How Do The Gunners Move Forward? Formation Or Personnel?

We’ve had at least 24-48hrs to calm down from the match against Leicester. An amount of time to dissipate the red mist  and see things a little bit more clearly (or at very least not want to smash your tv).

I’m no angel; I wasn’t best pleased with the result and was left asking so many questions and not finding many solutions to what I had raised.

Understandably no defeat is taken nicely, even if you’ve won a group in qualifying and throw the kids in for the dead rubber last game you still want a win at the very least avoid defeat.

Its human nature really, at the start of Mikel Arteta’s tenure with the club many made the statement that this is a long term project and Mikel will needs time. We can’t expect to be challenging for the title within 6 months. There will be plenty bumps along the way, lots of ups and downs, mistakes will be made especially from a young inexperienced manager but the key thing is to give him time and our full backing.

When Arsene left we entered unfamiliar territory for many Arsenal fans that knew nothing but Arsene. There was evidence over at Manchester United that to replace someone after such a prolonged amount of time would not be a smooth transition. Unai Emery was just the wrong choice for manager and despite some early warning signs things were not going well he cannot turn around and say he wasn’t given a chance to get things right.

Anyway no point me bleating on about the recent managerial history of the club, we are all well aware. I suppose the point of me bringing it up was to highlight it’s far too early to sound the alarm bells.

To take some positives from the football this weekend is not many teams made much advancement at the top, plenty of dropped points by our rivals and therefore Arteta has some food for thought moving forward. Arsenal are still there or thereabouts and the team has plenty scope for improvement.

The manager will have learned a lot from Sunday’s game. Yes we can rue the injustices of the ruled out goal from Lacazette but we must not also dismiss the blatant 2nd yellow card Hector Bellerin should have received. One incorrectly ruled moment turned out key but a game in which we were in control we should have done a lot more when we were on top.

No point singling out one striker’s performance but ask questions of why when on top are we as a team are not putting teams to the sword?

The key factor that comes to mind is the lack of a creative fulcrum to dovetail the newly instilled tenacity and focus. The big question to ask yourself is does that lay with the tactics or lack of personnel. You could argue both really, let’s have a looks at both sides:

The Formation

The team set up with a 433 formation however maybe due to the easing in of four at the back over utilising three centre backs there is more emphasis on the midfield 3 acting as a shield than supporting attacks. I would certainly bracket Partey and Xhaka as more defensive minded whilst Ceballos is great at dictating play advancing from deep and is equally comfortable mucking it in the middle of the park putting his foot in.

It would be interesting to see Ceballos advancing further forward to see if he could make things happen in a freer role. Sunday’s tactics seemed to focus more on utilising the timed runs of the fullbacks. A tactic that seemed to work in the sense that the ball was finding those players in advanced positions Bellerin especially however the most was not made of those situations.

With the spaces vacated by the full backs the midfield three were as it seems instructed to fill the gaps left by them. Again it added to the stability and you could argue from a defensive sense the team is looking more solid for setting up that way. It’s the attack which seems to be suffering and you have to wonder if by having a more disciplined set up, the attack being left to make the magic happen by themselves was always bound to eventually struggle when teams wised up to that being go to tactic.

This is where you have to look at the other question regarding:

The Personnel

The game vs. Leicester was the perfect example of a team set out to nullify the opposition. Especially with Vardy on the bench the team came with a game plan to soak up and nullify Arsenal and then hopefully nick something with the introduction of Vardy later in the game. Leicester aren’t the first and won’t be the last to play with the majority of their men behind the ball and soak up the pressure. When you take into account how much Arsenal rely on counter attack and pace we were left in a catch 22 situation where other than individual moments of brilliance we would struggle getting in behind a deep defensive line.

It’s situations like that where you are left screaming out for a creative player that can thread a pass through the eye of a needle and get the attackers in on goal. You could argue we have a player that fits that description on our paid staff but let’s not go there with the Ö word. In terms of whom we have available who can play, who could maybe play in the midfield three at the tip as a creative outlet?

Of course Arteta may not have plans to use his midfield three in such a way but let’s just hypothesize that he may. Do we have the creative player that could make that mark from the personnel we have? Well the short answer is yes but the longer deeper answer is which player exactly?

Well I would say take your pick from the Following: Saka, Ceballos, Willian and Emile Smith Rowe.

Four players I feel have the adaptability, agilty and potential for a pass in their locker.

Saka we’ve seen play in a number of positions for the club now but I do recall him playing in a midfield three as the advanced creative hub, It may have been against Sheffield United last season (don’t quote me on that) but at the time it gave us the fans an insight into his versatility and proved he could play there.

Willian is a bit of an unknown but it is clear he has the technical ability and strength to play further forward in a midfield three. I avoid watching Chelsea as much as I can so I can’t recall times he played there for the club that I would have noticed. Nevertheless he can be an option in the middle, his versatility will be key for us this season.

Ceballos as I mentioned earlier is definitely a creative player with a bit of bite, it’s that extra tenacity that probably works against him as he is more trusted to protect as well as provide ball retention. He has always looked impressive coming from deep and always demands the ball, it’s worth a shot trying him further advanced, there’s nothing to lose.

Emile Smith Rowe would seem like the perfect player to be given a shot in that role however his injury problems are becoming a concern. There’s nothing the Arsenal fans would like more than to see this kid fulfil his potential but the persistent little injuries tend to hinder his progress. I’d like to think the longer delay to his return is a planned schedule to ensure his return won’t result in breaking down two to three games in.

I may have missed off other potential options, feel free to let me know in the comments. I’ve deliberately left out the quality starlets in our youth set up, players such as Charlie Patino, Omari Hutchinson et al, as their time will come but in the current team I can’t see Arteta making such a leap of faith for now.

There’s a chance to give Arteta something to think about before January transfer window otherwise there may be a renewed more aggressive move for Houssem Aouar. Time will tell, let see how this plays out.

Enjoy you day people.

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I also write for.

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