Kudos to @Kieran_Delaney for yesterday’s blog. Awesome post, over 40 comments when I wrote this, which is a fair amount. Some really good points made by some of the WOA readers. One area I want to touch on is the formation we’re currently playing. For all intents and purposes, Arsene called it 4-3-3. A little bit of a change of format, some questions have been asked to me today, and here are my answers…
Is the formation really 4-3-3…?
Personally, I don’t think it is a 4-3-3. It’s been created to accommodate Cesc – to allow him to play ahead of the midfield, with a striker and supported by two wingers. So in fact, it’s 4-2-3-1. From my point of it’s quite defensive. If Cesc is scoring and playing as a second striker, then it has it’s merits – but if Cesc is deep, then it can and sometimes does turn into a 4-5-1. The formation uses Cesc as the central hub of the team. If he is not playing well, it effects the whole team.
Recently we haven’t had the cutting edge, has the formation got anything to do with it?
I wouldn’t say it has directly, but it has been a contribute. At the moment, a few players are playing within themselves. Nasri hasn’t quite hit the dizzy heights of earlier in the season. Seeing his goal against Fulham in Sky’s showing of the PFA awards was a reminder of what he is capable of – he is a player who you have to think struggles with the formation. He started wide left yesterday and then ended up playing in the middle along side Cesc – he didn’t look comfortable.
Looking at other players such as Arshavin and Bendtner – they don’t excel in the wide positions – Bendtner out wide on the right looks lost. It looks like the formation isn’t right for the players, it looks like Arsene is trying to make it work – round holes, square pegs.
But it’s the same formation we’ve been playing all season, and we’ve done pretty well.
Our confidence has dipped and I’m sure we have an element of mental tiredness – after all, it’s been a long season in all four competitions. And therefore results haven’t been as good as they have been early in the season. Looking through our games, we’ve actually struggled at home all season with the current formation. Against a team that comes to defend, we’ve been unable to break them down – Man City, Sunderland, Blackburn and more recently Liverpool. Even the games we’ve won haven’t been won at a canter. The formation, however, does work away from home. As away from home, teams try to attack us, which in affect opens up more space – which is probably easier to exploit with an overloaded midfield.
But we’ve beaten Chelsea and Barcelona at home.
I’d probably say those 2 teams were the only 2 teams that didn’t come to the Emirates to defend – as a result, they were more like away games. With the opposition intent on attacking, it meant that the balance of play shifted a notch higher up the pitch, creating more space for our players – which does make it more like a 4-3-3.
So, why don’t we change formation?
It is easy to critise the formation and perhaps Arsene is keen on keeping it as it is – we’ve pushed it through to our youngsters and we’ve played it all season, so it’s unlikely the manager will change it. It has been odd that we’ve not experimented with changing it mid-game, but it’s down to the manager rather than anything else.
Why don’t we change the formation when Cesc isn’t available?
That has been a criticism of the manager recently – the reluctance to change formation even when Cesc isn’t available. In the Carling Cup final, Rosicky took his position and for me, the role was foreign to him. Many of the players do seem suited to a more orthodox 4-4-2 and perhaps have experience through their countries – although countries are now adapting and playing more formations including 4-3-3′s. Nasri and Diaby have also played in the “Cesc” role – and whilst they have deputised well, it’s not a natural position for midfielders – it’s hard for them to understand the position they should play.
Do you think we will play 4-4-2 next season?
With the like of Van Persie, Bendtner, Chamakh and Vela on our books, you could easily play 2 up front. However, the manager’s insistence this season to play 4-5-1 no matter what means that he obviously doesn’t like the formation. You have to think that a player like Van Persie would excel behind or along side a striker. Arsene’s quite stubborn in his ways and perhaps he’s determined to make it work.
One thing to think about is that Arsene has often said he thinks Walcott will play though the middle – which in our current formation is impossible. The only way Theo will play in the middle is if there is a change of formation. Changing formations does take a whole pre-season to get used to, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Will we play 4-4-2 if Cesc leaves?
If Cesc leaves, then that could be the deciding factor to revert formations. As the current formation is based around Cesc, if he leaves, we could introduce a striker, move Van Persie a little further back and keep Wilshere and Song holding.
Finally, before I leave… Newcastle take on Man United today, and they do have the potential to beat them. Before we write off the title completely, let’s wait and see what happens tonight. If Man United win tonight, I think it’s gone, but if they lose or draw… then surely it’s game on?
Adios for now, thanks for tuning in…