HOW DO ARSENAL BEAT ATLETICO MADRID?
Clearly, Arsenal’s season defining moment is here. The Europa League draw on the 13th of Friday for those who are superstitious gave Arsenal a ghastly baddest draw against Atletico Madrid. The worst possible outcome as Arsenal drew the ‘best’ team remaining in the competition.
Arsenal’s away record in the EPL continues, we lost to Newcastle United in a game we started brightly but the same old mistakes came back to rob us the points. Arsenal now have lost in 5 straight away matches on a trot. Which means even the chances to sneak through to any Champion League spots mathematically are now even slimmer.
Unfortunately, Arsenal’s new seasons hopes are rested in winning the Europa which right now most Arsenal fans have equated to beating Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals matchup. It has been branded the best possible final of the 2017/18 Europa League being played at the semi-final stage. First and foremost, I do not agree that beating Atletico is equal to winning the Champions League slot – We will have to beat either Marseille or Red Bull Salzburg.
These two other semi-finalist are not easy opponents, especially because of the kind of adrenalin drive football they displayed to seal their place in the semi-finals. Red Bull were looking so much out of contention having lost 4-2 in the first round and going on to concede first. They then had to recover scoring a goal within a minute of conceding, then scored another 3 goals in four minutes to book their place.
Marseille lost narrowly in their first round matchup and had already conceded in two minutes of the return leg. At one time when the match was three-two for Marseille, it was RB Leipzig who would qualify on away goals rule. Then there was a solo intervention by Dimitri Payet to bring Marseille into the leadership of the matchup. An injury time goal just confirmed their qualification.
The two games, contrasting with Arsenal’s game where Arsenal almost succeeded in replicating Barcelona’s champions League exit feat had it not been a few brilliant moments by Petr Cech and ‘Henry-esque’ solo initiative by Welbeck. The two teams seemed to have wanted it so bad and the one that makes it to the final will be very dangerous at that moment that the trophy is in the stadium waiting to be lifted, at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Deceines-Charpieu, Lyon – France on the 16th of May 2018, facing Arsenal whose wanting it so bad seems not to show very well in the pitch.
However, for Arsenal to get into the final where we will have to play one of the two, Arsenal must get past Atletico Madrid. So how can Arsenal be able to get past a team most Arsenal fans seems to have come to feel will deny us a better next season? I have four points on what needs to be done.
First, the play pattern that we have been deploying is not kind to our squad. We have been playing one striker upfront and restricting the midfield to very definite and predictable roles. We have now effectively settled back to a four-man defense after experiments with both four and three man backs. I think four at the back is more stable and should remain. However, 5-man midfield is allowing for the mistake to having too many players available that one can feel too comfortable to fill all the necessary roles making the players one dimensional in their play. Basically players stay in their positions and failing to take advantage of opportunities they can get in changing positions momentarily.
Every time a defender scores, which in football is many instances, someone took a chance and switched roles. It also means that the opposition can easily counter Arsenal progress knowing too well who is playing where at all times in the match. That is why four-man midfield with three key roles covered and the fourth one free-role makes a lot of sense. The extra man concept in modern football is one that has lost flair. But imagine if you have 9 positions filled out…4 in defense with advancing fullbacks providing wing depth – Cafu, Roberto Carlos like fullback would be great. Bellerin once looked to be headed that direction until a change to three-man defense halted his progress as now he was to operate as a wingback which ideally should have been better for him but somehow his defensive focus seemed to have evaporated. 3 in the midfield – An attacking midfielder, a box to box midfielder anda defensive midfielder; two centre forwards.
Then you have the extra man – He can appear to help out the defense to avoid conceding soft goals and start a potent counter attack; He can help in the midfield defensive roles to break up opponent’s attacks as well as help out the midfield in distress to avoid soft loss of possession; provide outlets for deep lying attack initiations; offer wing support and attacking midfield duties. In attack, he becomes either the third of the fourth dimension attacker supporting the centre forwards or even the box to box midfielder who arrives late but finds the spaces restricted by returning defenders. In the Newcastle game, we saw how well Lacazette and Aubameyang can operate as for the first time they both started together and in 14 minutes they had their goal. Throughout the game Aubameyang looked like he prefers playing from the centre. Time for Arsene to consider the change over and West Ham United is a good match at the right time to put this pattern on trial.
Against, Atletico, the extra-man could tilt the match in favour of Arsenal by causing Arsenal defenders to have that extra boot to stop Atletico from scoring and Arsenal from conceding needlessly like we have been doing a lot of this season. It will get the us starting out on counter attacks quicker and in the midfield it will solidify our grit in there where we need it. The extra man will help shower up the wings and also support the attack to ensure when we have them with their backs on the wall, it will result in a goal mostly. My first player for consideration of this role is Mkhitaryan. The second is Welbeck when Aubameyang is playing (EPL), then Iwobi and then Reiss Nelson. Elneny would be way up there but at this moment until we get sign-ups during the transfer window, I’m biting the bullet to have him in CB position – crisis mode in this area it is for me.
Secondly, ban the following players from the pitch unless we cannot help it. Koscielny, Mustafi and Wilshere. These players have been at their worst possible footballing performances lately. Koscielny looks a shadow of himself and has been defending like he is on go-slow. His partner in crime is Mustafi and together they have ensured Arsenal have their worst defensive records for a long time. If they had been up to scratch CSKA Moscow would have been buried in the first leg and Petr Cech would have gotten his 200th clean sheet rather quicker. Wilshere has been atrocious in losing possession in the middle of the pack, destroying good opportunities, letting us into pressure unnecessarily and generally making up the numbers but reducing the quality of the line-up. Again, it’s time to try the new defensive set-up.
Thirdly, play Welbeck and Lacazette upfront as partners. Clearly, Arsenal fans must be wondering what would have been had Sanchez and Giroud been played as two-man centre forwards. Now everyone is wondering suppose we can play Lacazette and Aubameyang together and now with Welbeck coming back into form, what if we can fit him in there with Ozil, Ramsey and Mkhitaryan…
Fourthly, here is the line-up I feel will overwhelm Atletico Madrid. Pattern 4.4.2, with Iwobi starting off from the free-role as described above.
How does that line-up look to you?