Examining Arsenal’s 4-3-3 from last season. Does it work and how has it been improved for 2010/2011?

Examining Arsenal’s 4-3-3 from last season. Does it work and how has it been improved for 2010/2011?

The days of Arsene Wenger’s revolutionary fluid 4-4-2 are all but gone and the manager’s decision to move to a more Barcelona-like 4-3-3 has been the biggest shift in tactics in his 13-year tenure at Arsenal.

But does it actually work? And is it the best fit for this group of players?

To answer these questions it is worth investigating the success of the implementation of the 4-3-3 last season, identify the weaknesses of its application and identify how things have been addressed for this season.

In an attacking sense, the switch to 4-3-3 at the start of last season allowed Cesc Fabregas to finally emerge as a world-class attacking midfielder and cleverly shifted the attacking focal point from Robin van Persie in the middle to Nicklas Bendtner on the right whenever both players were available. This deliberate change allowed van Persie to flourish as a ‘False 9’, interchanging with Bendtner on the right and allowing the likes of Andrey Arshavin, Abou Diaby and Fabregas to find space in the central areas to weave their fleet-footed magic.

Arsenal’s biggest problem with the 4-3-3 last season was that after simultaneous injuries to van Persie and Bendtner left Arshavin as the team’s only focal point, the pressing in the final third that had been so prevalent in the early stages of the season disappeared. Other injuries added to the decimation the squad, Wenger simply didn’t have the options to rotate his players to maintain the level of freshness required to maintain the pressing and it hurt us defensively.

With the pressure gone, opposing defenders were able to work their way out from the back more often, apply their own pressure on what was, on paper, a very decent back four, and score goals against us. Far too many goals for a team with realistic aspirations to win the Premier League.

A good example of the change in the success of the 4-3-3 last season were the two results against Everton. With a full squad on the opening day of the season we were able to dish out a 6-1 thrashing at Goodison Park but in the return leg at a snowy Emirates Stadium, we were lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw against an Everton side that outworked and outplayed us. At the time I called it a point gained, a remarkable statement given the result in the first game and an indication of just how badly a lack of energy to press had damaged the effectiveness of our formation.

Another, slightly lesser problem that hurt the 4-3-3 last season was a lack of defensive intelligence in the heart of the midfield. Diaby and Denilson were the arguably the biggest culprits and the midfield looked at its best when Aaron Ramsey made his breakthrough to the starting team, sitting slightly deeper than the creative Fabregas and applying his superb natural understanding of the game alongside Alex Song. Along with Ramsey’s injury being one of the cruelest moments of last season emotionally, from a tactical perspective it hurt us even more badly as Wenger struggled in vain to find a midfield with the same balance.

The key question is whether the problems of the 4-3-3 last season, understandable given the sheer number of injuries and the fact that it was a new system for these players, have been considered and addressed. The answer, it is rather satisfying to say, is ‘yes’.

In fact, Wenger’s attempt to buy Marouane Chamakh from Bordeaux midway through last season revealed the fact that he new his system was failing under difficult circumstances. He knew Arshavin was unhappy, he knew attackers were thin on the ground and he wanted to bring in Chamakh to add another body and provide an immediate stopgap in the absence of van Persie and Bendtner. Alas, it wasn’t to be as Bordeaux held onto their man, if only temporarily.

Chamakh's signing has improved Arsenal by allowing, among other things, more rotation

With Chamakh now an integrated member of the squad one of the biggest problems with the 4-3-3 has been solved. The proof is in the pudding: van Persie and Bendtner are both out injured at the moment and Chamakh is right where Wenger had hoped he could have been last season, keeping Arshavin happy on the left and allowing Theo Walcott to enjoy an excellent run of form on the right. Just how well would Theo be playing if Eduardo was currently spearheading our attack, I wonder?

The second major concern, creating a midfield with the balance to rival the Song-Fabregas-Ramsey triangle from last season, also appears to have been addressed by Wenger. And the answer has come in a change in role for the tall, gangly anti-Patrick Vieira by the name of Abou Diaby.

Last season Diaby’s performances ranged from sensational to sloppy, from bamboozling to brain-dead. But a very simple correlation emerged: when Diaby was restricted to a more defensive role he was an accident waiting to happen. His tendency to hold onto the ball became more pronounced, his decisions looked more dopey and he took over the mantle as Arsenal’s most polarising player from Nicklas Bendtner.

When Diaby was allowed to roam forward and play more instinctively, however, he became one of our strongest attacking weapons. He is the only genuinely different type of attacking midfielder in our squad, a unique combination of power, technique and outrageous unpredictability that provides a vital contrast to the pass-and-move tendencies of the rest of our midfield. He needs responsible, intelligent, organised players behind him to clear his mind but when he does, he becomes dangerously effective.

It finally appears that Wenger has realised this how to best use Diaby and more importantly, looks willing to play Fabregas slightly deeper to accommodate him. Our last match against Blackburn may have been only one game, but Diaby’s tendency to start level with Fabregas when Blackburn were in possession and push forward as he pleased made him the game’s outstanding player.

Baring all this in mind I really believe the 4-3-3 will be better utilised and better maintained this season, something that will probably only show in the latter part of the season. With Chamakh in the squad we have more depth up front and should be fresher and more able to pressure high up on the pitch more often.

Meanwhile, Wenger’s accommodation of Diaby as an attacking player gives our midfield a balance which is even stronger than the Song-Fabregas-Ramsey triangle from last season. Add this to the fact that the squad has had an entire season to adjust to the formation and I think it bodes well for an improvement in the general organisation and defensive performance of the team.

Thoughts?

Have your say on Arsenal’s 4-3-3 by leaving a comment.

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49 Responses to “Examining Arsenal’s 4-3-3 from last season. Does it work and how has it been improved for 2010/2011?”

  1. gazzap
    September 7, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    The 4-3-3 is a good system that I support but it is vital that 2 of the 3 midfielders are very comfortable with the defending side of their game especially with our wide players being very attack minded. They must track back and tackle first and foremost. One of the pair needs to be a proper holding midfielder to shield the defence and that is clearly Song, but the other needs to be a box to box, strong player with energy and a good tackle and discipline. Its possibly the hardest player to recruit – there are only a handful of world class box to box hard midfielders around. I thought Flamini was a superb player in this role and as you mention Ramsey was close to becoming a great replacement.

    I have never been convinced by Denilson, while Diaby has been guilty of being inconsistent. IMO this is because Diaby can only play at the level required once a week. I have been keeping a close eye on his level of performance dependent on when he played his last game and he his FAR better when he has had at least 5 days between games. So far this season, we have had 7 days between games so it is no surprise that Diaby’s performances have been excellent. However, we are approaching a time when we have 2 games per week. Diaby will suffer more than any other player in the squad. He must be rotated and played once a week – do this and we will see consistently strong performances from him. Wilshere might be able to play in his absence if he can improve his defensive discipline.

  2. adeniyi falana
    September 7, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    yeah i think d 4-3-3 formation is going 2 work 4 us very well dis season with song as a defensivel mid fieder and diaby playing a role of box 2 box player and fabregas having a free role then asharvin or nasri on d left then walcott or vela on d right then vp or chamakh in d middle

  3. Andrew Weber
    September 7, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    @ gazzap – That is a really interesting observation. I’ll keep my eye on Diaby and his need for hibernation over the course of this season.

    I have to admit I am a firm believer in Diaby’s ability to be a big player for Arsenal. In a footballing world where balance is the key, the combination of Song, Fabregas and Diaby has the required balance to be extremely dominant. As long as Cesc sticks around, of course.

  4. Andrew Weber
    September 7, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    @ gazzap – As another aside, losing Flamini was probably the most disappointing transfer of the past five years. He had so much potential, worked so well with Cesc and it’s sad to see him playing a bit-part role in Milan when he could be having such a huge impact in London. Alas.

  5. Ole Gunner
    September 7, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    I’m not jinxing it but what would happen if Chamakh came back injured from international duty? We can draft in Jay-Aston Emmanuel-Thomas of course.

    My point? Injuries will affect you if you get an extreme enough injury situation. Injuries have been Arsenal’s main enemy

  6. Andrew Weber
    September 7, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    @ Ole – True. I suppose the only thing you can say is that we are better with RVP, Bendtner and Chamakh than RVP, Bendtner and Eduardo when it comes to physical presence. In terms of the point of the article: examining problems and improvement, it’s definitely an improvement.

  7. Giddy
    September 7, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Great post mate with intelligent analysis of issues. keep it up.
    Gunners 4ever

  8. David
    September 7, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    It was interesting to see Wilsheres role at Anfield where he played a deep play maker role and Diaby played the Song role with nasri supporting, I think its possible Wilshere can cover 2 of the 3 positions already, the only weakness is the Song role when he is not there, Denilson does not seem to have the defensive instincts for it and its a shame Frimpong got injured.

  9. Hashim
    September 7, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    4-3-3 has worked well for Arsenal and this season, the addition of Chamakh in attack will certainly prove vital. He opens up play with his movement and allows the midfielders to penetrate the defenses a little more. However, I am still not convinced about his vision with the pass. Needs improvement in that department. Also, he seems to be stuck in the mid and is not seen in the box when the ball is out wide. Should be making the run to head crosses towards goal. Thats his strength after all.

  10. Ole Gunner
    September 7, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    Oh, sure Andrew. Eduardo simply didn’t seem likely to settle into the main striker role in a 4-3-3

  11. Wiseman
    September 7, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    I really agree with your point regarding Diaby and his poorer performances when being put in a defensive role, rather than an attacking role. I have been saying the same thing over the last year – Diaby is an attacking player, and whilst he has potential to be a good defensive player, his defensive decision making is poor.

    Diaby was a an incredible player for France during the World Cup, probably their best player (although that doesn’t say much). In my opinion it was because he was given more of an attacking license.

    My opinion is that a 4-3-3 is great, until it turns into a 4-5-1, which can happen if the wingers are hesitant to get up the pitch. I think with Chamakh in the team, instead of RVP, players like Theo will spend more time attacking the goal, and less time playing as winger.

  12. Ezra
    September 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Can you please remind me of the Arsenal squad list of the two games against Everton last season? Thanks!

  13. huh?
    September 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    our 4-3-3 is more a 4-2-1-3 with cesc behind the main striker. song and cesc are starters and let’s see who gets the 3rd place alongside song.

    if diaby could learn to play more defensively it would be a great midfield, strong and tall enough to stand up to anyone.

    anyway there is denilson which is still expected to make a great season. on his day he is a great player, taking the ball from song to cesc and making good tackles.

    my biggest concern is how good we are defensively in midfield b/c offensively we have plenty of options. like i said i would like diaby to learn the defensive part of the game so he can aid song.

  14. Thinagaran
    September 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    4-3-3 , 4-51 , 4-4-2 .. same shit ..

    Arsenal just need football players with the brain …

    Arsenal only got 2 players who play the football with the brain – Fabregas and Arshavin..

  15. Andrew Weber
    September 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    @ Thinagaran – Brains are important but “4-3-3, 4-5-1, 4-4-2, same shit…” – are you kidding me? By that logic we may as well throw off the shackles and adopt the 1930s Austrian national team’s 2-3-5 and go all out. Same shit, right?

    I’d say Song has a pretty good brain, as does Vermaelen. Robin van Persie’s not bad either. I could go on.

  16. goonergerry
    September 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    The 4 3 3 demonstrably does not work against the top 3/4 sides- We won one game against the other top 5 sides and lost the rest- thats won 1 , lost 6. You cant put all of those results down to injuries. Every one of those teams defeated us the same way- defend deep and hit on the counter. Why do you think Chelsea and United don’t play 4 3 3 ?
    The real impact of injuries was on our ability to score- but even with a full team we lost to Man U and Citeh. We have to adopt a more effective defensive formation when we play the top sides like 4 3 2 1 .
    Against the lesser sides- 4 3 3 at home is ok – rack up the goals without too much risk of conceding.

  17. Andrew Weber
    September 7, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    @ huh? – I don’t agree with this. Cesc and Diaby were virtually level without the ball at Blackburn. Cesc appears to probe with his passing while Diaby looked more likely to dribble forward and make runs into the penalty area.

  18. Gunner Young
    September 7, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    I think one of the most serious part of reverting from a 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 has been our wing backs. Clichy for me is still trying to come to terms with this formation, his defensive and offensive play is lacking. The 4-3-3 give a lot more opportunities for our wing backs to cross, unfortunately only Eboue has that crossing ability, but he is compared to Sagna, defensively weak.

  19. Andrew Weber
    September 7, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    @ goonergerry – Your statistics about losing to bigger sides cannot be ignored, but was the formation the problem? I thought the home loss to Manchester United was Wenger’s tactical bungle of the season: naively attacking and being hit on the break as opposed to the gentle possession game we played at Old Trafford, but I don’t think it had anything to do with 4-3-3. In that game the pressure was being applied haphazardly and without control while against Chelsea we didn’t have a physical presence to help out in either game. I remember writing a preview of the Chelsea game that ended 3-0 saying that if we had the same team start that game 10 times, we would lose 10 times.

  20. Jude
    September 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    I think that arsenal should have other tactical plans for teams depending on their pedigree.It shouldn’t be stereotyped.

  21. adane Bitew
    September 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    It appears to me a good analysis.

  22. Armourist
    September 7, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    @ gunner young… Of all the players in the squad that miss Flamini the most its Clichy, he used to fill in and drop and cover him, even when Nasri was playing left flank Clichy had cover, but with Arshavin, there’s no such cover, although TV5 is more aware of Clichy’s movements and often you’ll see him moving in to cover.

    The loss of form contributed, but I think the switch of personnel exposed Gael a lot more and has curbed his attacking instincts.

    Ironically when Denilson plays, Clichy also has more license to bomb forward, and does so with aplomb.

  23. mike anderson
    September 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Everyone goes on about missing flamini but no one remembers that he was mediocre for 3 of his 4 years at arsenal.he only tried harder because he wanted a contract in his last year.I believe we are playing a 4-2-3-1 like holland.last year it was a refined 4-5-1 or a 4-1-4-1.The difference between us and barca the scums is that they only attack with one wing back not two like us there fore they always have 3 defenders for cover all the time.We lost against man u and chelski because when our attacks break up we always have 2 wing backs out of position leaving only 2 defenders to defend a cross field pass to the left or right backs positions courtesy of lampard or scholes. Song needs to hold his position like frimpong does when we are on the onslaught and we will be fine.

  24. Cyn
    September 7, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    This sounds like an extremely biased view regarding Diaby and low and behold, you’re a “firm believer in Diaby’s ability to become a big player for Arsenal”. Well I’m NOT and shall attempt to balance out the argument. The midfield does NOT looked balanced when he is playing because he’s simply not a good enough all round player and you must be to play in that position. He has skills but that is it, he has no brain whatsoever and is gutless, careless and extremely selfish.

    I firmly agree that our midfield needs a strong, tenacious box-to-box midfielder to balance it but he is not that player. I’ve seen dead bodies with more fight and tenacity than Abou Diaby. There are plenty of players that we could have bought to fill this role and in the long term it has to be Ramsey and Lansbury competing for it.

    Diaby is a liability. He can’t defend at all. He has no awareness or vision. So play him as the attacking midfielder you say? That means playing Cesc or Nasri or indeed Wilshere deeper. so you are saying play our best attacking midfielders deeper to accommodate one of our worst midfielders? Here’s an idea, don’t play him at all.

    Even when he’s doing alright, his good attributes do not come close to balancing out his many deficiencies. He gives the ball away constantly, he’s lazy and doesn’t track back, he never passes at the right moment, he completely KILLS our counter attacks by holding onto the ball for too long and doing pirouettes in the centre circle – by the time he gets his head up their entire team is behind the ball.

    Wenger is a very intelligent man and astute manager, but when he gets it wrong he gets it wrong massively. His obvious favour of Diaby and also Denilson has harmed this team just as much as failure to buy a new goalkeeper.

    Diaby will cost us this season, mark my words. But hey it’s not entirely his fault, it’s Wenger who names him in the first 11 whenever he’s fit and Wenger must be held accountable when he inevitably fails.

  25. Gooner16
    September 7, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Great post.

    This formation suits us perfectly, Diaby is a great box-to-box midfielder and Song is not only awesome in the holding role but can step into each of the three central positions or centre back. Most importantly, maybe, the 3 forwards with the false 9 allows Walcott to use his trademark run from the right wing into a central role, between full-back and centre back. This is why he often looks poor for England, not that I care. Chamakh is in some ways a better false 9 than RVP, he makes more runs into wide and deep positions to create space and hold the ball, RVP is better on the ball in terms of creativity.

  26. Fikru
    September 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    well said! good observation! let’s hope we would keep injury free squad for the next 2 or 3 games. then RVP, Nasri, and Bendtner will be back,then we have the options to say…

  27. davi
    September 7, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Interesting post, but I have to disagree with you on diaby and his role in the side. It is true imo that he is more of a natural attacker but last season was, for him, all about learning to play a more defensive role for the side, often forming a screen in front of the defence with song and even replacing him as the main defensive midfielder in the side when necessary. He did this again for france at times during the world cup, and started the liverpool game in that position for us. And imo we could easily have suffered defeat at anfield if it werent for his presence. We were lacking experience in that position and he stepped up to the plate. I think he deserved more credit for that.
    You see, now I think he is still inconsistent going forward, but these days he is quite reliable on the defensive side. He sometimes gives the ball away cheaply, as he did against anfield (after being rushed back a bit to be fair) but he does hold his position pretty well when he needs to and puts in a lot of good tackles and physical challenges. Against blackburn, he was more effective defensively than song, and again, we might have suffered a draw or defeat were it not for a number of important defensive headers and his added physical presence in midfield.
    I now see him as playing a role similar to that edu used to play for us. Not really a natural defensive midfielder, but defensively responsible and strong enough to add a significant physical presence to the side. The difference is that diaby has some insane attacking talent that can make a real difference at times each season. Edu got the odd scrappy goal, but diaby is capable of literally anything as an attacker. Its a real bonus, that.

  28. piken79
    September 7, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    surely somone must think denilson is not totally useless, I must say against Barca at home he was one of the only players that had the balls to stand uo to them. He is very underated player, if he bulk up, he can really be an outstanding player, i unlike most of you, think he is good squad player to have.

  29. Arseman
    September 7, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    @Cyn….thank you for your completely “unbiased” view on Diaby.
    Next time you are watching him play, I suggest you keep your eyes and more importantly your mind open…As an Arsenal supporter…we’re fed enough dross by the hacks and the pundits….don’t start falling for it.
    You seem like you’re an intelligent person…stop trying to feed other people the bs you hear on talkshite.

    calling an arsenal player – gutless, selfish, careless and brainless – you a spud in disguise?

  30. idorenyin
    September 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    We can win the league every year if we get it right. My explanation is simple. We lost Viera and the whole world thought it was over for arsenal yet we played champions league to final. We lost Henry, our talisman and yet we maintained a comfortable league position. This shows that Wenger is good. Most clubs in the world in our position would have sunk. Liverpool lost Alonso. Man U lost Ronaldo. The world can see the result. What we lack is depth in all depts. 4-3-3 or 4- 2 -2 OR 10- 10- 8 formation is not the issue. INJURIES IS IT. Two seasons ago we lost the league after keeping No1 spot till few weeks to end of league.

    Another point is, get us a fox in the box player or a Drogba and see what we will do OR if we can not get these, TELL the boys to shoot at the 18 yard. WE PASS the ball a LOT here.

    And finally, note that arsenal is the only team in the WHOLE WORLD that can create 25 chances in a game and LOST all or score 1. The day we begin to convert half our chances others will dread us.

  31. young gunners
    September 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    How about Rosicky? He is quick and brainy. Look at Blackpool match…4 of 6 goals started with his slick accurate passing…look a the way he stole the ball from opponents

  32. omer
    September 7, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    the 4-3-3 formation is just fine.It is more quicker for attacking players to shift the ball from left to right and vice versa.giving space & time for arshavin and theo to plan their runs & create space & surprisingly this past few games chamakh has played more of a link man aka bendtner last season .linking the play up in the middle. giving the like of fabregas to move into the final third.i do like to see song being more aggressive like a flamini, or a scott parker. HOWEVER!
    this may seem very rosy when we are in possesion!.last season we were outplayed by man utd, chelsea, barcelona, because we didnt manage to retain the ball quicker.
    Barcelona players are trained to retain the ball within 4 seconds.
    So i guess , Wenger need to emphasize on this more cuz we’re just extremely dangerous in attacking!.

  33. Cyn
    September 7, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

    @ Arseman

    I never claimed my view on Diaby was unbiased. Nobody is truly unbiased regarding a topic close to their heart therefore I have a strong opinion on the subject. The writer is clearly sitting on one side of the fence and I provided the view from the other.

    I neither listen to talksport nor give any tabloid hacks my time. I’m realistic and call Arsenal exactly as I see it, some people prefer to live in a world where Wenger is never wrong and all our players are brilliant, that’s their choice but I’ll gladly provide the cold water.

    Next time try and counter my argument with a thought out and reasoned reply rather than just throw random accusations around.

  34. Will
    September 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    4-3-3 is a good formation for Arsenal .I was interested with 4-2-3-1 but,that did not work out against Liverpool. Song did good in both the games he played,Walcott was the goalscorer and Arshavin the playmaker.I have seen some beatiful goals,good passes.What I want to see is more cleen sheets.It will be difficult for a team like Arsenal,but we conceded a goal against Blakburn.We need more cleen sheets than scoring goals.We cannot hold the one goal lead against Blackburn.We should care about our defense now, not only back four but also Diaby,Song and Cesc.We have to more careful with counter attacks because we will face plenty of those against the other big guns.Arsenal have to hold the lead instead of emptying their own half after scoring 1 or 2.

  35. jason
    September 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    brilliant post mate. well thought.

  36. Arseman
    September 7, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    @cyn….good to know you form your own opinions….i understand that you can have a difference in opinion….but at least have the decency to, like you said “have a reasoned and thought out response”

    Is calling a player brainless and gutless fair to the player or the team?

    I agree that Diaby has his shortcomings…like any other player. But im sure that even you cannot deny that on his day…he can be immense. He scored 7 goals and had 5 assists last season…which is not bad for a midfielder who has been told to curb his attacking instincts.

    In your first post…you have made vague and generalized statements about a player without backing them up…The kind of accusations you’ve made can be true for any player on the pitch on a bad day..

    All im saying is…give the lad a chance…and MARK MY WORDS….he will prove you wrong this season…and if you’re a true fan…you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  37. Andrew Enloe
    September 7, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    Good stuff there Andy. Just don’t start steppin’ on my toes or I’ll have you killed. I will disagree a bit on the Diaby-Fabregas relationship. I think Fabregas stayed back a bit just because he wasn’t totally fit. When he’s fit again I think Diaby will play the more withdrawn role. He was certainly excellent against Blackburn, but after the interlull he’ll be a slightly more withdrawn playmaker.

    @ All of you arguing about who should play in that remaining midfield spot –

    It’s pretty obvious that the midfield is seen as a bit of a problem area, even though we’re quite well-stocked there. And as far as I can tell it’s because there’s one spot that hasn’t been nailed down.

    Song and Fabregas are definitely first choice if they’re available. The other one is up for grabs.

    The problem is that everyone is assuming that one player should fill that spot and be the undoubted first choice. That’s just not how the modern game works. Rotation is the name of the game. The team should be tailored to the opposition. Look at Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Real Madrid. They all rotate their midfield players according to their opposition’s strengths. Diaby, Ramsey, Denilson, etc. all have their uses, but the game has to be right.

    Diaby: works well against physical opposition like Blackburn and Stoke. I’ve also seen Eboue work well in central midfield in games like this.

    Ramsey: works best when the game is open and there is space in central midfield. I’m thinking matches against Spurs, Manchester United, and Aston Villa. I suspect Wilshire would flourish in conditions like this too.

    Denilson: works best when the team is struggling to break down opponents. I’m thinking last season’s match at Hull. And I wrote a piece on how he would have helped us out against Liverpool: http://arsenalfcblog.com/the-short-corner-how-denilson-would-have-improved-arsenal-at-anfield/

    @ Thinagaran – Does ‘Arry Redknapp troll Arsenal blogs in his spare time?

  38. Leebo
    September 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    Just wanted to make a point re changing from 4-3-3 against direct rivals. I think this certainly applies to Chelsea. In the 2nd half of the game at The Bridge last season we reverted to a 4-4-2 and were able to contain chelsea and looked more dangerous. This however was a case of matching their formation which should be the overiding lesson when playing direct rivals I think.

  39. ikram
    September 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    I think wenger should test 4-5-1 due to van persie and bendtner are always injured.
    as fabregas leaves he might have to use:

    almunia
    sagna koscielny vermaelen clichy
    song
    rosicky nasri
    wallcott arshavin
    chamakh

  40. Tony Frankson
    September 7, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    I’m still unconvinced this 4-3-3 can win us the title. Look at the model Wenger tried to use from Barcelona, they had a forward trio that scored 72 league goals, that is just 3 players, how many will our starting trio score? They hardly set the world alight last season, injury or no injury.

    he’s also built this side to the benefit of Fabregas, but we have another 9 outfield, and the forwards and midfielders aren’t fully accomodated where they want to be apart from Song, Arshavin wants a playmaker role and is put on the wing, same as Nasri and Rosicky, Diaby wants to attack but is played deep etc etc. Sooner or later, it’ll be exposed.

    The defence is still a disaster, we let in 21 goals in 18 games from Aug-Dec, this year, we’ve given up bad goals for a team that is supposed to have tightened it’s game up.

    As for does it work, in some games yes, but in the big games and big teams that decide big titles, the answer is an easy no.

    Also have to mention the Adebayor thing, like Wenger deserves credit for getting Chamakh on a free, we sold Adebayor and Eduardo, is Chamakh a replacement for both? It was a mistake to sell him, and a mistake not to buy a replacement for Eduardo, cus if Chamakh goes down, guess who’ll be the striker? Yes, the tall Arshavin, and we are screwed again.

  41. kel
    September 7, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    Great points weber I think the best midfield that arsenal has is cesc, song and diaby, diaby gets the nod cause of his size but i still think he holds the ball too long and sees the wrong pass but i will judge this team in January the players have a lot of time to prove me wrong cause i still thik this team is hugely imbalance too many small players and most of all the team has no prolific goal scorer bad for business but keep hope
    By the way vanpercy is out until mid october i think he is the biggest liability at this club what the sense of having a player that can only play a hand full of games all season this hurts the club something should be done

  42. Darragh
    September 8, 2010 at 4:49 am #

    Great analysis Andy. Also great from Andrew in the comments.

    Interested to see how your views changed considering Theo got injured for England (though we don’t know any details – it could be not that serious).

  43. Terry
    September 8, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    Diaby clearly polarises people – they either rate him or hate him. It’s a reflection of his lack of consistency. If he can play like he did against Blackpool and Blackburn week in week out, and against the top teams then he will be a great player. until then…

    Nice article. I for one love the 4-3-3 and the players movement and swapping of positions. When it works it’s great, but again, like Diaby the individual, too many times last season when it mattered the team as a whole did not perform. Injuries were a major problem with RVP and B52 both out for extended periods. My worry is that they are both currently crocked, and now I hear Theo got injured playing for the Poms last night. Talk about deja vu!

  44. Joakim Löf
    September 8, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    Thanks for a nice article! I do think Wenger & co. has been drilling Diaby for better defensive stability and it has been starting to take effect I think. We need two defensively minded players in front of our back four, and this season it’s working better in that department.

    I think the big drawback is our left flank when we play Arshavin. He is a forward and not really adapted to playing defence at all. He runs back, sure, but he is easy to pass by for opponents leaving Clichy exposed. On the right Walcott is slightly better in defense, and most importantly Sagna is a superior defender to Clichy. So I expect Wenger to change our formation vs. top teams. Probably play Nasri or Rosicky as our left winger or even play Gibbs or Vermaelen on left full back. We will only see the Belgian there if Koscielny AND Squillaci play to their full potential, so that’s more for the long-term.

  45. billp79
    September 10, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    i think wenger is calling it a 4-2-3-1 now
    with diaby and song setting in deep so one can go forward and the other can stay in support
    it allows coverage when the right and left back go forward so there is always support along the back….last year song got caught across field alot when clichy or sagna went forward and the rest of the backs had to shift…this still allows cesc freedom to roam…

  46. nyerotoo francis
    September 12, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    Well done Arsene Wenger for the new figure in the squard and I like his formation of 4 3 3 to me it is yielding some good results because at the moment at Arsenal we good attackers and good wingers and for sure this season I know that Arsenal is going to perform well and take the cup. My a bit of worry is the rising number of injuries at Arsenal . We the fans always we feel very bad if our team Arsenal is loosing point on even smaller teams. I want our manager Arsene Wenger to pull up and begin being tough on the players if they produce a very poor performance. Long live Arsenal.

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