Time to change system and formation?
There have been calls by Gooners around the world for Arsene to splash the cash to add some defensive steel and world-class finishing to our squad, but this article will address an issue that goes beyond the addition of any new pieces that we could find in the transfer market. Sure, the addition of a proper DM would give our back four necessary protection and allow our creative players more license to attack, and an additional striker could either add depth during our injury crisis or provide us with a world-class finisher to match the likes of Chelsea, United and City.
However, one look at our first-team squad and no one could claim that we are short on quality. With the amount of creative talent between Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere and Sanchez alone, there should be no problem creating scoring opportunities. Yet, in most matches this season, we have lacked tooth in attack, remained slow in our decision making, creating very few clear cut scoring opportunities as a result.
You can criticize Giroud all you want, but every time he has stepped onto the pitch, we have been given a focus in attack to play off of up top, and he has created opportunities for others and himself to bring us back into games. He’s clearly not a world-class finisher, but without him, the attack seems rather deflated. So, is this a call for another replacement striker while he is out for four months? Or, is there an inherent problem with the system/formation?
My belief is that it does not matter who we purchase, because both the system and formation need to be addressed first (or simultaneously). If you have taken the time to watch both Swansea and Liverpool in the past two seasons, you will see constant free flowing football with attacking intent. Despite also having a focus on possession and slick passing, both of the aforementioned clubs are always moving forward and direct in their approach. The players are very active in finding open spaces to open up passing lanes for their teammates and will make quick decisions to play them early. On the other hand, I have always felt that Arsenal are too static in their build-up play, waiting to see if passing lanes will open up, instead of proactively going in search of them. Changing this mentality does not require a complete overhaul of the squad, but adding some urgency in our play to move the ball forward (opposed to sideways and backwards) and requiring our current players to work harder for a full 90 minutes.
Of course, playing in this ridiculous 4-1-4-1 has not benefitted the squad: as roles are fairly undefined in midfield, the center of the park becomes congested and we are largely wasting the creative talents of Ozil, who has been pushed wide. In addition, playing so many central midfielders, means that players are not making incisive runs into the scoring lanes. I’m fairly certain that, even if we buy a new striker without addressing the system and formation first, we will still be left disappointed with the end product. We simply do not create enough chances to score and win games, and we cannot become reliant on certain players to “save us”.
Buying is not always the answer and we have the talent here to at least create more scoring opportunities against mid and lower table clubs. Would new purchases help us though? They certainly would as greater talent and depth at each position can create better competition for places, pushing players to perform better as a result. Still, with the eventual return of Theo, we will add an essential versatility to our attack that is currently missing, which could benefit us in a big way. Until then, the coaching staff should really re-evaluate their approach to the game and try to better involve the pieces already within the squad. Of course, it’s still early on in the season, but the sub-standard performances to date are not promising for the season that lies ahead.
Written By: Highbury Harmony