Ever since this summer’s pre-season, we have seen some pretty strange combinations played, but no one was prepared for the insane team selection announced one hour before the Liverpool debacle While nothing can explain, let alone justify, leaving our only two summer signings on the bench for such an important match, and giving starts to our two most fervent want away stars, the maddest decision of all was playing key defenders out of position against a fast, attacking team like Pool.
Ceding eight goals in only three matches is more than enough evidence that ‘three at the back’ is no longer working and that there needs to be a radical re-boot if we are ever to get this season back on track. And the only way to do that is by abandoning, at least for the moment, the 3-4-3 formation of the end of last season and going back to our classic 4-2-3-1 set-up, or variations thereof: 4-2-1-3 and 4-3-3.
The reason is simple: only these formations play to the strengths of our existing squad, and now that the transfer window has slammed shut, this squad is all we’ve got. Injuries and suspensions aside, the defensive pairing of two international defenders, Koscielny and Mustafi, should become our bedrock. After all, if they are good enough for France and Germany, they have got to be good enough for Arsenal, especially with the additional defensive cover of Bellerin (who is definitely not a wingback) and Kolasinac, both of whom can also explode forward in attack when required. Our goal is well covered by Cech and Ospina.
Until we find our defensive stability, Coquelin should be brought back in the starting X1, in the hope that he finds his form of 2015-2016. If not, we need to consider if Chambers could work in this position. On current form, I would chose Elneny to partner either one of them, and Wilshere could be a real option as well – if he stays fit. Xhaka needs to be dropped in the short term until he can sort out both his head and his play. His recent performances suggest an underlying panic that causes reckless mistakes. Maybe he can get his confidence back after some cup games, but at the moment, he is one of our major disappointments.
Ozil and Ramsey should compete for the CAM position, and we should avoid having them both start. The competition will be good for both of them, and they both need to sharpen up. Our attacking options are the strongest they’ve been in a long time, with lots of competition. Personally, I would consider starting Sanchez on the bench until his head and heart are sorted, and that won’t happen until we start going back to playing smart, dynamic football, scoring from our chances and keeping clean sheets. We need a dynamic push now to rescue a season that’s only just begun, and the way to do it is to acknowledge our strengths and play to them.
What do you think?