Date:24th August 2016 at 11:39am
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So here we are, two games into a new season when Arsenal fans might have hoped to have been bullish, despite the disappointment of last season’s capitulation.

Of course the majority are not bullish and many are resigned to another year of the same formation, with predominantly the same players resulting in the same outcome. Yes there may be a few days left for Arsene Wenger to dust off the cheque book, but those hoping for a wonder signing may be once again left disappointed.

I still expect a defender and an attacking player, but who and at what level remains to be seen.

Granit Xhaka is obviously a good player. It remains to be seen if he is the answer, but what is certain is that he gives us another dimension – both with his physical presence, which may stop our tendency to get bullied on occasions, and with his long range passing accuracy.

I sincerely hope the latter skill will offer us the ability to vary our method of attack, giving us the option to play an over the top or use the diagonal to convert defence to attack. With his addition, Wenger does seemingly have a veritable smorgasbord of talent in the midfield areas and will have some decisions to make about how and where he wishes to deploy his troops.

In the short-term, having no Aaron Ramsey may make this task a tad easier, particularly as trying both the Welshman at ten (10), and last week Santi Cazorla, had not really worked in Mesut Ozil’s enforced absence.

What I truly hope above all else is that Wenger reverts to some of the flexibility in tactics and formations he showed in the 2014/15 campaign, particularly away from home where the 4-1-4-1 formation worked so well.

I won’t say I am confident about this and I am sure we will see the 4-2-3-1 system with Ozil and Olivier Giroud restored and Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain this Saturday.

I think it is possible though with no new striker for the first-team squad arriving as yet, and without Danny Welbeck; this is why he is experimenting with Alexis as the lone striker.

Cast your mind back to March 2015 and the FA Cup quarter-final where he utilised Welbeck playing across the line at the head of a 4-1-4-1. The pace and mobility of Welbeck fitted that system perfectly and allowed us to counter effectively.

Photo: Mark Leech

Summer signing, Xhaka – Photo: Mark Leech / Offside.

Whilst I am not as convinced as most Gunners that Ozil must be central, I do accept it is where he is most effective individually and it is where Wenger wants him. Our usual 4-2-3-1 allows him the central number ten role, but that night at Old Trafford was simply majestic and still central in the 4-1-4-1.

I wonder whether we might use this system again in certain games, specifically in tough away fixtures as we did in 2014/15, moving Sanchez up top in those matches where Wenger used Danny in the past?

To elaborate, it is apparent that rather than see Xhaka and Francis Coquelin as alternatives, Wenger may see Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny as competition for the deepest role. In short, this is the interceptor, tackler and protector of the back four.

In a 4-2-3-1 formation, one of them would play with Xhaka behind Ozil, although I am sure Cazorla may feel differently. In the 4-1-4-1, I have described I see Ozil potentially alongside Xhaha, with either Coquelin or Elneny sat deeper when we are without the ball.

The two wide players that night at Old Trafford at the start were Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain, but I would actually like to see a left footer on the left and a right footer on the right, so we would love to see Jack Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain in the left and right midfield berths.

Wilshere looked very sharp in his short cameo against Leicester City and will be knocking on Wenger’s door, I am sure.

Without the ball, this is a compact 4-1-4-1, but as soon as we have the ball, the shape can fluidly become a 4-4-1-1 with Elneny or Coquelin pushing up alongside Xhaha and Ozil moving closer to Sanchez – as Dennis Bergkamp did with Thierry Henry.

Photo: Mark Leech / Offside 0101022004

Arsenal legend, Henry – Photo: Mark Leech / Offside.

The personnel would vary on preference and of course we have Alex Iwobi and Ramsey to return, and Santi could play the Xhaka role or the wider midfield position with ease.

Whatever the players used, the 4-1-4-1 formation without the ball to the 4-4-1-1 system with the ball is a formation we used well in 2014/15 and I think could again, with Xhaka’s passing range, add to its potential.

Whether we will see it will depend on those still to arrive and of course on whether Wenger again sees the merit in something that worked so well the season before last. I say that because he seemingly ignored it last term when injuries might have made it a viable alternative.

 
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