I find myself in a tricky position and having to write ahead of Man United’s visit to North London when, ideally, I would have course sooner scribing post match. However, I will not arrive home until late on Sunday and have to be out early on Monday, the editor’s deadline. So what you are reading now is written on Saturday before the big match and in essence follows on from my last piece.
Previously, I suggested Wenger might look to get Alexis more infield and away from the left by pairing him with Walcott in a Chile style 4-3-1-2 formation. The joy of this system for me is that it allows Ozil two fast and mobile targets instead of one and enables Ramsey to move more centrally. We have seen against Leicester, and even in the disappointment in the Champions League, the benefits of better and closer combination play between Alexis, Walcott and Ozil, so I hope we continue to look to allow our two speedsters to play nearer to each other as appropriate.
That alternative deployment of the same outfield XI can be utilised in game with intelligence and, in all honesty, Ramsey is often infield and Alexis will look to get closer to the main striker anyway. What this does mean, whether as a starting formation or adopted in a match, is that the onus for width has to come from the full-backs. Recent worrying outings from Debuchy and, to a lesser degree, Gibbs has reminded us that Bellerin and Monreal are firmly our first choices. Both have demonstrated admirably this season that they can get forward and Monreal has provided two assists in seven games already. Bellerin was a right midfielder/winger as a youth player and his engine and recovery ability are invaluable.
The above musing and the emergence of Gabriel have led me to revisit a subject I write on in the summer when considering how Arsenal could vary their approach with the same outfield squad; an amazing foresight as it transpired. Forever in search of the much talked about ‘Plan B’, I have been considering again the merits of a 3-5-2 system for Arsenal and recent decisions from Wenger strengthen these ponderings. Firstly, it seems that the manager has decided to give Walcott the main striker role with Giroud as his back-up and, secondly, he has on occasion gone to a back three when chasing games. However, when chasing a result he has often sacrificed the most defensive midfielder in Coquelin and left Arsenal vulnerable to the break when pressing forward.
Perhaps if Giroud is the Plan B, then that plan should offer greater width and it should be a more advanced midfielder substituted for a third centre-back at the same time as the Frenchman comes on for Walcott. This would allow our two Spanish compardres full licence to operate as wing-backs and endeavour to get behind the opposition and provide service from the flanks for Giroud and Sanchez, who would play the target men.
I would envisage this as the perfect Plan B against disciplined sides defending resolutely when Arsenal struggle to penetrate with their quick passing and movement. A double substitution removing Ozil/Cazorla and Walcott for Gabriel/Mertesacker and Giroud would not just change the team with fresh legs and impetus, it would change the whole approach. It just seems logical to me that if Giroud is to be our alternative striker then why not play to his strengths with an alternative system. Ozil is not the ideal player to operate with the Frenchman it seems, so why not utilise a set up that offers him service from wide when he is the fulcrum of the attack?