Tactics with new signings – can we return to the ‘Arsenal Way’ of attacking (4-2-4?)


When the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal finally went through, the biggest side story was the rather curious performance statistics of one Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Manchester United, where of late he was not enjoying his football. The issue was that he would be best suited to the Arsenal Way of playing football.

When it was finally confirmed that we had got the deal to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, over the line on time before the transfer window closes, the statements attributed to Arsene Wenger was that Aubameyang would be suited to play the Arsenal way!

I want to request for clarity. What is this ‘Arsenal Way’ of playing? When Arsene arrived at Arsenal, we changed our game and became an attacking Arsenal. We were often compared to Barcelona.

Let’s look at Arsene Wenger’s most successful sides to establish Arsenal’s style. In 1997-1998 Season, Arsenal won a famous domestic double when they won the FA Cup and the EPL Titleship.

A typical Arsenal line-up would be as follows; 4.4.2 pattern


In this pattern, Anelka was Striker, but Bergkamp Deep Forward role. Overmars was the Winger and despite being biased on the left, he could also turn up on the right side of the wing once in a while in a match. Petit was the central midfielder, literary protecting the back four and initiating counter attacks and Viera was the box to box role – often referred to as the Shuttler (Shuttles from through the channels to provide linkages from attack to defenses. Parlour was the wide midfielder and could turn on both channels but with a bias to the right. There was the reliable Winterburn and Dixon marauding but well timed overload runs into attack and defense. Adams and Keown provided a no-nonsense defensive shield for Seaman.

This resulted into what was a dynamic team play where every acre of space in the pitch was covered but only at the time that the coverage was necessary, allowing the team to take advantage of movements and provision of men where they were needed. It was essentially a fluid 4.4.2.

In 2001/02 season, there was another domestic double. This time the marks of invincibility were already showing. Arsenal won the Premier League by a seven-point margin, were unbeaten away from home and managed the unique feat of scoring in every league game. The team also lost just three games all season. Arsenal went on to beat Chelsea 2-0 at the Millennium Stadium to lift the FA Cup.

A typical Arsenal line-up, still in the 4.4.2 pattern would be as follows;


The dynamic and fluid team with every acre of space in the pitch with the team taking advantage of movements and provision of men where they were needed was now maturing. Pires and Ljungberg were playing a superb inverted wing roles cutting in and overloading the attack.

In 2002/03 season Arsenal missed out on repeating the double after squandering a 2-0 lead at Bolton in the last 10 minutes and a 3-2 loss to leads and finished 5 points behind Manchester United. Notable Campbell was shown a red card in the earlier game with Manchester United and Viera got and injury. The two players were key and arguably had they stayed on or if their replacements were almost as equally in delivery, then the domestic double would have been a possibility.

In the invincible season, 2003/04, the same squad was playing together for a third season and definitely the substitutes had learned their trade. A squad that the substitutes bench power included Martin Keown, Jose Antonio-Reyes, Sylvian Wiltord, Ray Parlour, Pascal Cygan, Gael Clichy, Nwankwo Kanu, Jeremie Aliadiere, Justin Hoyte and David Bentley… it is perhaps important to say that the Invincibles were built of a powerful bench power and any player called upon into the team would deliver just ok.

Again, it was the dynamic 4.4.2. this time it had matured into the entire squad as see from the bench power above.


This pattern went on until Arsenal pulled some pretty powerful performances in the UEFA champion League in 2006 especially, coming to just 15 minutes away from a famous win against Barcelona. One would argue that Wenger should have replaced the overworked Thierry Henry rather that removing Alexander Hleb.

After 2013 we switched to a target man. It was made worse, when in 2016, Wenger switched, not to three-man defense and everyone seem to believe but to 5-man defense. A team that had received accolades like never before playing breathtaking dynamic attacking football, had now become an invitation to be attacked.

My argument has always been the best defense is attack and in football to win you have to attack and therefore, the primary reason football match is played is to win. Defense, is never the reason for football. Dedicating over 6 players to defend is not Arsenal’s way.

If Aubameyang is brought as a target man just like Giroud was and Lacazette has become, Arsenal would still not make it and Aubameyang would be a flop like Walcott, Giroud and lately Lacazette is being feared to be headed.

Wenger does not have an option but to revert to the four-man defense. A two pivot midfield complimenting each other and a powerful attacking unit. We actually have the squad material right now to recreate the invincibles.

My new Invincibles pattern would be a pattern of 4.2.4. It would be as dynamic as the 4.4.2 of yesteryears and would cure our problem of late, not getting the goals scored.

—(Deep Forward) Mkhitaryan—–Ozil (Deep Forward) —
——–(Defensive Mid) AMN—–Wilshere(Shuttler)——-
Monreal—-Mustafi——Koscienly—–Bellerin(Please defend first!)

Aubameyang and Lacazette play exactly similar and people say they must be one for the other and Aubameyang will replace Lacazette in the first XI. The two can play both wings and therefore they can play interchanging. They are fast (Though Aubameyang is faster). With four-man defense restored and Monreal and Bellerin getting their balance of attack and defense right (They should be sentenced to watching Cole, Dixon Lauren and Winterburn tapes), the forwards can execute Wing Forward roles well.

The Bergkamp role will be taken by two superb players who can score many goals themselves. Ozil and Mkhitaryan sharing attacking midfielder role. Ainsley Maitland-Niles can execute the Defensive Midfielder better than anyone in the squad right now and can calmly sit in front of the back four. Wilshere will be the shuttler and play the Vieira role. He may not be tall and all that but he can execute this duty well.

If the back four can hold, then we are in with the chance to do the Invincible. The Arsenal Way.

Nicholas Oyoo


  1. I’m confident that these new signings will reinvigorate our team (and manager) and give them something to work with. Far too often we dither around buying the odd good player, but this time we’ve made a few positive changes that give us a really good chance of being an exciting team to watch again. We always have good days where you think the magic is still there, but the next game it disappears again.

    Hopefully talented new blood and Ozil (Wilshere?) signing will bring back those days of teams fearing us just a little. That’s what has gone, the fear of playing a team that scores with ease….a bit like City are at the moment. Teams know that City will be relentless in their desire to score and win games. I want that back at Arsenal, that teams are nervous playing us and we capitalise on that. Maybe I’m dreaming, I hope not!

    1. My biggest fear is that Wenger will play Xhaka or Ramsey instead of Wilshere, even if the latter is much better than The Lazy One and The Loved One.

  2. Well, the 442 was effective years ago but now hardly use . If new coach comes , which I hope a manager like Tuchel ( former Borussia man ) can make Miki and Auba play like they used to under his management then we are in dreamland. today’s footballl is wiser than before so your line up depends on the oposition and wether home or away. few months back we were playing 3421 then after some horrendous shows we reverted to 442 lately and still can not accomodate Lacazettete into it. We can go with 4-2-3-1 ( miki-Ozil – Auba and Laca up front or vice versa ) or 4-1-4-1 ( Xhaka behind Ozil-Jack – Miki – Auba and Laca ) or diamond 4-3-3 but it is very risky against counter by the pacy teams such as Pool and City. i do believe with new coach we can eccel with these players. Still missiing a top DM ( carvalho has been always my favorite DM ) ..opinions divided but respected.

  3. I like this for two reasons it’s the best team possibility ( wenger won’t use it)

    And Xhaka and elneny are not it it

        1. We are not making any use of his abilities, his good with his long balls, and long balls we dont use, i dont understand why Wenger went for him and ignored Kante, sigh..Fred is a nobody = (

  4. 4-2-4? Gung-ho attack? Arsenal were often exposed with 4-2-3-1, usually leave only two defenders behind, let alone with 4-2-4.

    Looking at Wenger’s tendency, he could stick to one striker, with either the usual 3-4-2-1 or 4-1-2-2-1. I hope he considers using a more direct approach with 4-3-3, that uses the skills and the pace of two inverted wingers:

    Bellerin . Koscielny . Mustafi . Kolasinac
    ………………..Ozil . Wilshere
    Mkhitaryan ………………………..Lacazette

    Ozil and Wilshere would feel less pressure by playing in deeper positions and would be protected by a DM (Elneny or Xhaka). Or Arsenal can use their 110 million strikers as wider attackers and control the midfield with more midfielders (4-1-3-2):

    Bellerin . Koscielny . Mustafi . Kolasinac
    …….Mkhitaryan . Ozil . Wilshere

      1. Exactly. Check his atrocious marking for the Swans equalizer.

        And earlier, when he decided not to track back during a counter. Horrible CM. Even Ramsey is miles better defensively. Xhaka is also our slowest player after Mertesacker.

        1. Didnt know he was only a oue of paces in front of mert but he is also one of our weaknesses
          You dont need to be a road runner to play there it can help but you do need to have discipline and have awareness.
          Unfortunately he has none of that
          Time after time he leaves us exposed…to be fair we do have a few just like him playing at the same time..
          Hate saying it but we do need a new person leading us asap. Move AW up or out and get someone in asap as i am losing the will to live every time i watch us..

          1. Xhaka has got to be the slowest and most awkward player ever to play for us… he is unbelievably slow on the turn … gets bypassed easily.. just not sure wot he brings to the table.. long passes? Meh ..that mildfied needs a no nonsense robust runner to compliment Jack Wilshire who has a shade of a certain genius Carzola

  5. In the short term I think it’s a non issue because Laca is tired and PEA is tested so I think it will just be PEA replaces him particularly with EL kicking off soon.

    I the long term the only way I see it working is as a genuine 4-3-3 where the front 3 are interchangeable and hence create an advantage by their movement. The only issue I see with that is that the full backs would have no protection given that the front 3 would be purely an attacking one.

    What I don’t really see happening is the current back 3 way with the new signings all integrating. With a back 3 I guess one of Laca or PEA is not starting.

  6. I strongly agree with the cited Arsenal way. And just to add, we swapped to 4-5-1 in 2007 iirc. Its been downhill since then.

    Perhaps the best cure is to go back to basics where actual chemistry works. Although I would make one rule and that is to bench Ramsey, xhaka until they are truly ready.

    Maybe sead would be wiser than amn(?). Either way, wilshere as shuttles would be spot on. Here’s to hoping.

  7. We will not start to experiment now that we got new players in, he will rotate some players, but he will barrely start our best players together, as they dont complete each other

    Something is crossing my mind, its kinda stupid, but Aubuma joining us is terrible news for Laca, and if he doesnt start to fire soon, i see Arsenal doing businuess with Atl, madrid in replacing Corrasco or Griezman with Laca

  8. Likely a 4231 since none of the big-4 will want to be left on the bench. If the 2 in front of the CD can sit there 80% of the time then the formation might work (AMN-Wilshere, leave Xhaka at home). Just leave the attacking to the top 4 with the fullbacks in support. Miki-Ozil can switch roles between the 10 role and right wing. Laca-Pea can switch from center forward and left wing.

    1. Xhaka is a thirty million plus player, so he cannot be excluded. Ozil sucks really hard as a winger, he cannot switch role with Mkhitaryan, can only stick in the middle like Giroud

  9. Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why people are excited, but the main problems were not dealt with, and if anything, it could now get worse.

    I said the other day that Arsenal need to be averaging 3/4 goals per game from now just to get a win, because we’re so bad defensively. We now have a potent attack, so it could happen, but it is a big ask. My worry is that we could be even more open at the back now. Starting LMAO together means that that’s four players that are not realistically going to help us defensively, and rightly so, they’re not defensive players. None of them are wingers either, which means our fullbacks will have to provide the width. We also have to start with four defenders, instead of five, to accommodate LMAO, and with no DM, and the fullbacks pushed up, that means only two defenders, and nothing else, to defend counter-attacks.

    It’s going to be very interesting to see how Wenger fits all of this together, although it’s a nice problem to have.

    1. You are right. No new explosive wingers and nobody from LMAO boyband is willing to defend.

      In addition to that, the manager is still our Supreme Leader, Wenger. Expect no penetration from the wings and dilly-dallying at the center again

  10. A)



    D) Wenger Fav

  11. Formation has nothing
    to do with results.
    The fact that only one team
    can win in a field of 20 is massive factor.
    All teams have at least 50 times in possession, + rack up 700 passes
    every game yet most teams average 1.5 goals or less per game.
    30% of the goals are defensive errors, 30% are luck 15% referee errors.
    Only 25% are well taken goals and most of those are scored
    by much stronger teams v weaker opposition and usually at home.
    What is the formula for winning in the EPL?
    Apart from the Leicester miracle you buy the best players,
    keep them fresh and motivated.
    Even then one season is the limit because not since
    2009 has a team backed up the following season.

  12. It is a re-build.

    Wenger is fine and no longer is tied to a British/English core. I this core that led to foreign players underused, as the core was weak, unlike the ManU and Spurs British/English core. In part because ManU could buy any great English player, and the Spurs seem to have some good youth players coming through (though I do not know the details).

    Wenger is fine also because the debt for the stadium was more or less done with the arrival of Ozil, whose presence indicate the manager’s view of what was needed to win. Wenger worked in Alexis, who became a superstar at Arsenal from a bit player at Barca–shame on him for leaving.

    However, the coming of Mhki and Auba has more than made up for Alexis and Theo, though I am not sure that losing Giroud was good, but it was price to be paid.

    We are much better now than last month just with those changes, and we have the “new” look team signed for 3 more years with more to come in the summer in defense.

    4312 would be deadly. Laca, Auba, Ozil, and Mhki and maybe Ramsay too would in the mix, but I do not rate Wilshere as he is much too slow and unable to double back to play defense given his stature.


    We should see a dominant DMF as Xhaka is too slow, unless Niles makes it big and grows physically too along with a big more speed to add to what he already possesses.”

    I think 442 with Laca playing a bit deeper is another option as two strikers mean both score more given the service behind them.

    But, the four man defense has keep clean sheets.

    So Xhaka has to use his range passing and be held back, and Mkhi has to be used as link playing more inside, while Bellerin can be wingback, who has to more defensive.

    The wingers (wingback too) on the left need to dig deeper into the corner with more individual skill (Monreal) or heft (Sead) to then feed crosses or shoot from the box coming in.

    If the back four are asked to defend at all costs, I think this will be like a Leicester team, deadly on the counter.

    Next year, Mahrez can be a target to be partly financed by a sale of Ramsay (25M) and Wilshere (25M).


    Elneny should play this 442 as a 4-1-3-2 to protect the back. If Wenger can park a half bus and use the forwards to attack there are many 1-0 or 2-0 victories given how good the forwards are. There are few EPL teams that cannot hurt top teams, so caution is important, while not giving up on attack.

    So… defend… attack…. attack is the mode.

  13. Kolasinac would be a great prospect for the DM role remember he made his name at Schalke for being a ball winning midfeilder.

    1. JJPawn and Bernard, why hasn’t Wenger thought of Kolasinac as DM or part of the midfield to breakup play in lieu of Xhaka? So much for scouting his performances at Shalka. Monreal has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent players and he and Kolasina should both be in the starting 11.

  14. To be a success any system deployed should not include bang average players like Xhaka and Mustafi.Give Holding and Chambers a run at centre back in a flat back four and I am sure they will make the grade. They cannot be worse than Mustafi and Koscielney who is in rapid decline.

  15. these fans who turn themselvs in tactical expert make me laugh.the 4 2 4 tactic is long gone and the “man marking” is long gone also….rubbish.

    1. Where as you blindly follow wenger, who is losing his grip on power. And think elneny and Xhaka are good enough

  16. ———————Cech————————-


    The Key here is how well we can go away from home and defend as a back 4. Kolasinac and Mustafi can push wide against wide attackers and our DCM who sits and reads the game allows himself to not only protect (when we are in shape) but drop and slot next to Kosciency if we are not on the counter. This means we revert to a sort of back 4 giving Xhaka the role to drop and support. This system works better as it gives our attackers the freedom to not drop and tuck in and allows Xhaka not to be the DCM (which he is not).
    Also Laca will need to drop, hold up the ball more and be the late arrival into the box rather than a target man.

    All of this of cause is my opinion, it’s very unlikely to be used.

    Most likely 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 with Auba one of the 3 behind the forward. Of which I am okay with this if he and Laca interinterchange

  17. Leahmann

    DB10 was a CF who excelled at dropping into the ACM role.
    Pires and Ljungburg cut in and didn’t stick the the byline to whip crosses in.

    Wengers tactic hasn’t changed much apart from dropping a DM for more of a deep lying playmaker and the B2B is ‘WTF is defending Ramsey’.

    Just cause Sky Sports use to say we lined up a 442 doesn’t mean we played a 442.

  18. Nice… I really love this!!! Thumbs up but, i will prefer to see a built Niles(like Viera) in DM to seeing a Xhaka…

  19. if we stick to a three man defense and with the lack of a good DM we might have to unless AMN turns out to be the DM we need.
    Koscielny Mustafi Monreal
    Belllerin Kolasinac
    Wilshire Ramsey
    Ozil Mhki

    If we want to play with two forwards then Mhki our and Laca next to Auba.

    We could also go back to a back four but without a real fighter in the middle of the park protecting the defense I dont think we can make it work.

    But if we do I dont think Wenger is going to a 442 but using one attacker in the wing.

    Something like

    Mhki Ozil Laca

    In any case right now its all down to Arsene as usual.

  20. we dont have the midfielders to play that formation, only way it would work is if we played counter attacking football, and that goes against the quick possesion passing or (wanna be tiki taka ) game the club wants to play and has bee playing since wenger took over. it worked then when we had two midfielders in viera and petit as those mid are a different class and that’s not technique but robust tackling and the abilty to keep the ball drive forward and most importantly not lose it. take the ball from viera you end up in a coma!! do you think granit rasmey wilshire are able to do that? be real. i would go 3 4 1 2 or 4 3 2 1 or 4 3 3 i think these formations suit are current crop of players you want to be using our turbo pace in the channels. we got pace that’s for sure, write a note take it to the bank! we got pace!

  21. Kolasinac in that DMF role…he could be the beast we need there. He can teach Xhaka a fe tricks on fighting off attacker without picking cards. Speaking about cards, is it possible Xhaka has been told to be less agressive. he used to kick people around that area and picking cards. Lately he seems more concern not to pick cards

  22. My best 11 ATM “4-1-3-2” or “4-4-2”


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