Over the last couple of years, the effectiveness of the 4-2-3-1 formation that Arsenal play has often been called into question. Normally when results have not been going the Gunners' way. I have never really had a problem with it. I don't think that it has been to blame for the poor defensive record Arsenal acquired. I think however, that it might be time to change for the last couple of games of the season.
|Arteta's injury is a big blow for the Gunners|
There has been a terrible recent history with regards to Arsenal and injures, and just when there was a need to maintain momentum and secure third place, that jinx has struck again. Walcott and Arteta, two of the standout performers in Arsenal's resurgent team, are both out until the end of the season.
Arteta has been crucial to Arsenal's balance between defence and attack, suppressing his attacking instincts to play a holding role alongside Alex Song. His signing was questioned on deadline day, many were sceptical about his ability to replace Cesc Fabregas (Arteta really tried to distance himself from being Fabregas' replacement and has played much more of the Wilshere role this season). Fast forward a few months, he has been one of Arsenal's standout performers, and has chipped in with a few spectacular and crucial goals. Ramsey was drafted in to replace him against Chelsea, but did not impress many.
Theo Walcott has been in very good form since scoring a brace in the superb 5-2 victory over Spurs, scoring against QPR, Wolves and Aston Villa since then. Arsenal saw earlier on in the season in the home draw with Wolves how much Walcott's pace and width was missed when he is unavailable. He has been subject to a fair bit of flack over the season but had been playing well and looking like completing a full season for the first time in an Arsenal shirt.
I think that in order to retain the defence/attack balance and width that Arteta and Walcott provided the Gunners may need to switch to formation to 4-4-2. I think that there are a number of reasons for this:
1) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: A very promising player with good technical ability, Chamberlain has displayed tactical naivety when playing out wide. He has a habit of dropping back into the central midfield role he prefers. You might be able to do that in League 1, but not in the Premier League. He also can be reckless with the ball, trying to take on one man too many, again he has not quite worked out that he is playing against Premiership defenders now.
2) Gervinho: I am not a fan of Gervinho. He lacks a first touch, any finishing ability, any ability on his weak foot and is unable to cross a football. I do not feel that he keeps up with play and is poor defensively too, often leaving his tracking back until it is too late. I would also question how well he will be able to handle Stoke's physicality.
3) Aaron Ramsey: Ramsey is never going to be at his best playing in the Arteta/Wilshere role. He is a more creative player and does lack some defensive discipline.
I believe that a 4-4-2 offers Arsenal a way out of these problems. In theory, it can work without much width (unlike what is shown in the suggested team below) which would eradicate the issue with the lack of wide players. I think that Arsenal should field the following team versus Stoke:
|My team selection vs. Stoke City|
There are some changes that could be made, Chamberlain could be picked ahead of Benayoun for example. I think that Chamakh's aerial presence would be advantageous against a tall Stoke side, he would be able to act as a pivot for Robin van Persie to operate off of.
Another alternative, which may suit the players Arsenal have available better is to play a 4-1-2-1-2, as demonstrated below:
|The 4-1-2-1-2 option|
This might work better for the likes of Ramsey and Benayoun, allowing them to play a more central role. Both formations mean that Gibbs and Sagna would be required to provide all the width but provided Song is disciplined enough to play the holding role all game it could work.
Would you go 4-4-2 or stick with 4-2-3-1? Let me know through Twitter (@Goonernl) or the comments below.