The new season is almost upon us, and with new signings coming in fast now there is plenty of reason to be positive. I reckon Giroud will once again be the first ‘attacker’ on Wenger’s team sheet this season, but I will devote a separate post to this at some point this week.
This post is about the possibility of a serious plan B, if not a future plan A: the reintroduction of 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 without a ‘holding centre forward’. We now have the players who can come close to the most magnificent combo of attackers I have ever seen at Arsenal, if not in any team: the Invincibles of Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Ljunberg. The main reason I feel so positive about the possibility to resemble these ferocious, fabulous four is the arrival of Alexis Sanchez: he holds the key.
Alexis = Dennis in the making
For me Alexis is a player who comes very close to what the one and only Iceman once had to offer to us. I watched the Holland – Chile game again this week and studied Sanchez closely. As many know, he is a very good finisher and winger, but he can also play centrally, either up-front or, ideally, in the hole – ala Bergkamp. He can play with his back to the goal, can turn quickly and attack space and/or players with menace, has great ball control and composure, and he can also spot and execute a killer pass at the blink of an eye. On top of all that, he has a great shot and can be a fox in the box too. Sanchez in two words is ‘attacking versatility’ – just like DB10 was – and that is just what we need at Arsenal right now.
So for me Sanchez could be our new Bergkamp. This might take time, but he has the right attitude and in Wenger the best tutor to get there.
Mesut = Robert in the making
Now this will not be universally supported, but I reckon Ozil best position is in the ‘free role’ on the left. Ozil needs freedom and movement and does not naturally hold the area between the opposition’s ‘D’ and the middle line. He still does well at Arsenal in the hole and this is partly because Giroud is so good at holding onto the ball in the middle, allowing Ozil to roam freely; but this is for a different post.
I would prefer Sanchez, or even Jack, in the hole as they both are more natural in owning the area. Ozil is a great player who will ALWAYS add value to a team, with his movement and immaculate positioning and passing, and for me he will be most effective if played on the left with a licence to roam – including into the hole. As such, I can see Ozil developing in our very own new Pires, who was also not a typical left winger. Mesut will always produce assists (and penultimate assists, for a lack of a better word), but in this new system there will be space and time for him to start scoring towards 15 PL goals a season. The beauty of both Mesut and Sanchez is that they can interchange positions, which will make it really hard for opponents to eliminate our ‘creative force’.
Santi, Alex and Theo = Freddie in the making
On the right, we need the ‘new Ljunberg’ and this place is up for grabs for the likes of Santi, Ox and of course Theo (and maybe Gnabry eventually). Santi is possibly to slow and lacks defensive discipline at times, and Theo lacks the close ball control skills Freddie possessed, but they both can produce the assists and goals the Swede once produced for us. I reckon Ox come closest to a Freddie-esque player but he would have to work hard to get there; maybe Santi or Theo could play there until he is ready? And there is still scope for Santi himself to work hard and become our very own new Freddie.
Theo, Joel or Alex = Thierry in the making
But who could be the new Henry? At this stage, I can see three options: Theo, Campbell and, my favourite, the Ox. I need to observe more of Campbell’s talents to be sure whether he has all the attributes to develop into a Henry-esque all-round attacker, but what I have seen until now is very encouraging. He has good close ball control and speed, he possesses a great shot and finishes well in the box, but most importantly, like Henry he comes for the ball all the way to the middle, and makes things happen once he has got it. He has presence and attitude and a good engine, despite having to improve his fitness a bit more. He is comfortable with the ball, and also makes good runs with or without it, and he can also pick a good pass. Of course, he still has a lot to learn but he is a very exciting prospect for us, and I hope we hold on to him this season (which is really not a given right now).
I reckon Theo could be lethal in the ‘free central forward’ position, IF played in front of Sanchez, with both Ozil and Santi/Ox on the wings. Key in all of this is Sanchez being our central anchor, who can play with his back to goal and orchestrate our attacks from the area in front of the ‘D’. The one limitation of Theo is attacking players in front of him with the ball (in tighter spaces): Theo needs to be released into space to be at his best and he is not so comfortable with the ball as Henry once was. I find him still more suited to the wing than centrally up-front, but would like to see more of him there with the right players around him.
And that brings me to the Ox. For me he comes closest to what Thierry Henry offered us for so many years. He also needs Sanchez to be in the ‘Bergkamp role’ as to have the freedom to make runs with and without the ball and not have to be the holding man (ala Giroud). Jozefos2013 excellent post yesterday, about the many options for the Ox, has made me realise even more that his best position might well be the Thierry role. Ox is brilliant with the ball when attacking space and/or players: that is his strongest skill. As such, he can play on the wing, just like Henry once used to do. But there is a real thrust in his play: a power and determination to make it to the goal and score, and for this he has the physique, the stamina, the speed and the close ball control/dribbling skills. The Ox also has a good to great shot and a good eye for a through-pass too. I would love him to be played up-front with Sanchez behind him; I reckon he would be revelation there.
I know I am dreaming when I write this, but the prospect of Ramsey and a beast of DM/Diaby (everything that sticks out crossed he stays fit for a long period!) in the double-DM pivot, supporting Ozil, Sanchez and Theo/Santi up-front with Ox/Theo as our furthest forward gradually growing into our new ‘Henry-Bergkamp-Pires-Ljunberg foursome’, has me very excited!
I doubt strongly whether Wenger has these sorts of plans for the team, at least not in the short run. And that is okay, but the prospect of having a really attractive plan-B potentially in place, and that we might have the players now who have the talents and could reach the heights of our former super-attacking Invincibles, is just fecking exciting!
Written by: TotalArsenal.
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