How to get the best out of Wilshere in Arsenal’s 4-2-1-3 formation


Jack Wilshere’s performance against Brazil on Wednesday confirmed to the rest of the nation what many Gooners already knew: he is a special talent. Other than fantastic goals being scored, nothing is more exciting than seeing a footballer moving forward with the  ball; fully capable to hold on to it, to go past another player and move into space in front of him, and also able to find the killer pass at any second.

Against Brazil, Jack did this fantastically well. His close control was brilliant and when he moved forward the whole team oozed attacking intent: there was great running off the ball by England’s attackers and Jack found them on a regular basis. There was a wonderful energy about him as well: he radiated with enthusiasm and wore his shirt with pride: something that did not go unnoticed with the crowd.

England’s formation suited Jack very well last night. With the experienced Gerrard  and Rooney behind and in front of him respectively, and Cleverley next to him, he was given the perfect role against Brazil. With the hard working wingers of Walcott and Welbeck making runs all the time, and the clever link-up play by Shrek, Jack was given the perfect support to shine brightly. And boy did he shine on Wednesday. It was good for him to know the experienced Gerrard was right behind him, reading the game well and allowing Jack to express himself to the full. After an eternity trying to fit in Gerrard and Lampard into the national team, have England finally found their best midfield combination?

We have seen similar great performances by Jack for Arsenal this season. But Wednesday’s game also made me think again about his performance against Stoke City. I thought he played well as he made the best of the little space the Orcs allowed us on the day. But I felt, he was not playing close enough to Giroud, in order to give us more attacking options and to break up their walls behind and in front of the ‘D’.

I thought that both Arteta and Diaby stayed behind too much and should have played closer to Giroud by moving into the area in front of Stoke’s ‘D’.  I am not sure whether either DIaby/Arteta or Jack should have moved closer to Giroud on Saturday, but somebody should have.

This brings me to the key question: what is Jack’s best position in our current 4-2-1-3 formation?

For me, there are two sorts of opponents to consider in order to answer this question:  those who play a more open, attacking game against us and those who park the bus.

If a team plays a more open, ‘normal’ game against us, Jack is perfect in the sole, most advanced, attacking midfield position; especially if he gets good attacking support from the box-to-box fellow midfielder (Diaby ideally, but this could also be Arteta, Rosicky, or Ramsey). There is plenty of space for the attackers to run into, and with the wing-backs making constant runs as well, Jack has plenty of options in front of him to conduct/dictate the game. This he does better than anybody else in the team, although Rosicky and Cazorla are very decent alternatives.

However, against the bus-parkers – and the better Arsenal are going to play the more bus parking we will see during home games – we need the attacking midfielder to help out with being a direct attacking threat as much as possible. We need the numbers up-front to avoid our attackers to be isolated and out-numbered constantly; as was often the case against Stoke. We need the most advanced midfielder to be a decent passer of the ball, as well as a real goal scoring threat in those situations; and that Jack Wilshere is not (yet).

As soon as Cazorla came on and Jack moved back a bit against the Orcs, Arsenal looked a lot better and became a lot more dangerous. I reckon Jack best position against ‘park the bus’ teams is actually back into his previous box-to-box, lynchpin position. That’s where he, just like a conductor of an orchestra, will find the space and has the overview to dictate the game; and with Cazorla (or Diaby) in front of him, he has the ideal attacking midfielder to combine with and crack open the seemingly solid defensive lines in front of them (using the wings as much as possible as well, of course).

In fact, I feel strongly that against the bus-parkers we should  play more in a 4-1-2-3 formation, with Jack having the option to move back in order to find space and Cazorla or Diaby to move as close as possible to our central striker.

It will be exciting to see how Jack will develop further during the remainder of this season, and how Arsene will build his team around him going forward.

Arsene gave us Cesc, and now we got another midfield maestro in the making. He might not always get it right when buying and developing players, but when he does deliver to us another world class gem, we should bless our cotton socks he is still our manager.

Written by:  Total Arsenal.

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30 Responses to How to get the best out of Wilshere in Arsenal’s 4-2-1-3 formation

  1. GoonerB says:

    TA, Excellent post and I find it hard to disagree on any point. Your take on things seems to spookily resemble almost exactly how I see it. I had a bit of a psychic link thing going on with Rocky a while back, so maybe now it is just our turn. Your observation on the subtle difference between the 4-1-2-3 and 4-2-1-3 is where my thoughts are, and that we should switch from one to the other as the need suits us.

    I feel in addition to the bus parkers and the open teams, we need to consider a third option. That for me would be when playing another topr team that has decided to keep it tight but are extremely dangerous on the counter-attack. Not all top teams play openly, and we have been undone by Sir Claret Hooter many times playing this way in games that we have generally dominated in terms of possession and territory.

    This issue becomes even more relevant if we a goal behind to said team and need to commit midfielders forward to get back in the game. The problem is that, with our current squad, we also generally need to keep a 2 man DM shield against the better sides that try and keep it tight and soak up our pressure, and then counter-attack us quickly when they get the opportunity.

    Currently I don’t feel we quite have the right players or balance in the squad to do both at the moment, i.e commit midfielders forward while staying more solid against the counter-attack. I don’t feel any of our current DM’s are specialised enough to play this lone role against a better team where the quick counter-attack will involve far superior, more dangerous and quicker players than you get in the mid to lower table teams that keep it tight and let you come on to them. This for me is where the acquisition of a powerful, but also quick, specialist DM could help us get the balance right in this situation and allow Jack and Santi to continue to get forward against these teams rather than look nervously over their shoulder and feel they need to get back more to support the likes of Arteta, Diaby or Ramsey. As I said yesterday the lad Capoue certainly seems to tick the right boxes for this role.


    Great stuff as always TA

    What a Gem Wilshere is. I would have to say that we are getting close to a stage were a “free role” should be considered for this guy.

    Been Dutch, and schooled by the Cruyff, Nesikeens mentality TA, please allow me to ask you this question. Does Arsenes current system allow the possibilty of a free role and if so, do you believe that wilshere has the maturity to play it??

  3. Gerry says:

    Dog walking done. Dinner digesting. Just time to fire off a quick message before returning to updating duties – I have got over 3,000 records to change, put in new format and on the new database in the next 6 weeks or so. After that, current records start to build, so I am going to be kept busy, busy, busy.

    Yes, it was amazing how much consensus there was from the last blog. Capoue being the most touted name to go with the DM position. So that is where I would add another name to the list of ‘secondary’ DM position, and who can also be push forwards, that of Arteta?

    Presumably, the incoming DM will be ousting Arteta from his current role? He like Diaby can patrol round the ‘D’ with the best of them, so let’s not forget him.

    Meanwhile, we haven’t got that DM in place, And because the aforementioned is not an out an out DM, I do think he needs a sidekick, particularly against sides that play on the counter? It worked well against Stoke, perhaps because they were not fully committed to that until we scored, but I think it is worth bearing in mind against more adventurous ‘bus parkers’?

    The other thing not overly discussed is who fills the front 3 places. Pod, Gir, and Theo are the usual suspects? But that means the AMF behind them is a choice between Jack and Caz(who does look like a game changer when he come on as a sub?) when we are being more cautious, Or both if Jack drops back to box-to-box role, rather than leaving Arteta as the sole DM?

    It does not change much with my flexible suggestion of 4-2-4 with full backs providing the width, or 4-4-2 when they are defending, as Pod would be the likely one to drop back?

    Who’d be a manager, eh?


    By the way GB, you do indeed have a fine head of hair. I class you on the “Norwood 1” scale for hair density. In other words you would make a fine harvest for my needs.

    Theres no need to be concerned. You will soon aclimatise to Builders heckling you in the street with “Hes just a bald Tony Cottee, a bald Tony Cottee, hes just a bald Tony Cottee”. hahahaha

  5. GoonerB says:

    Hahaha Terry, I loved your 13.09. As regards to any decline in my bouffant, I am afraid it shows no signs of slowing down. I will happily enter negotians with you Terry for some supplies so that you don’t have to resort to skullduggary. In fact why don’t we set up our own company to harvest and sell my prolific folicles. In 5 years we could be the biggest company on the planet and the richest men in the world. We could then buy Arsenal and have meer paupers like Abramovich entertain us at half time in a pink lycra spandex suit and a Donna Summer wig. Hows that for a plan.

  6. Red Arse says:


    What’s going on with you and GB? You love his thick wind blown hair?? Ehh?

    I will tell the Glicster!! 🙂

  7. Red Arse says:

    GoonerB Naughty,

    You want “Abramovich to entertain us at half time in a pink lycra spandex suit and a Donna Summer wig. Hows that for a plan?”

    What do you want Abramovich to do to you?? 🙂

  8. GoonerB says:

    Nothing too serious on the Abramovich front Redders, just a bit of singing and dancing, maybe a bit of pedicure work at half time, and serving us our ale while wearing a pair of comedy breasts (like the ones from the great booze up in Blackadder), and then curtsying when he is dismissed.

    I must be careful to not upset the Glicster. I don’t want to end up trapped in some deserted Cornish town with Glic as the head of some type of Cult. I have already had nightmares about that, and it always plays out like a Cornish version of the wicker man. The most disturbing bit of my dream is when Glic pops up Christopher Lee style in a wig and dress dancing around to medievil pipe music.

  9. Red Arse says:

    Ohh, yess, GB

    You need to be careful with the Glicster!!!! If he invites you to visit his love shack — run like hell. 🙂

    Mind you, Terry isn’t much better — many is the innocent swain that he has enticed with stories of his terry-telescope, but the advice, again, is run like the wind, if he reaches for it!!! 🙂

  10. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi GoonerB 🙂

    Very good point about the 3rd category of teams. I reckon our 4-2-1-3 is very suitable for those sort of opponents, but I do agree with you with regards to the need for a very disciplined and strong DM. Look at the difference Ramires made for the Chavs when we played them recently.

    If we can get a beast of a DM, we could start playing 4-1-2-3 but until then we probably have to play the double DM anchor in midfield. However, with Arteta and Diaby we have in principle a fantastic combination of DM skills and both players can help out with regards to our attacking efforts. If the Spaniard and Frenchman can stay mostly fit for the rest of the season and Jack is played in front of them, then i reckon we have a midfield that can deal with two out of three opponent categories. However, agains the bus parkers we need to be more adventurous and add one of the DM to our attacking players.


    hahaha. GB, thats a great business idea. My nasty side would love to see Abramovich suffer. Not in a bad way, that would be wrong. But becoming poor, desitute and reduced to entertaing coal Miners dressed as a Tranny would be a start. hahaha

    Redders, how are you my friend? If i could put into words how much i envy GB’s hairline i would. Due to further thinning in and around the transplant i have been forced too result to camoflage products to conceal the balding. I am using a product called Toppick, its basicly a sprinker of pepper like substance on the thinning hair creating an illusion of volume.

    The only problem is that if it rains ime screwed. hahaha

  12. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Terry 🙂

    Very good question. The answer is yes and no. 😀

    There is a lot of freedom in our formation as both the attacking midfielder and the wing players have quite a bit of freedom to go where they believe they can be most effective. However, the wingers also have defence duties, but the AM has almost total freedom to go where he likes.

    The defence, the two DMs and the CF have full responsibility to guard the shape of the team and allow the other three to play with freedom. To a certain extent our LB and RB have some freedom as well: they are wing-backs in the end. However, they always have to keep their defence duties as their first priority, which makes it a very difficult role in my view.

    I reckon Santi and Wilshere are quite different in the AM role. Santi does go all over the pitch and helps out where he can, but he does not conduct much. Wilshere, like Fabregas in recent years, always guards the shape of the team and wants to control, conduct, orchestrate the play in front of him. Jack likes space and will always find it, but he is very disciplined in the way he plays, where I feel Santi is a lot more interested in getting himself in scoring positions outside the box, rather than give shape and structure to our attacks. Both are great players and as soon as we can play them together in a 4-1-2-3 the better really; although, Santi can also be effective in one of the ‘free wing’ roles.

    So, I guess Wilshere has a lot of freedom in the advanced AM role, but he can only use it without jeopardizing his ‘conductor’ responsibilities.

    Hope this makes sense to you, hahaha 🙂

  13. TERRYS BROLLY says:

    Thanks TA. Now youve said it i can see it. Your spot on.

    Got to pop out. Weres that umbrella? hahaha

  14. Mike says:

    I agree with this post on all fronts you have summarized well the situation and several comments have also add that a New DM would open up Wilshere to move forward more to link up with the forwards. I still feel Jack MUST add goals to his game but I will give him a break as not many games is he advanced enough to really be in position to be the one to score himself. I think the goals will come if he does get the support behind him to allow a more forward and classic number 10 role. At the moment I think Wenger sees Jack more as part of a two man Deep midfield position with Arteta, Diaby or Coquelin with Carzola as the Attacking mid BUT I really think Wilshere was given the number 10 for a reason and this role at the moment is temporary due to the lack of a real DM in the team at the moment.
    Keep up the great posts you have been my number one link for my Arsenal fix during the International break.

  15. VCC says:

    Hi Chaps….I still need entries into the UMF 1 from

    Volunteer for Red Arse (exceptVCC/PPP/GLiC)

    Please get your entries in before KO Saturday.

    Thank you again guys.

    Wont be around now until Saturday mid day. So please done let me down. I wont be able to hassle you all.

  16. Highbury Harmony says:


    Fantastic article and you’re on spot on with your observations. Jack’s always been our most promising prospect and he’s already become our best and most influential player on the pitch. It’s only a matter of time before we start calling him “god” ;).

    The only addition I would make to your wonderful article is that our forwards and mids seem to thrive under a fast pace game with quick decision making. When they’re afforded too much time against teams that park the bus, we tend to watch the play develop rather than spring into action. As soon as teams park the bus, we become very hesitant and start looking for the perfect play to dissect the opposition, instead of relying on instinct. In those games, we become too timid to make mistakes going forward and the sideways and backwards passing commences.

    As an analogy, think of a sport like tennis where it’s very difficult for a good tennis player, who’s used to hitting with others who put pace on the ball, to rally with a person who hits the ball very lightly and high into the air. When a player is afforded too much time to think, they often make mistakes and can even lose to a player worse than them because of the frustration that mounts from not being able to hit at the speed you would like to.

    Jack would be excellent in any midfield position, but as you noticed TA, he sort of hit a wall in creativity against Stoke and couldn’t provide the final pass for his team mates because 1) they were not making those runs and 2) there was no space to move forward (only backwards). When he plays further back in the b2b midfield role against teams like Stoke, he’ll have more pace moving forward with the ball and can manoeuvre around stationary players, opposed to trying to get around them at a relatively stand still position himself. I think Jack’s surging runs forward would then draw the opposition’s defence towards him and open the rest of the pitch up for our wingers to make those runs into the box and allow him to make those final passes.

  17. VCC says:

    Total…can you check your emails please.

    Have a good evening guys. Give GLiC some stick for me. 🙂

  18. Highbury Harmony says:

    UMF League Predictions:

    Arsenal away win
    $hitty away win
    Spuds vs. Toon draw
    Stoke vs. Reading draw
    Villa vs. West Ham draw
    Swansea vs. QPR draw

  19. glic says:

    Evening Vagarians 😆

    Thanks Total eclipse of Uranus ! 😆
    Fine post, but I`ve just come back from 550 miles of driving, so I`d be happy if he played anywhere as long as he plays !. You lot are far too technical for me !. hahaha

    I`m more into pussy diving and this is the finest piece of pussy diving I`ve seen. In Bergkampesque terms, it`s Pussyesque !.

  20. Highbury Harmony says:

    In case anyone wanted to rematch the magic that is JW10:

  21. Highbury Harmony says:


  22. TotalArsenal says:

    Mike and HH, 🙂 🙂

    Fine additional comments and all agreed.


    The key thing against PTB oponents seems to withdraw Jack and let either Diaby or Cazorla play close to Giroud. Btw, nice tennis analogy! 🙂


    Thanks for the feedback. Yes, Jack was given the nr.10 shirt for a reason. Not sure whether it is really important that he should score a lot more goals at this stage, or going forward, though. It would be very welcome for sure, but I would like him to get more and more assists first. With Pod, Giroud, Theo and Cazorla we have plenty of potential goal scorers, and I would like Jack to become the one who makes the team tick, and provides a great many assists.

  23. TotalArsenal says:

    Great video HH! 🙂

  24. TotalArsenal says:

    550 miles Glic! No wonder you prefer a different sort of diving… 😛

  25. RockyLives says:

    Great Post TA
    The wonderful thing about Jack is he can play further back in the midfield or in an advanced role or in the box-to-box role.

    I suspect he will end up in quite an advanced role, like Cesc did, although Jack is different to Cesc in many ways.

  26. RockyLives says:

    Here you go – all dead certs 🙂

    Chavs v Wigs A
    Naarch v Fulham D
    Sunder v Arse A
    Saints v Citeh A
    ManUre v Everton A

  27. Ain't Got A Kalou says:


    Great article, very good points about formations shifting against different teams. I think Arsene is sometimes too stubborn with tactics and could really benefit with your suggestion of a 4-1-2-3 against PTB teams.

    Rosicky/Santi and Jack up front are perfect for those games IMO. A proper DM would also give them more confidence in attack too.

  28. Herb'sArmy says:

    Greetings fellow Gooners.
    UMF 1 Selections:
    Norwich v Fulham – draw
    Man City – win
    Arsenal – win
    Newcastle – win
    Aston Villa v West Ham – draw.

  29. alexgunners says:

    Hi All,

    TA, Great article on JW10.
    He did play an amazing game and he is taking his game to another level.
    Brazil played a horrible game and that was due to the pressure applied in the midfield. Being a Brazilian, it was horrible to see one year away from the world cup at home. The upside is that our boys are playing well and lets continue to replicate these performances wearing the red and white.


    here are my predictions for the UMF:

    Newcastle (Away)
    Chel$ki (Home)
    Arsenal (Away)
    Man$hitty (Away)
    ManUre (Home)
    Fulham (Away)


  30. TotalArsenal says:

    New Post – New Post!! 🙂

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