Arsene Wenger should probably give up on that flimsy 4-2-3-1 now. It’s become synonymous with failure for the Gunners and it really doesn’t offer enough to compete in the big games. A formation that is so very popular must be hard to discard, but Wenger can surely muster the courage to do that. It’s for his own sake, if he wants that final Premier League title.
The French manager should consider a small tactical change. The 4-3-3, that seems to have fallen out of the English game, but it is the best way for Arsenal to balance their side and give the defence the level of protection that is required to compete at the highest level of the domestic and European game.
Simply shifting Mesut Ozil to a wide playmaker role from the right, keeping Alexis Sanchez on the left and adding an extra man into the midfield could do so much for Arsenal. Down the right wing there has been inconsistent selection, anyway, and the enterprising runs of Hector Bellerin more than compensate for the lack of a positioned forward out there.
In central midfield, Granit Xhaka can play his natural role as the deepest lying midfielder. Alongside Xhaka, the 4-3-3 allows Wenger to play both Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere as is the most desirable outcome for many an Arsenal fan. Xhaka’s lack of mobility would be compensated for by his two midfield accomplices, too.
Ramsey would be given the freedom to play his box-to-box role, where he has flourished most, rather than that false role on the right wing, as Ozil could still play in a free role and roam from the flank when in possession. When out of possession, the German would slot in on the right and give protection to Bellerin, whilst Ramsey – from right central midfield – could also provide cover.
Wilshere, meanwhile, would be given the responsibility of creating from a slightly deeper position and allowed to make those line-breaking runs from deep that have become a mainstay of his game. Previously when Wilshere has been positioned further forward he has often been receiving the ball on the half-turn far too often and a shift to 4-3-3 would quickly change this.
When out of possession, Ramsey and Wilshere would provide additional protection and, crucially, in defensive transition it would make them considerably less vulnerable. Xhaka’s role would be simply to control the tempo and allow the other two central midfielders to make the breaking runs, whilst Nacho Monreal – or whomever plays left-back – would provide the overlaps to allow Alexis Sanchez to drift into goalscoring positions centrally.
It’s easy to talk about formations and tactics for months, but this little tweak could make such a difference to Arsenal’s season. It could make them genuine contenders for the title, rather than the token appearance they make near the Premier League’s summit most seasons.
The key, of course, is keeping the players fit. However, if Wilshere was to succumb to another injury, there is no reason that Santi Cazorla couldn’t fulfil that same role in midfield.