Is 4-1-2-3 with both ESR and Ode in the ‘2’ feasible?

** Discussion Post **

Mikel Arteta is revolutionising the team and we got a good taste of what is to come on Saturday. Arsenal looked fresh in all departments and we all appreciated it.

It remains of course a work in progress but Mikel is showing real courage with his team selection and the first signs are promising. The cynics will point out it was only Norwich and only just one nil, but the result and opponent matter much less than the courageous road the management now have actually taken: the multi-coloured elephant guiding us forward on our path is deserving of our attention.

The ultimate 4-1-2-3 team?

I can see that defence become a regular feature with perhaps Holding squeezing himself back in there. We have in fact good back up and competition in all positions.

The attack could also be more or less settled with two powerful wingers and Auba as a mobile CF. Laca should be able to push himself into the attack again and the youngsters will also get a chance to get into the team, but an attacking three of Pepe-Auba-Saka could well become a regular feature.

The midfield on Saturday was necessarily more makeshift and I can see Arteta making changes here. Not that the boys did a bad job and they certainly will push hard for first team time going forward.

The big questions for me are:

  1. Can we push up two attacking midfielders with just one DM type midfielder behind them, as per the formation above?
  2. How to incorporate both Emile and Martin otherwise? Playing just one of them seems to make Arsenal too one-dimensional.
  3. Is XhakA-Partey in a 4-2-3-1 our stronger option when both are fit?
  4. Who could cover for Thomas when injured, Sambi or Ainsley?
  5. Is the above formation too attack focused or will ESR and Ode manage to fill in the gaps surrounding the sole DM?

I would love us to play with the above formation, at least to see it tried out.

What are your views?

By TotalArsenal

43 thoughts on “Is 4-1-2-3 with both ESR and Ode in the ‘2’ feasible?

  • Not a bad selection but perhaps, too early to have Partey run the DM all on his own and at no other ground than Turf Moor. I say leave out Pepe (or Saka, not likely though) for ESR until the second half when the course of the game can make up the manager’s mind who and when to bring on.

    So, retain Partey and Lokonga/AMN as DM pair, drop Pepe for ESR since we would need to maintain possession well while Partey can provide the covering/back-up that would be required of Pepe, when Tomi overlaps. I may even be tempted to bring on Laca at some point to add muscle in the forward play. This is Burnley we are talking about and here should be no room for ‘lack of commitment’, especially if we go ahead.

    Anyone else see some of the choice, X-rated tackles they handed out to Everton players, mostly tolerated (going unpunished) by the Refs?

  • Cheers Eris,

    I wasn’t necessarily talking about our next game but more of a formation for the season.

    I agree with your concern about Partey. Yet I also believe Mikel is keen on the 1-2 in midfield rather than the 2-1 we currently have..

    I think you are right re Sat’s game. Pepe out for ESR or maybe Sakster who is still a bit rusty.

  • Hi TA, relevant post, I’ve been thinking about it quite much lately.
    I was even contemplating dedicating a whole post to the topic of how Odegaard and ESR could be included in the same line-up. But you beat me to that, so I should rather comment the 3+1 scenarios I came up with. Much shorter than in a separate post, but it could still be long enough, you know me. 🙂

    0. No attempt. They should be each others’ substitutes.
    Formation: Regular 4-2-3-1 or 3-3-3-1
    Advantage: they both play in their main position, fair to other attackers, we are covered for injuries and suspensions; suitable for team A & team B when we start playing in Europe again
    Disadvantage: limited creative potential on the pitch, ESR development potential will likely be arrested

    1. They take 2 of the 3 attacking position behind the striker (A: ESR-LW, Ode-AM; B: ESR-AM, Ode-RW)
    Formation: usual 4-2-3-1
    Advantage: double creativity, youthful exuberant pressing, changing positions mid-game could confuse defenders, especially with Saka or Pepe who can both play LW and RW
    Disadvantage: unfair (only 1 spot left for Saka, Pepe, Martinelli and Auba combined, if Laca plays up front), inefficient/sub-optimal (ESR is not our best LW, and Ode is neither our first choice RW to be fair)

    2. Double AM setup – as TA described and detailed in the post
    Formation: 4-1-2-3 or 4-1-4-1 (almost identical, but in the latter, the wingers defend more) Saka-ESR-Ode-Pepe behind Auba or Lacazette
    Advantage: crazy attacking potential, a lot of creativity, might result in a lot of chances and even goals, especially with 2 attack-minded fullbacks (Tierney and Tomi) as well as 2 quick-passing defenders like Gab and White, home games will become watchable again
    Disadvantage: will likely result in more chances and eventually more goals conceded, absolutely no experience in this formation, defensive midfield position becomes a bottleneck: only 1 needed from Xhaka, Partey, Lokonga, Ainsley, Elneny, Azeez, Patino; DM/CM values and mood will deteriorate, difficulties to maintain formation in cup-games and in case of injury/suspension

    3. One of the young blondes converts to CM
    Formation: 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3 (midfield diamond)
    Advantage: gives tactical flexibility, both have enough stamina to run their socks off, Norway is already experimenting with Ode playing as CM; additional creativity on the pitch
    Disadvantage: inefficient as neither are strong defensively to say the least, still allows only 1 from Xhaka, Partey, Lokonga, Ainsley, Elneny, Azeez, and/or Patino; would reduce ball possession in the short run

    I join TA, that I would love to see a 4-1-4-1, but first in a cup game at home.

  • Cheers PB,

    Will read later.

    Loving the CL games tonight. Watching Ajax who are going strong. We must try and sign Gravenberch, such a Vieiraesque player.

    Love it also that Club Brugge are holding the Oilers de Paris.

  • Good considerations, PB. Player usage is not a big thing for me and definitely not key in determining what the optimum way forward is for the team.

    If we play 4-1-4-1 than we can use all sort of players in the four (and ones). It’s all about roles and skills.

  • I get it now, TA. For a default formation for the season, that’s the direction Arteta is dying to go. He brought in Partey for this but injuries didn’t allow him do this often enough. If Partey can stay fit, we would probably see a lot more of that formation (4-1-2-3).

    We can also vary things depending on whether home or away; and whether we are in the lead or in need of a goal.

  • Ta, good one and this conundrum is going to a problem that occupies Artetas mind. While the prospect of a Single DM looks great and attacking unfortunately we don’t have the player to make it work. I am more talking about the single DM here. If you look at Partey he is pushing up the pitch more often leaving a Sambi or Xhaka to cover behind. With him being the lone DM he will need to stay back. He was doing this under Simione deciplined Athleti. But his marauding runs and passing will be curbed. ESR and Ode are too lightweight to stay back and cover. Ode can be a deep laying play maker due to his passing range and ESR is more of one touch and running playmaker.
    To play a single pivot we need a mobile, robust destroyer who doesn’t mind staying back and mopping up. We don’t have that kind of a player. We alos need the center backs to push up and be alert for any long balls played into spaces. If we play a single pivot then we have to keep one of the full backs tucked in with the center backs. We need to have a 3 – 1 block defending when we loose the ball. It requires a lot of traning and decipline.
    May be it’s a option when we are looking for goals and will not be the starting formation yet. It’s a very attack minded formation and will work when teams fear us which is not the case now. Additon of a monster DM, more positive results and instilling fear in opposition will see this formation.

  • I feel that this Saturday isn’t going to be a day for tippy tappy, artistically pleasing football because we’ll get zero protection from the appalling EPL referees on show and the hopeless VAR and just get crunched by the Burnley hatchet men.

    It could be a day to recall Rob Holding if he’s fit enough and have him in a three with Gabriel and White along with the same full backs now operating as wingbacks for this game with Partey and Lokonga adding strength and height in the centre of midfield and shielding the back three with Odegaard as the link to a two man attack in Aubameyang and Pepe.

    White could even step up and give us a three man midfield alongside Albert and Tom?

    Ramsdale in goal of course to contend with the aerial threat.

  • I would take Smith and Saka out of the firing line initially, maybe bring them on later when Burnley tire but in truth I’d be happy not to use them at all in this game, 1-0 to the Arsenal is enough even if it’s a bit of a grinding performance, but for me Saturday is a day for being more artisan than artist.

  • Eris, good point about varying the formation depending home or away and Parteys fitness levels.

    I also reckon he bought Lokonga as Partey in the 1-2 back up.

  • Great comment, Madhu. One of your best if I may say so.

    Agreed it is risky but unlike you I see Partey as that lone DM destroyer. I also believe White and Big Sock have the mobility to push up and support Partey were necessary. I think there is potential in ESR becoming a better defensive midfielder over time, and proper 4-1-2-3 footie ala Barca with Busquets in the single pivot needs the whole team to defend space really well. I think that is where Arteta is heading, but time will tell.

  • Haller, Antony and Gravenberch were great last night.

    Back to the midfielder issue, stature-wise Xhaka would be our biggest enforcer, but Partey is better at tackling and Lokonga is better at ball interception. Odegaard’s 68 kg is the 6th lowest in the squad, and while ESR is the 6th highest with 79, but he isn’t a huge fella either.

  • Thanks Total but I’ve just read that Holding and Elneny are out for this weekend so back to the drawing board, can Tomiyasu tuck in as a third centre back, probably?
    Niles as right wing back then…

  • I thought that the young French kid who we were linked with for quite awhile and who now plays for RB Leipzig, formally Lokomotiv Leipzig, looked very good, not very many players score a hat trick against Pep teams, Nkunku I think?

  • Great post and interesting.

    Kev I agree about what we’re facing this week. I think we can’t afford to leave out both ESR and Saka. Since I see Emile a bit tougher, maybe him on the wings with Pepe. Saka on late against tired defenders is a great boost.

    Probably a better game for Lacazette than Auba but I doubt we’ll see that change because of feelings.

    I would’ve gone with Holding this week also. Maybe with White as DM which I’m really interested to see. Anyone think there’s a way to work Marì in for some size? Just a thought. I don’t think he’s as bad as people are saying.

  • TA,i would love to play 4-3-3 and ideally i would love to have 2 strikers up top. If we buy a DM like Bissouma or equivalent then we can play just 1 to screen the backline. I would love to see us play a very attacking football. Nkunku looked good.

  • Hi J, I forgot about Mari, I think he came out of our three opening games with very little credit in the bank, so I doubt that he’ll get a start vs Burnley on Trent, but who knows, I certainly don’t?

    I listen to three Podcasts during the week, The Arsecast of course, Arsenal Vision and Handbrake Off, all three make very enjoyable listening when I’m driving into or out of London. One of this weeks’ I can’t recall which, made the interesting comment that Arteta should focus on and lean into the players that have committed to the club, therefore Balogun has signed and is committed so he should be in front of the queue to play vs Wimbledon before Lacazette whose certain to leave next summer and Nketiah and whose joint decisions probably scuppered our chances of signing Tammy Abraham?

    It doesn’t mean that you freeze anyone out of course but it should mean if there are minutes on the pitch available then they should go to the players who are going to be with us in the long term.

    It was Clive Palmer on Arsenal Vision, I remember now and I totally agree…

  • Kev, I hadn’t thought about things that way, giving preference to players who have committed, but I have to say, I like the sound of it initially, within reason. Handbrake off…is a great name for a podcast.

  • What an evening (morning over here) of football. Now I know why PB bangs on about Gravenberch, he was excellent, very mobile and perceptive positionally. Great to see Ajax, always loved their style and, yes Total, imagine Neeskens alongside Bally in the early ’70’s Arsenal midfield.
    We enjoy, “Handbrake off” over here, astute, amusing, balanced and encouraging. I tend to listen to it while filleting the fish on a Friday afternoon.
    Thanks Madhu for your thoughts on the DM pivot. Remember when Arsene dropped Santi back to play alongside Coquelin? Small but dynamic, quick footed and wonderful in tight spaces. He could break the press and release a pass forward. ESR has a similar skill set and could replicate this.

  • Hi Stuart, I have a slightly different view. I think Ode is a better player as a deep laying playmaker. His range of passing is better than ESR. He can play along with Partey in the middle and provide centrality. ESR is more mobile and one touch player. He also takes more shots and can score goals. But he tends to drifts to flanks more often than not which makes us ceed central spaces. We are till unbalanced in the middle and needs more coaching to maintain balance. Problem is that Xhaka when he is available plays in a different way or is asked to play in a different way. So it’s something to watch out how Arteta wants his midfield to operate. Atleast I don’t get a clear picture yet.
    I listen to Arsenal Vision, Arsecast and The Arsenal opinion podcasts. It’s great to find a blog like Bergkampesque and pods. It gives us different perspective and with no midweek games keep us tuned to Arsenal.
    On a seperate note Spurs seem to have got into a hole. They are there for the taking so let’s hope we can win against Burnely and get closer to them before the Derby. We beat them then the whole campaign gets a huge lift. West Ham seems to have progressed nicely. Leicester are blowing hot and cold. So we get our results and get some consistency we are still in the mix.

  • Great comments by all. A joy to wake up to this Friday morning. We are off to Oban – emphasis on the first not the last syllable! – later today to celebrate a birthday. WiFi permitting I will issue a short preview in the evening.

    We are on an OGAAT journey and next stop is in Burnley. Let’s load the mighty cannon, the Gunners are in town.

  • Happy birthday to you and yours Total. Make sure you get up to McCaig’s Tower and enjoy that glorious view.
    Yes, Madhu, our young Norse hero could cut it there.

  • We were there many years ago, Stuart. The view is indeed magnificent and I may go up there again tomorrow when my wife, the birthday girl, is enjoying her boat trip around the Isles. We could do with knackering Basil out so we can enjoy a meal and wine in peace in the evening 😉🙂

    Hope you enjoyed your fish supper?

  • Many Happy Returns to Mrs McTotal, tomorrow sounds like a day for sensible shoes, I’ve never been to Oban, the furthest north I’ve been is Fort William and Glen Coe.

    Did I miss the Arsenal involvement in Europe this week, yes I really did, but the stress and strain of all those extra muscle sapping games is going to have an effect on our competitors for a top six finish so I’m supporting them all and hoping that they go the distance, Tottenham losing another final, maybe to Roma, would be a lot of fun.

  • Happy birthday, TA!

    I know player usage is not a big thing for you; here lies one of our main difference. The other is the relation between being loyal to the manager vs. being loyal to the players. But these are no biggies. Enjoy your trip to Oban, and we’ll enjoy our victory tomorrow. 🙂

  • T,
    Happy birthday to your better half.
    Oban…. I’ve become a single malt drinker exclusively in the past 10 years or so. I’m fine drinking 12 year olds, and I’m not choosey on the brand yet. I usually order by asking for either the common Glenlivet or Glenfiddich, or whatever Glen you have….
    Recently found a new spot where I meet old work mates. After the horrible lockdowns and health stuff I decided to treat myself to an 18 year old.

    They said they have no Glen 18s, but they have a 25 year old Oban. Never knew the name before. So good. Needless to say, this will end up being very expensive going forward.

  • Happy birthday wishes to your Missus, TA. I hope you give her a treat.

    The Spuds had it rough in Europe and Lucas Moura is out injured from the game yesterday. It is the avoidance of the exertions from European engagements which give us hope of a better positioning in the EPL table, this season. Soured grapes, I know but this team needed a break to regroup for a more consistent level into the future. A good foundation should come with a cost, since we are not going to be spending pot loads of money on players.

    On a different note, and taking from a theme Kev shared with us, Arsenal do have some outrightly gullible fans whom the media/blogs make merchandise of via click bait headlines (usually a tweet by one Cretin) and sensational sounding themes which are “nothing-burger” news. It’s amazing how much some fans appear to not understand how their willingness to believe the (usually untrue) stories fuels such reporting and ultimately affects well-being of the fans; not to speak of the players who are at the end of some of the scathing reporting. In a world where the spate of alternative facts has become a factor in how people react to issues or make important decisions, it will not be long until football clubs start to make decisions (including team selection -didn’t Wenger predict that one?- and player sales) in consultation with Fan sites and other made-for-purpose fans’ social media platforms. That will be mad.

  • Madhu,
    I was not into the idea of trying Øde deeper, but your last comment was so well reasoned that I am open to the experiment. You even mentioned one of my concerns, that ESR doesn’t stay central enough, drifting wide.

    Of course Burnley is the focus, and we can’t afford a letdown draw or loss… But I wanted to say, I think Tottenham and their fans are actually going to be under major pressure against us. The world is being told Arsenal are a joke team, in disarray with Arteta on the hot seat, no Europe, etc. So a loss to us will feel extra horrible to them. The crooked, biased media will go easy on them though, and pile on us if we lose. We never get an equal shake no matter what we do.

  • JYNC

    Single malt scotch has been my alcohol of choice for over 40 years.

    Glenlivet & Glenfiddich (pronounced Glenfidick) are the more commonly known malts.

    My absolute favourite would be a 18 year old The Macallan, but if you like testing different malts you should try a glass of Laphroaig it’s very peaty and leaves a great after taste.

    I used to visit Vancouver on a monthly basis for business and I frequented a restaurant called Joe Fortes – they had a single malt list with 63 different malts, over the years I sampled all of them with a 25 year old The Macallan being top of class. It cost $25 a glass, but it was expensed.

  • N5, thanks,
    That place in Vancouver sounds like a dream with that menu/list. I was after the 18 Macallan exactly because I hear good things about it… my nephew had me try Balvenie double wood for very interesting notes, and not overly priced if you haven’t tried it yet.

  • JYNC,

    You can google Joe Fortes Vancouver and view it’s menu’s, they had a separate malt listing in my days – maybe it still exists. Being right on the Pacific the sea food was extraordinary – but meals were always expensive, (unless they were being expensed).

  • JYNC,

    I cannot remember sampling Balvenie , but I daresay that I might have done. I just read about the Balvenie and it’s distillery is next door to the Glenfiddich distillery They were founded by the same company in 1886 and 1892. The Balvenie distillery uses barley from the family farm and has it’s own floor maltings. The double wood version gets a high rating of 87/100.

  • Ah J, anything founded in 1886 must be classy.
    Total, unusually I went out for an evening fish arriving home too late to prepare it for dinner. We shall enjoy beer battered snapper fillets this evening. And, I somewhat shamefacedly write (in light of the joyous thread from our uisge beatha sommeliers) that the fish will be accompanied by a cold lager.

  • Great stuff regarding the water of life, or as Stuart correctly calls it, uisge beatha. Love all your contributions.

    We drove through a lot of drizzle but Scotland can be at its cosiest in such weather, especially when the whole Fam is in the car and Basil is snoring away. Tonight we had the most amazing skies and like Stuart I will be necking a cold lager in a bit.

    New Post 🙂

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