Is Triple Thrust the future?
It often amuses me when I speak to Gooners, on and off-line, about Arsene Wenger’s management style, and they tell me that Wenger has no ‘plan-B’ and never prepares tactically for a game. It is most probably true that Wenger does not prepare for every game tactically in great detail, and he also likes to play the same system from one season to the next; but that does not mean he has not got another system of football, or Plan-B if you want, if need be. Just think back to our home game against the Chavs, when he shut the door and played not to lose (as we were still licking our wounds from a heavy defeat at the Northern Oilers).
As I wrote recently, Wenger has a deductive style of management: he thinks things through, produces a plan of how he wants to set up the team (at least in his head), talks to his coaching staff and off he goes implementing it. The plan or system of football and formation is key, and from this he will buy, train, and mould players in such a way that they bring his vision/plan to live. It usually takes time, but once the players get it and start to work as a team, some of the finest football can be enjoyed by both Gooners and non-Gooners. And what he develops is often copied by other managers, even though he has usually already moved on to the next system of football, as he is into perpetual improvement, it seems.
It looks like Arsene is developing two massive new weapons (three actually, but I will come to that later): the combo-wings within his 4-4-1-1 formation, although this could also apply for the former 4-2-1-3 system (to which we might still revert back to). On the left we have Gibbs and Alexis, and on the right, at least for a little longer, we have the Chambers: the Ox and Calum. As others have pointed out, the Ox-Calum train is moving quite nicely right now, and the longer they play together the better their partnership on the right could become. Both are very promising players and have the hunger and talent to make that wing theirs.
Of course, at one point the more experienced pair of Theo and Debuchy will be ready to take over, but one is out for a while and the other will need time to get back to full match fitness after a serious injury. So let’s see whether the young ones can make further progress in the next month or so.
On the left side, we have either Gibbs and Alexis, or Gibbs and Ozil, with Monreal coming back soon as well. Especially the Gibbs-Alexis combo is looking very promising: two very talented, athletic and hard working players who seem to be able to work very well in tandem, and who have no apparent problem with staying put on the wing. I have high hopes that these two can become the deadliest wing-combo on the left in the PL, if not Europe.
The good thing is, as we saw on Wednesday, both wings give us thrust and creativity, and plenty of options for our central midfielders – two of: Ozil, Jack, Ramsey, Santi – to make the play. It remains to be seen how effective they are against the park the bus teams; but even then, the best way of cracking these open and smash them is to stretch and attack them from all sides. And both Ox and Alexis have the additional ability to dribble past defenders, as well as receive a ball in space and power forwards to the goal.
And if we add the central partnership between Ozil and Welbeck to the mix, you can see we will have even more thrust and invention in the team. The first two goals against Villa should give us real hope that this partnership could flourish very nicely this season.
Having these three options to attack our opponents will make us very hard to defend against as danger will come from all areas, and this has been lacking for quite a while now.
Of course, there is a lot more to football than the vertical partnerships on the wings and in the middle. Partnerships between Alexis and Danny, Alexis and Ozil, Ox and Ozil, Ozil and Jack, etc, are just as important. And then there are the horizontal lines of partnership, partly depending on the formation we will be playing during the rest of the season. But this is for another time.
It is also key that the DM and the box to box midfielder are of high quality to both facilitate the attackers and protect the remaining defenders (with FBs often venturing forward, leaving their colleagues exposed). Some of us have argued that we really need to play with two DMs in order to not allow all that thrust up-front to backfire on us.
To be frank, I am not sure what Wenger is trying to achieve exactly. No doubt, it is the big battle between thrust and rebound/counter-football on the one hand, and totally controlling play on the other hand (both styles of play we have seen at the home of football during the Wenger era).
Ideally, we will combine the two into something very special, but this is by far the hardest thing to do. My money is on Wenger trying to achieve just that, as that is what he is like. It might frustrate us at times, but ultimately it will come good. Or not, but then at least we tried to be different and exciting.
And for those who doubt whether Wenger can still pull it off – and some doubt continues to linger in me as well – let’s take Sir Winston Churchill’s wisdom into account:
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”. 🙂
Or, as a friend just emailed me, ‘No moss gathers on a rolling stone!’.
Written by: TotalArsenal.