Sanchez and the 4-4-2
With a whole week off before the next game, I thought a fluff piece may be in order just to get the discussions and debating back in full swing.
Watching Sanchez playing at Sunderland, everything about him just screamed “number 10” more than it has ever done before with Ozil, or even my man Jack. It got me to thinking though, could we play an old fashioned no.10 – you know, to its fullest potential, in that crazy formation that won us so many accolades and silverware – the 4-4-2?
Do we have the quality to make this system work once again, and really provide for such an excellent player like Sanchez?
I thought I would have a go, do my best at being ruthless concerning quality and athleticism, see what I could come up with and ask you any important questions that arose during the process.
Debuchy, BFG, Koscielny and Gibbs: to be honest, apart from a lack of pace by our big man I cannot fault the defensive solidity that this group should bring to the team. With such a lack of options here though, they are largely uncontested places and with the exception of Monreal all other options are either prospects or loanees.
Monreal, Chambers, Ajayi and Jenko would make up my reserve back line for the future, and I hope Jenko keeps up the good work he’s doing at West Ham atm.
With Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini all being fringe players (at best) in most midfields across top clubs in Europe, Diaby only ever one training session away from being injured and Coquelin AWOL most of the time, I decided to be ruthless and cut the lot; but who’s left as the engine room in midfield?
Wilshere and Ramsey have to be the first choice pairing for our future, with OX and Hayden representing exciting and solid prospects respectively.
For those who don’t know Hayden, he has excelled both in ability and leadership and captained at every level he has played at, both domestically and for his country.
Do we have any old style wingers left now? With OX constantly showing he prefers creeping inside over hugging the line, I can think of only two. Luckily, one is right footed and the other left, so it makes a good pairing. Walcott and Campbell, plenty of pace and goals in both which is a benefit. Future prospects would have to include Gnabry and Bellerin as both are again bursting with pace and goals.
Ozil, once the wonderkid of this position, has now got his work cut out to defend his place here by the excellent (and in my opinion the more exciting prospect) Sanchez. Both still have much to offer though, so no departures in this area anytime soon I hope, but who does the starting place go to?
I’m looking for pace in this type of formation, like the kind Henry used to have with the strength he also used to show when needed. With this in mind, I am afraid Giroud and Podolski are out, but Welbeck is in. Future prospects include Akpom who has all the attributes Henry used to have and now needs experience and Sanogo who is a bit hit and miss at the moment to say the least but could be great.
What do we end up with then?
The starting XI:
The second (substitution) XI:
- Remember the Invincibles used to play week in week out, almost the same starting line up every game, would these resulting teams have the physical endurance to do that?
- Our midfield was once known for its aggression and strength, although many agree that this is not needed so much in the modern game, it is interesting how the modern day users of this system (Man City) have adopted an almost carbon copy of our template from days gone by, with excellent results. Do we have this type of steel in midfield from the options we have? Do we need it? Are our options better?
- Do you feel any of the players I so callously call “fringe players” could perform better in any of the positions, and if so: who, where and why?
- Are there any other players I have missed that you think deserve a place?
- With so many favourite names cut from the teams, producing a second XI that looks more like an U21 side than a premiership team, do you think we would have enough quality and depth in the squad to make this work?
- Are there any players you would simply like to replace with new arrivals in January? I know BFG’s pace has become a topic for debate but are there others?
- With the exception of Koscielny (with his continuing Achilles problem) and BFG who is beginning to age a little I feel the whole starting XI have shown they have the athleticism to play week in week out.
- For most games I think an on form Ramsey and Wilshere pairing would excel, watching them run rings around Toure and Fernando in the Charity Shield was a joy to watch. I would be slightly worried that there is no G. Silva type option available at all other than Hayden. I would love to see Schneiderlin added to the squad to give that option if needed, but would he move for a seat on the bench at Arsenal until needed in a particular game though? Maybe relying on an untested (at this level) but patient and willing to wait Hayden may be the more realistic choice – though not my preferred one.
- I obviously don’t, all seem leggy and are nearer the end of their careers rather than their prime.
- Coquelin could do a job in midfield as a more defensive option but it seems (at least atm) the boss has lost all faith in him.
- Apart from Ajayi. who I have never really seen play, I would say yes, as a substitute XI I feel it is still brimming with talent and all would be willing to wait for their chance which means no shuffling of the starting XI just to give players game time .
- In that starting line-up, I see only three players who are only even slightly suspect; Campbell has yet to show his true potential, but I don’t think he’s been given any sort of chance to do so yet. Then there is Koscielny, with his ongoing injury but a warrior nevertheless, and I feel Chambers is already the perfect candidate for his replacement when needed. And BFG, having reached his potential a few years ago now, I feel (tough as it is to say) a big name replacement here would be an excellent addition – we are talking Varane level though.
I guess the question I have to ask myself is, would I swap Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta, Flamini, Diaby and Coquelin for just one class CB and one class DM – probably, at the moment I could see Schneiderlin and Varane offering a lot more to the team’s structure than all those players combined.
My point of view is that we need goals, we are just not scoring enough. There was a time when we used to score for fun and it was back when we used this system. It takes special kinds of players to make this system work though but for the first time in ages I really think we have those players in the squad now.
When I look at the Invincibles line up, I see goal scoring options from FIVE positions in the forward line, with G. Silva the only player not guaranteed to add attacking threat. Likewise, when I look at the new starting XI I have made above, I also see goal scoring options from FIVE positions in the front line, with only Wilshere lacking in that department.
I have to contrast that with what I saw at Sunderland on Saturday;
Arteta and Flamini – not goal threat there
Cazorla – has scored 4 goals in the premiership in the last 2 years
OX – Looks threatening but is not producing for one reason or another
All it takes is for your only striker to have a slightly off day (not unusual against a team set to defend), and it’s no wonder the only goals came from Sanchez excellently capitalising on two mistakes from the opposition.
Better teams won’t make those mistakes, so where are the bloody goals going to come from?
Is it any wonder we are not scoring atm, should we really expect any different?
I feel, whether it is because of injuries or a lack of faith in the midfield pairing to produce without the safety net of Flamini behind them, that the boss has played it safe and is largely underutilizing the squad we have at our disposal. Players are coming back from injury, we are lacking goals: it is time to take the safety net away and let the lads produce!
4-4-2 with Sanchez tip toeing in Bergkamp’s shadow.
Could we make it work, would we even want to: Invincibles or Impossibles? Tell me what you think.
Written by: Steve
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