Arsene’s Arsenal War Episode IV – A New Hope!
Since TA’s post about squad rotation and preferred line-ups I’ve been off in dream land at how I want to see Arsenal playing. Basically I would love to see a return to proper counter-attacking football – moving the ball up the pitch in seconds, killing teams off with speed and precision like in the early days of Wenger’s reign.
Before the World Cup, I remember posting a comment on this blog about how brilliant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was looking and how he could be one of the key players to England’s strategy at the World Cup – from Roy Hodgson’s comments in the aftermath of the assault on AOC in the second Stateside friendly it seems I wasn’t the only one to have that idea. I was excited by his pace and control on the ball and was disappointed for him personally that he wouldn’t get to play at a World Cup.
Having said that, it could end up being my favourite injury ever, and one of the best for his career as he will be fresher than any other WC squad members for the coming season. I believe/hope he can be used in a different way to last season, capitalising on the addition of the world class Alexis and the semi-imminent return to fitness of the former fastest footballer in the world (second now to Arjen Robben), Theo Walcott. If used to an effect pertinent to the situation at hand, I think his versatility can be a major weapon for the team now and in the future.
Let’s look at ways he could be deployed:
1. Terrorist winger. Ox is quick on the ball, can wriggle out of tight situations better than most without relying on his pace, is strong, and isn’t afraid to run at defenders; but at the same time, he generally makes good decisions about what to do with the ball. That decision making will become more refined with experience too. Maybe I’m expecting too much of him but as I’ve commented on a previous post, I envisage something similar to what Thierry Henry used to do to defenders.
2. Holding striker. His strength can help make this happen. Ok, he’s not as tall as Giroud but once he has the ball he can keep hold of it, hold defenders off and wait to link up with advancing team-mates. His awareness and ability to beat defenders will also add to his menace in these situations, as they won’t be able to get too tight on him in case he beats them, which will push the defensive line back and leave more space for our attackers.
3. In time, if Wenger follows up on his comment about Ox being able to eventually play in the middle: designated DM’s wingman. If we have a designated DM in the pivot Ox will have the freedom to roam forward and link up with the four front men. Using attributes already discussed, he can make defences nervous, making judicious runs into the box, passing or carrying the ball out of tight spots, drawing defenders to him and creating space and opportunities for team mates.
In general approach, I favour giving Theo his wish up front and having Ox, Oz and Sanchez behind him. My reasoning is that Theo is becoming acceptably reliable in front of goal (and more clinical than OG) and practice can only make more and more perfect. Whilst Theo would not be able to hold the ball up, the pace we now have in Alexis, Theo and Ox would mean that this would not be such a crucial skill for our front man to have…even if they couldn’t carve out an opportunity immediately, they can keep the ball between themselves for the few seconds until Oz, Rambo, Debuchy and Gibbs get there.
If counter-attacking wasn’t working (as it wouldn’t against Mourinho and his anti-football) and Giroud wasn’t on the field, Ox could then adopt role 2 from my list, and even interchange reasonably freely with Theo anyway, since Theo is used to a role on the right. It would all add to a sense of unpredictability to unsettle defenders.
Role 3 may come in time; he wouldn’t be ready for it now I don’t think – and Ramsey is everyone’s first choice for the kind of role I would like to see him playing if Wenger does move him into the middle eventually, but he could certainly learn to be a superb covering option for that position.
Wenger doesn’t pigeon-hole people and he plays to their strengths, so I think Wenger will use Ox’s versatility to the advantage of the team (including keeping Alex happy with the roles he is asked to assume).
The way I see it, the kind of football we now have the squad to play this season is really an evolution of the 4-4-2 we played in the late 90s – and they are among my fondest memories of Arsenal. I’m excited about the squad we currently have and Wenger’s decisiveness so far this summer. It suggests to me that despite all indications to the contrary since 2006, he knows exactly how he wants the team playing and he can now go and get the players he doesn’t already have to make that happen. I don’t really think there is a lot of room for improvement, although I would love to see a SQ DM come in. I think our attacking options are much more multi-dimensional than they have ever been for as long as I’ve been a Gooner.
It is Wenger’s time to go for the jugular. I’m hopeful of a glorious twilight to his Arsenal career.
How do the tactically astute see it? Am I expecting too much of the boy Oxlade-Chamberlain? Do I think too highly of him? Am I expecting too much of Wenger? Am I being wildly tactically naive? If we played the way I’ve outlined above next season (with a theoretically rock-solid back 6), will it be enough to give us a shot at the title?
On a personal note, I’m looking forward to taking my three-year-old to his first Arsenal game at the Emirates Cup on Saturday so if you’re going too, no swearing please… 🙂
Written by: Jozefos2013