when we have no clue who will be at the club after january transfer window?

  13. Ray says:

    What a pile of S**T this all is!

    At the end of the day no one has signed, only left or leaving. It’s all “dream talk” (again).

    And yet the biggest problem still persists, Arsene Wenger is not leaving!!!!!!!!!

    1. BlaZing gunZ says:

      + take this as the new thumbs up

  14. jon fox says:

    Nicholas, You asked for our opinion of your ideal team (incl transfer linked players) so here goes. I think anyone who thinks an Arsenal team which should or does include Granit Xhaka, as you bizarrely do, should be let nowhere near this site. Lucky for you the thumbs down is now gone. CRAZY THINKING!

    1. Ray says:


      Hows that?

      1. jon fox says:


    2. Nikkogunners says:

      If Wenger predicts the only prediction he is known to be right all the time – He isn’t leaving…then Xhaka is in the team for February 2018 and will play every game unless he gets sent off..

    3. RSH says:

      what DM have we been linked with this window though? Malcom/Aubameyang/Mhki are the main three transfers we’ve been after this window so it’s pretty unfair to insult Nicholas for keeping Xhaka in since the club isn’t even looking for an upgrade (even tho they should be).

      1. The Defiant Man says:

        True. And Wenger now says that since Kolasinac is returning to LWB, Maitland-Niles might play as a DM.

        To be honest, the idea isn’t bad, but the current manager has not been able to improve players in defensive positions… But it’s good that at least we now have 3 players who can play as wing backs well enough.

  15. jon fox says:

    With no thumbs uo or down now, lets create our own. A + sign for thumbs up and a – sign for thumbs down. I’ll kick it off, if the site lets me.


    We are not getting any replacements, I believe that Wenger will call back the players on loan and will say that it is almost like a new signing and if he do… I will line up like this,
    And if Ozil leaves I will have to give a chance to Ramsey on that position. As you all can see We are pretty much screwed…

    1. ALBERTOGUNNER says:

      And if Aube really comes I will line up like this

      1. Nikkogunners says:

        The first two look enticing…I would love to see Lac + Aube…terrorism every weekend for opposition

        1. The Defiant Man says:

          The first one is probably the most practical, although if this is for now — Monreal is still better than Holding, who should find a better challenge in the championship or teams like West Brom.

  17. Jim wall says:

    Start of next season new manager
    …………………… New goalkeeper……….
    Bellerin……. New cb… New cb…….. Sead

    ………………… dm………………………
    …………… Willshire…….. Ramsey………….
    ………………… Ozil…………………

    1. Maks says:

      New manager no Ramsey in starting 11.

  18. Sue says:

    Oh how I miss Seaman, Adams, Winterburn, Dixon, Keown, Petit, Vieira & Wright….. sigh ?

    1. Sue says:

      How could I forgot Bergkamp!!!!

      1. Ozziegunner@Newcastle upon Hunter says:

        By the way Nicholas, Dennis Bergkamp was not a Wenger signing; he was brought in by the previous Manager Rioch in 1995!

  19. waleed adams says:

    I really love arsenal there’s no team I’ve supported before and no team I will go on to support but arsenal. I 100% to 200% agree with the 3-5-2 pattern definitely would love to see peraz back from loan if aub don’t sign.
    Peraz lacazet

    Nelson ozil Malcolm

    Ramsey wilshere
    Kolasinec konsilny


    With the replacements ready . Like Micky xhakar. Welback. I really would like to know if Wenger reads our post thanks

  20. TH14atl says:

    Good article. Appreciate the time and thought you put into it, and the detail.

    For me, either Real Madrid-like diamond 442:
    Hector, Kostafi, Nacho
    New CDM (cause Xhaka is Xhaking….left-footed mikel arteta as a CDM)
    Malcom Mhki/Jack
    Laca Auba

    That team, with a proper system of play could be very dangerous on the break. Giroud to rotate with the front two. Welbz to only play in the mickey mouse cup cause he’s pants. Bring back Perez. Yes Hector here because he’s a great fullback.

    Or 3412:

    LK6 Mustafi Nacho

    AMN NewCDM Jack Kolasi
    Laca Auba

    Width for services from kolasinac and AMN because Hector’s final ball is poo. Giroud and malcolm to rotate with the front two. Mhki/ramsey/Iwobi to get time in midfield.
    (I bet Joel Campbell could make a good wingback as VIctor moses did for Chavski. Just a thought as well).

    That shape, with the proper shape and tactical discipline could be dangerous as well.

    1. Nikkogunners says:

      True…for Joel…He can run, Got muscles and by now he should be no push over with the ball…Not sure his crossing has improved though

  21. Bur says:

    Why dosent he go and buy half of that Forrest team.

  22. RSH says:

    no way we secure 3 signings in Jan. Arsenal take ages to complete the simplest of transfers, and usually we don’t get our intended targets. I really only expect Mhkytarian to go through and the others to fall apart.

    1. Nikkogunners says:

      Either way we will have new signings…Wenger Signs from the squad…so they are there…What matters if from the market or from the training room

  23. Declan says:

    Walcott has signed ??

    1. jon fox says:

      AAAA++++ A champagne day for Gooners!

  24. Innit says:

    Im ? of the insults of Mktharyan. Arsenal fans insulted Koscielny and Giroud when they firsr came here. If i had a £1 coin for the number of times i heard or read “Giroud is a donkey ?” i would be a millionaire ?innit.
    Its the same old ?. Im sick? of it. Please give him and all new comers at least a year too prove themselves.
    Also Wenger ?, doesn’t always use players in their correct positions or give them enough minutes or refuse to start them.

    Mktharyan has excellent ⚽ passing and dribbling skills. He can play as a forward or creative attacker

    If Mkhtaryan comes here, i will give him several months to adapt and support him.
    He was fantastical in the bundesliga. ??and he can perform well here.

    I gave Xhaka time too before criticising him
    He isn’t worth the money and i see no signs of improvement. At least with Mktharyan you saw what he can do at Borussia

  25. Nikkogunners says:

    Man United confident of signing SAnchez without Mkhitayan….Wenger wins again…he can now go and sign some micky mouse replacement…

  26. BlaZing gunZ says:

    What the fcuk has happened to AFC ??? I’m still in shoCk

  27. SaleSaleSale says:

    Time to unleash Nelson and Nketiah. The future is here!!

  28. Jabby says:

    If we can get Auba and Mkhi it would add more firepower to our attack…but Wenger needs to buy a DM(Seri) and a quality CB(Niklas Sule).

  29. Ozziegunner@Newcastle upon Hunter says:


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