Have Arsenal found their dream midfield combination?
Arsenal have a 4-1-4-1 formation through the season to make best use of their wealth of attacking midfielders. Yet, a player like Lukas Podolski has hardly played, which goes to show the level of the players at Arsenal.
Over the course of these early games of the season, Wenger has been trying out his team, testing players in different places in the formations. Some experiments such as playing Ozil on the wings have not quite worked out, while some experiments such as playing Ramsey in a pseudo, number 10 role has worked to Arsenal’s advantage.
With the freedom of the 4-1-4-1 formation, Arsenal have covered up the role of the defensive midfielder they do not possess yet. With one of the double pivoting attacking players such as Ramsey or Wilshere ahead on the pitch, who will drop back at signs of trouble, the formation fluidly changes to 4-2-3-1, and changes back to 4-1-4-1 as Arsenal repossess the ball. In more than one game, Ramsey and Wilshere were played in both the central attacking places in a 4-1-4-1 formation, which clearly did not press oppositions enough, as attacks tended to be few and far between. The derby against Tottenham over the weekend was an outstanding example, as Ozil was wasted on the wings. He is no Santi Cazorla, who can play through the centre or on the wings with aplomb.
Arsene Wenger tried out a particular move about two weeks ago. There were calls for Ozil’s head, as fans and critics said that he was suffering from a lack of application and confidence. Comparisons were made to Alexis Sanchez, who showed more effort and troubled oppositions more. Sanchez was a top player and was cheaper than Ozil, hence, Ozil being in the team only on his price tag, were some of the accusations levelled against Wenger. It was at this time that Wenger tried something different. He used Ozil in the number 10 role, a role that he had played so often for Real Madrid, assisting and making key passes that were hard to put a count on, game after game. It was hard to believe that Ozil had not been used in the number 10 role yet, and when he made delightful passes throughout the game, Arsenal fans celebrated. The goals were always going to come as a result, as the opposition defence (Aston Villa) were split by some of Ozil’s passes. At that time, Arsenal made use of a 4-2-3-1 formation, as Ozil was creating magic through the centre and another midfielder alongside him could jeopardise his playing.
Last night, Ozil was used in the number 10 role in the midweek Champions League tie against Galatasaray at home, in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Cazorla alongside him, and Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wings. Ozil and Cazorla through the centre provided the creativity, and Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wings provided the pace, crossing and physical ruthlessness to take on Gala’s defenders. This could be Wenger’s best midfield combination, with Walcott replacing Oxlade-Chamberlain on his comeback to make it the dream combination. In crunch games against top teams, this midfield combination will push Arsenal to shake off the tag of underdogs and beat the opposition with ruthlessness, instead of capitulating and surrendering.
The game against Chelsea over the weekend will be a good place to start. A team with Ozil pulling the strings with Sanchez, Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain alongside could just drive Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Ramires insane, not to mention that with Danny Welbeck, who is fresh off a hattrick last night, they could tear Chelsea’s defence apart with a much stronger team than the Arsenal team which played against Chelsea last season. Jose has got the better of Arsene for too long. It is time Wenger pulls a few punches now, starting with using the right combination that can win him the game. Chelsea are flying high, and an Arsenal win could just turn everything around. Last season, Chelsea derailed Arsenal’s title bid by thrashing them mercilessly. Could Arsenal do the same this time around?