Trying to fit Ozil, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan & Ramsey into the same midfield is currently proving quite tricky for a number of reasons. Arsene Wenger is usually quite liberal when it comes to shaping a midfield that contains such an array of attacking talent, however this is usually with someone that sits at the base of that midfield who can be relied upon to do the dirty work. Currently that job is either solely left to one of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, or the combination of Granit Xhaka with Aaron Ramsey. The latter works rather better on the defensive front simply due to Aaron Ramsey’s rather impressive engine. However this combination is far from perfect as Xhaka seems to struggle with the basics and has sadly been the contributor, error wise, to conceded goals. Furthermore, if the option of Ramsey and Xhaka is selected, whilst leaving enough room to accommodate all of Ozil, Wilshere & Mkhitaryan it puts one of them out of position. Ozil would likely be the one that was pushed wider, however it would be a more malleable system. But would this leave the full backs exposed? Would this mean that we are now play 4 at the back? Does this mean we can’t play with 2 up top from the get go? So many questions that to this day remain unanswered. Our manager can’t solve the conundrum with the current personnel. So how should this really work?
Whether we play with 3 at the back or 4 at the back I feel as though Wenger just needs to decide on a system whatever that system is, and stick to it. Invest time into it. Even if it’s to the end of the season. We are now at a point where the maximum amount of sticky tape is required to cover the wounds for a transitional summer. But there remains much to play for. The top 4 is not out of reach, The Carabao Cup is up for grabs and the Europa League is the best trophy left for us to try and win this season. The new signings have lifted the mood, but the midfield shape will dictate as to whether the mood remains lofty or not.
I feel as though going with a back 4 is the only way that we fit our attacking options into the side and the likes of Bellerin and Monreal (or whoever our LB has been) have been exposed in both the back 3 and 4 systems so why not counter that with a more attacking mindset. The setup vs Sp*rs in the first half at Wembley showed that this sort of shape and approach can work quite well, however the missing engine of Ramsey took its toll and the team weren’t able to cope for the duration of the 90 minutes. I’ve seen that if we start with this shape on the front foot at games and then revert to a back 3 to hold the lead we’ve built up is something that has worked well. It just hasn’t happened often enough. This would mean is that one of Lacazette or Aubameyang would be missing out. Having a £50m player on the bench is a nice luxury, but the problem here is that it looks as though we have crushed the spirit of Lacazette and this is at a time where we finally have the ammunition to supply through to him. A debate for another day. My feeling is that we should do everything in our power to get some more energy into the team with a 4-2-3-1 set up and I would be really tempted to go with a:
This leaves us a little more open at the back without the protection of Xhaka but can be made up with Wilshere sitting a little deeper and a combination of Ramsey and Welbeck’s hard work to compensate. This is also a shape that works a bit better without Alexis Sanchez in the team as Mkhitaryan actually works a bit harder defensively albeit having a little less end product in the final third. It makes for a more balanced shape and set up, also including all of our star men. Wenger has always said that “you play all the good players and they can always play together”, which is why this could just work. Injuries do hamper this as we have Ramsey and Welbeck to rely upon, however as a sticky plaster to see us through to the end of the season we may just get away with it. Newcastle-ing our way to some 4-2 & 4-3 wins might be the only way to do it until SOMEONE actually addresses the gaping hole in our midfield over the summer. Defensively we are always over exposed and have to deal with far more than is necessary due to that gaping hole, but nothing in our current squad short of experimenting with Ainsley Maitland-Niles in there (who might just be a little too relaxed for me in that role but I suppose he can’t be worse than the other options we’ve tried!) we’ve got to find a solution and find one quickly. Crunch time is upon us and nothing short of 9 wins out of our next 11 league games will give us a chance at cracking the top 4.
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