MATCH REPORT: Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal

Arsenal have picked up second consecutive Premier League defeat after losing 3-2 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, this evening.

The Gunners were facing an uphill battle early on, as two first-half goals from Pedro Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata placed Chelsea two goals up.

Unai Emery’s men bit back in a spirited fashion, however, with two goals of their own before half-time, as the two sides took to the interval locked at 2-2.

Chelsea’s dominance in the second half was telling, granting them the final say in the clash, as Marcos Alonso’s 80th minute finish snatched all three points for his side in a five-goal-thriller.

Among the changes in Emery’s ranks was Iwobi’s introduction, coming in for the benched Aaron Ramsey, meanwhile Nacho Monreal marked his return to the first-team following Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ injury last week.

The Arsenal full-back came close to delivering for the visitors early doors, as his cross from the left was glanced on by Mesut Özil on the volley before skipping just wide of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal.

Chelsea’s response was fatal, however, as Jorginho freed Marcos Alonso in behind the Arsenal defence before setting Pedro up for a first-time finish past Čech, placing Maurizio Sarri’s team 1-0 up by the 9th minute.

The Gunners should’ve bounced back through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 19th minute, found by Héctor Bellerín’s cut-back, but the Gabonese striker’s effort floated way over the bar with much of the goal at his mercy.

Once more, Chelsea were able to flaunt their clinical eye for goal through Alvaro Morata’s first goal of the season, as the Spaniard peeled away from the Arsenal backline to run through on goal, shifting Shkodran Mustafi out of his way and finishing in the 20th minute.

Another golden opportunity came the North Londoners’ way, this time falling to Mkhitaryan following Iwobi’s good work down the by-line, but the Armenian would suffer from the same fate as his ex-Dortmund teammate Aubameyang when blazing an effort over from a prime position.

Mkhitaryan was quick to make amends, however, drilling a loose ball from the edge of the box into the back of the net in the 37th minute, as Arsenal pulled a goal back.

At the other end, Morata was bringing Čech into action with an arced effort, requiring the veteran goalkeeper to tip the Spaniard’s effort over the bar.

Low crosses continued to cause chaos in the Chelsea box, with Arsenal finally making one count through Iwobi’s finish inside the area to level the game in the 41st minute.

A chance each for Iwobi and Aubameyang threatened to complete the turnaround for the Gunners on the brink of half-time, as the two London rivals entered the interval tied at 2-2.

Chelsea emerged rejuvenated for the second half, enjoying large spells of possession before Ross Barkley looked to force his way through in the 56th minute, as Čech got a strong and important hand to the ex-Everton man’s low strike.

Čech was there again to deny David Luiz from a free-kick position in the 74th minute, with Chelsea attempting to squeeze the Gunners in for the final 15 minutes, in search of a winner.

Ramsey aimed to drag some life into Arsenal’s attack with a cross-shot at the other end, as Kepa kept things tight for his side.

But Chelsea’s dominance soon translated itself into a goal, with Eden Hazard waltzing past Alexandre Lacazette down the wing to feed Alonso inside the box, who made no mistake when squeezing a shot under the goalkeeper and putting the Blues ahead in the 80th minute.

Arsenal old boy Giroud neared a killer blow against his former side with a measured left-footed strike, but Čech stood firm to deny another attempt at goal.

Ramsey was later on hand to offer the hosts a final fright, volleying just over the bar from Mkhitaryan’s knock-down before Arsenal surrendered to a 3-2 defeat.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7) – Héctor Bellerín (4), Shkodran Mustafi (5), Sokratis (5), Nacho Monreal (6) – Mattéo Guendouzi (7), Granit Xhaka (4) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (6), Mesut Özil (5), Alex Iwobi (7) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (5)

Subs: Lucas Torreira (6), Aaron Ramsey (5), Alexandre Lacazette (5)

MATCH REPORT: Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal

A late Marouane Fellaini goal denied Arsenal a hard-fought draw in Arsène Wenger’s final trip to Old Trafford, as Manchester United snatched a 2-1 victory.

The Gunners had fallen behind early in the first half through Paul Pogba’s opener but were able to cancel out the Frenchman’s finish in the second period, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan found the back of the net against his former club to make it 1-1.

Man United would end up prolonging the north Londoners’ poor form away from home, however, courtesy of Fellaini’s late header in the 92nd minute.

Arsène Wenger’s men, with an eye on next week’s Europa League clash with Atlético Madrid, came into the contest with a total of seven changes, headlined by a debut for 21-year-old Konstantinos Mavropanos.

In a tight start to the affair, Man United were able to break the ice through Pogba’s close-range-volley in the 17th minute, following up on Alexis Sanchez’s header that was deflected onto the post.

The Gunners replied through Mkhitaryan, who was able to strike well across goal after being fed by Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ flick, but the ball roam just wide of the mark.

Arsenal continued to search for solutions, with the next chance falling to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Héctor Bellerín’s cross, but the ex-Borussia Dortmund man would lack the power behind his header to trouble David De Gea in the 35th minute.

The half ended with a scare for the visitors, as Ashley Young found the outside of David Ospina’s near post, with the two sides walking off to a 1-0 score line.

The inclination of the game renewed itself in the second half and Arsenal were able to make their momentum count in the 52nd minute, as Granit Xhaka won the ball higher up the pitch to set Mkhitaryan on his way before the Armenian could find the bottom corner, making it 1-1.

Arsenal’s equaliser provoked a reaction out of United, but both sides would fail to conjure up anything of note for the majority of the second period.

United sought Fellaini’s aerial prowess late on and it was through the Belgian that the hosts had the Gunners staring at defeat in the 92nd minute, as he glanced a header past Ospina to secure a 2-1 victory just two minutes from time.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: David Ospina (6) – Héctor Bellerín (6), Calum Chambers (6), Konstantinos Mavropanos (7), Sead Kolasinac (6) – Ainsley Maitland-Niles (7), Granit Xhaka (6) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (7), Alex Iwobi (5), Reiss Nelson (6) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (5)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (6), Nacho Monreal (6), Joe Willock (-)

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 3-0 Watford

Arsenal returned to winning ways in the Premier League after defeating Watford 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium, this afternoon.

The Gunners’ evening commenced with Mustafi picking up Arsenal’s 1,000th Premier League goal, as the hosts took a 1-0 lead into half-time.

Second-half strikes from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan rounded off the score, with Petr Čech’s first penalty save for the North London outfit, as well as his 200th clean sheet, also decorating Arsenal’s display.

In Laurent Koscielny’s absence, Arsène Wenger called on Rob Holding to partner Mustafi at the heart of defence, meanwhile the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mohamed Elneny and Alex Iwobi also found their way into the starting line-up.

Mustafi was able to provide the start Arsenal craved for in the 8th minute, heading Mesut Özil’s free-kick back across goal from inside the box to put his team a goal up.

The Gunners eyed an early second, unlocked by Elneny’s pass through to Sead Kolasinac on the left-hand side of the byline, but the latter would end up over-hitting his cross somewhat for the lurking Aubameyang at the back-post.

Watford replied with a goal-bound Richarlison free-kick in 25th minute, with Roberto Pereyra the first to react to the rebound before letting Arsenal off the hook when slicing his attempt over.

No less than a minute later, the hosts were up at the other end through neat combinations, as Özil found himself one-on-one before a trailing Orestis Karnezis leg did just enough to stop the German from scoring deep inside the box.

The Hornets saved their best football for the final period of the first-half, but little reward enabled Arsenal to hold on to their 1-0 lead through to the break.

Watford positivity resumed in the second period, but Arsenal promised to undo the visitors’ appetite with a second, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan offered Aubameyang the chance to round the goalkeeper and make it 2-0 in the 59th minute.

Javi Gracia’s side could’ve pulled a goal back as soon as the 62nd minute via Troy Deeney’s spot-kick, but Petr Čech’s penalty save – a first in Arsenal colours – kept the Vicarage Road outfit out.

The same privilege from the 12-yard-mark wouldn’t be handed to the Gunners just a few minutes later, as Adrian Mariappa’s late tackle on Mkhitaryan went unnoticed.

In the 76th minute, Aubameyang returned Mkhitaryan the favour after the latter managed to squeeze a shot under Karnezis for his first league goal at the Emirates, as Arsenal took a 3-0 lead.

Danny Welbeck looked to add a fourth before time was up, but the Gunners would settle for three in their first string of back-to-back wins since January.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7) – Ainsley Maitland-Niles (6), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Rob Holding (6), Sead Kolasinac (6) – Mohamed Elneny (7), Granit Xhaka (6) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (7), Mesut Özil (7), Alex Iwobi (6) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (7)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (6), Calum Chambers (-), Jack Wilshere (-)

MATCH REPORT: A.C. Milan 0-2 Arsenal

Arsenal will take a 2-0 lead back to England with them after defeating A.C. Milan away from home in the Europa League, ahead of the second leg at the Emirates, next Thursday.

Despite recent struggles away from home, the North Londoners were able to overcome Milan, undefeated in their last 13 outings, with a couple of first-half goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey.

With minimal changes being made from the team that lost 2-1 to Brighton & Hove Albion at the weekend, Arsène Wenger was able to count on the return of Ramsey from injury, as Jack Wilshere kept his place at the expense of Alex Iwobi to play alongside the Welshman and Granit Xhaka.

The game fired up with a shot apiece for the two sides, as both Mkhitaryan and Patrick Cutrone found the side-netting with danger within the opening ten minutes.

Arsenal maintained the buzz and were able to make Milan pay in the 14th minute, as Mkhitaryan was afforded the chance to cut in from the right before overcoming Gianluigi Donnarumma with a deflected shot, placing the Gunners in front.

A disciplined display enabled Arsenal to hold on for much of the first half, whereas there’d be a couple of chances for both Chambers and Mkhitaryan to amplify the score, with the latter going closest when clipping the top of the bar in the 45th minute.

Wenger’s men remained sharp on the break, however, as Mesut Özil picked out Ramsey before the midfielder could round the keeper and make it 2-0 on the brink of half time.

The Premier League outfit may have had even more reasons to celebrate out of the blocks in the second half, as Danny Welbeck closed in on goal before Donnarumma’s intervention almost backfired into his own net off the striker’s block.

It was all hands to the pump for Arsenal from then on, as they bid to keep their two-goal advantage alive in the wake of Milan’s response.

The likes of Suso and Giacomo Bonaventura sent their warnings ahead of the final ten minutes of the game, with the Gunners later requiring an alert David Ospina to prevent Nikola Kalinic from latching onto a ball through on goal.

Arsenal wouldn’t have to face much more, however, as they held on to confirm a 2-0 victory.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: David Ospina (6) – Calum Chambers (6), Shkodran Mustafi (5), Laurent Koscielny (7), Sead Kolasinac (6) – Granit Xhaka (6), Aaron Ramsey (7) – Mesut Özil (7), Jack Wilshere (8), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (7) – Danny Welbeck (6)

Subs: Ainsley Maitland-Niles (5), Rob Holding (-), Mohamed Elneny (-)

To live or die by the chaos: Where next for Arsenal’s leaky defence?

So, it seems like Arsenal have their swagger back. Well…sort of.

Central to the recent turn of events was Alexis Sanchez’s departure to Manchester United in January, welcomed by many as a real weight off aching shoulders, with results against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup and the 4-0 demolition job against Crystal Palace in the Premier League going some way into reflecting a similar posture throughout the squad.

Here’s the complicated, yet equally predictable bit – the Gunners’ two-sided self then went on to put on a dismal defensive display away to Swansea City, losing 3-1 and worsening a streak of away games unlike any other under Arsène Wenger.

However, in the space of four days, the North Londoners were able to light up their season with the reinvigorating capture of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, adding to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s arrival, before the news of Mesut Özil’s contract extension boosted the morale to no end.

Better still, Arsenal were able to couple a thrilling few days with the 5-1 dissection of Sam Allardyce’s rigid Everton side, in an inspiring evening at the Emirates. As poor as the once-cocky Toffees boss may have believed his team to be on the day, the sight of Özil, Alex Iwobi and Mkhitaryan – all in heavy rotation – popping the ball off with such fluidity was a joy to behold.

Even I, as a fan who at times hasn’t felt as invested as one would like, couldn’t contain myself from looking like a giggling mess in the visual presence of Aubameyang’s dink into the far-post, spearheading Arsenal into a 4-0 lead before half-time.

AubaGoal

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with his goal-bound effort on his Arsenal debut.

On first viewing, with the goals taken away by Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, the Gunners’ latest additions certainly look likely to hand a healthy portion back, unlocking the potential to entertain in a manner much closer to home. But, staying true to familiarity, the inability to extend the club’s January assault on options for our defensive sector has been leveled as a serious cause for concern. Could it continue to be Arsenal’s undoing?

The frailties are there for all to see, littered across and beyond Wenger’s maligned backline. Laurent Koscielny, at the increasingly alarming age of 32, has a well-documented physical limitation, meanwhile Shkodran Mustafi has long looked totally devoid of the confidence and reliability we’ve come to expect from the ball-playing defender. That state was so much so that the defender was even rumoured to be seriously considering a swift exit back in the summer, before eventually being held by the club.

Rob Holding has been somewhat stable, but raw, whereas Calum Chambers’ light has been waning for quite some time and Per Mertesacker, in accordance with many, has probably extended his career a year longer than Arsenal should’ve been prepared to settle for.

Sead Kolasinac joins the problem, falling out of favour with Wenger to often give way for Ainsley Maitland-Niles at left-wing back, who’s looked as impressive as he has been awkward in an unfamiliar role.

Be it a back four or five, Arsenal’s shape is also sandwiched with key low-notes in Petr Čech and Granit Xhaka. One has taken to the slope of deterioration, meanwhile the latter shows grave signs of struggling to untie himself from the pressures of top-tier Premier League football, subsequently handing his confidence and creative progressiveness a beating.

XhakaSouthampton

The under-fire Granit Xhaka, who’s yet to find his feet as Arsenal’s coveted deep playmaker.

And just like that, the North Londoners’ issues become widespread and in serious need of being rectified.

You only need to go as far as the boss’ words last week to know what’s currently found at the back isn’t ideal. Talk centered around West Bromwich Albion’s  Jonny Evans, holding a considerably higher asking price than what may actually turn out to be necessary a few more months down the line, and an apparent interest in David Luiz, locked down at cross-city rivals Chelsea. All quick-fixes.

Wenger seemed keen to add to his backline, but adequate names came few and far between – commonplace in the January transfer window. This may well render the focus on defensive reinforcements, or lack thereof, as useless.

It’s with the current squad that Arsenal must set out to achieve its current objectives, whether that’s a top four finish, Europa League glory, and/or decorative success in the Carabao Cup final. Possible? Yes, because it’s important to remember that the aforementioned players under scrutiny aren’t actually bad players.

Koscielny, when fit, is up there with the very best in Europe. Under his influence, and Mustafi deserves a great amount of credit for this, the Frenchman and the German formed a formidable partnership at the beginning of the 2016/17 season that took the latter 22 league games before tasting defeat. Did it all happen by chance?

There was life in Xhaka before Arsenal – an eye-catching stint at Borussia Mönchengladbach that saw the Switzerland international garner an illustrious list of followers across European football. Among his weaknesses, confidence, a chronic issue throughout the evolution of others, seems to be the key factor weighing his qualities down.

Others might well point towards Wenger’s choice of structure being a hindrance when playing out from the back, as well as the key component that makes Arsenal’s defensive transition look far more reactive, rather than proactive. A dated problem, but the club’s state of mind certainly hasn’t been too far behind, this season.

With the arrival of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, strangely enough, the Gunners might well be able to assure themselves defensively and push on from the disappointments of the first-half of the season, following the old mantra that attack is the best form of defence.

AFC5-1EFC

Arsenal players join each other in celebration, as they defeat Everton 5-1.

Wenger appears keen to adhere to that assessment, telling the Arsenal website earlier this week that “when you say we’ve conceded too many goals, I think we don’t score enough.

“That’s our basic problem,” Wenger said. “That’s our DNA. We are an attacking team. The danger is when you are an attacking team that doesn’t score, you create your own problems.”

As mentioned at the start of this piece, some of the football displayed last Saturday was particularly palatable. It was all very ‘Arsenal’. The good kind of ‘Arsenal. And, yes, you can pick issues with the mistakes made by Everton, but can’t we all with just about any goal that’s conceded? We’re certainly never short of culpable players.

The chaos caused by three fluid playmakers, working in tandem with Aubameyang’s movement, stripped the Toffees down to their bare bones in the first half and the prospect is there for this team to do as such with greater regularity.

It’s a methodology that subscribes far more to the retention of possession, as opposed to the highlighted throwaway/high risk, high reward nature of a Sanchez-led attack, which, in theory, should put the defensive sector under less strain.

In a throwback to the days of Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky, among others, should Arsenal pull it off in the final third, the results and well-being of the team, particularly those under-fire, is sure to follow. That certainly seems to be the lasting hope, with only the football ahead of us able to establish whether it’s truly the answer to the Gunners’ faulty season.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 5-1 Everton

An Aaron Ramsey hat-trick spearheaded a glittering Arsenal display at the Emirates Stadium, as the Gunners took Everton apart with a 5-1 victory, this evening.

Two strikes from the midfielder, further amplified by Laurent Koscielny’s header and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s debut goal for the club, saw Arsène Wenger’s men storm into the break with a 4-0 lead.

Everton pulled a goal back via Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but Ramsey ensured he’d keep the headlines with his third goal in the second half, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan also starred with a hat-trick of assists.

Gripping anticipation saw Arsenal fans flock to the Emirates Stadium for Aubameyang’s first outing in red and white, with the contest against Everton also highlighted by Theo Walcott’s first return as an opposition player.

The new Gunners signing was quick to link up with his former Borussia Dortmund teammate, Mkhitaryan, who’d put his pass across goal on a plate for Ramsey to take, as the Welshman placed the hosts 1-0 up by the 6th minute.

Mkhitaryan sparked more danger cutting in from the left flank, as he fizzed a strike just wide from range in a positive start for the North Londoners.

Soon enough, Arsenal were off celebrating a second goal, as Shkodran Mustafi glanced his header towards the back-post for Koscielny to nod in after 14 minutes.

Ramsey returned for more in the 19th minute, bagging his brace with a deflected strike from range to deceive Jordan Pickford between the sticks.

There was a chance for Walcott to get in on the act at the opposite end, as he raced through on goal with Monreal in his trail prior to Mustafi’s providential block.

The 37th minute brought the moment so many had envisioned, as Mkhitaryan slipped Aubameyang through to dink the goalie and set Arsenal cruising with a 4-0 lead into half-time.

Everton returned stronger for the second period, however, with Walcott spotting Oumar Niasse with an early cross before the Senegalese striker could hit the post with an outstretched leg.

Petr Čech’s search for a 200th Premier League clean sheet had to be rescheduled for another time, as the Toffees fought back through Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s headed goal in the 64th minute.

A bit of persistence from Mkhitaryan on the flanks would put a smile back on the fans’ faces after cutting a cross into Ramsey’s path, setting the Arsenal number 8 up expertly for his hat-trick in the 74th minute.

Taking the sting out of Everton with the fifth, the Gunners were able to secure a 5-1 win and three much-needed points come full time.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (6) – Héctor Bellerín (6), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Laurent Koscielny (7), Nacho Monreal (7) – Granit Xhaka (7), Aaron Ramsey (7) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (8), Mesut Özil (7), Alex Iwobi (7) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (7)

Subs: Sead Kolasinac (6), David Ospina (6), Jack Wilshere (-)

How Will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fit into Arsenal’s Starting XI?

It took some time, but Arsenal have finally completed the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund for a club record £56 million fee. The 28-year-old joins the Gunners with a reputation as one of the deadliest forwards in Europe, having scored a whopping 141 goals in all competitions for Dortmund since signing in 2013. Aubameyang’s goalscoring prowess and bonafide star status makes him an ideal replacement for Alexis Sanchez, who joined Manchester United last week in a swap deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan sign for Arsenal.

In replacing his most productive player with two attackers that previously combined for 56 goal contributions in a single league season (see Borussia Dortmund 2015-16), Arsene Wenger has come out of a sticky situation with some credit. Now, Le Professeur must figure out how to fit his two shiny new signings into a lineup that already contains Mesut Özil and previous club record signing, Alexandre Lacazette. Here are a few different tactical setups Wenger might go for as he aims to please his star players and maximize Arsenal’s attacking output.

 

4 – 2 – 2 – 2

Arsenal - Football tactics and formations

A formation that is as exciting as it is unlikely for Wenger to try, the 4-2-2-2 would see Arsenal essentially field a front four of their attacking talent. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Özil take up free roles on either wing, cutting inside to combine with the two forwards while the wing-backs overlap to provide width.

Although he hasn’t been as prolific as fans anticipated, Alexandre Lacazette has proven that he is more than just a poacher, showing excellent holdup play and ability to keep the ball in tight areas around the box. The Frenchman plays slightly behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who thrives as the team’s target man and would benefit from another forward to keep defenders occupied.

The overwhelming amount of attacking impetus could potentially unbalance Arsenal’s shape, meaning the midfield pairing would need to be positionally disciplined and defensively aware. Mohammed Elneny may be Arsenal’s least exciting midfielder, but he could be the key to this formation succeeding. The Egyptian international excelled in a defensive midfield role in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup semifinal win over Chelsea, and would take up the same responsibilities in a 4-2-2-2. One of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, or Granit Xhaka would partner him in the middle of the park to keep things ticking and link midfield to attack. If the Gunners are particularly struggling to retain possession in midfield, Mesut Özil could tuck in from the right side to work some of his German magic.

While the 4-2-2-2 may appear to be top-heavy on paper, it could get the most out of Arsenal’s attackers if executed properly. Arsene Wenger is unlikely to revert to what is essentially a modified 4-4-2, but his recent tactical versatility could mean we’re in for a surprise.

 

4 – 3 – 3

Arsenal - Football tactics and formations

Arsene Wenger might not have to switch from his beloved 4-3-3 to fit his two new signings into the starting lineup.

Again, Mkhitaryan plays on the left wing, the position Thomas Tuchel used him in during his remarkable 2015-16 campaign with Dortmund. The Armenian notched up 21 goals and 26 assists in all competitions that season, and Wenger will hope he can regain that form by playing in his favored position in a team that suits his playing style.

There is one notable difference between this setup and a classic 4-3-3, and that’s the right wing position. Here, Aubameyang will be less of a traditional right winger and more of a right-sided shadow striker, making runs off of Lacazette and drifting into dangerous positions. As he will provide little support for Hector Bellerin on the right flank, Mohammed Elneny (or the equally mobile Ainsley Maitland-Niles) is again key as he will be tasked with protecting the right-back.

In theory, this formation could work, but playing your new record-signing striker on the wing—albeit not in a traditional winger’s role—could definitely be an issue. That said, it wouldn’t be unlike Arsene Wenger to stick to his system and ask players to adjust their positions to suit it—watch this space.

 

3 – 5 – 2

Arsenal - Football tactics and formations

For the first time in basically forever, Arsene Wenger is showing a willingness to switch his formation on a match-by-match basis based on the opposition. At long last, Arsenal (sort of) does tactics!

Earlier this season Wenger tended to play a 3-4-3, especially when he thought his side needed extra defensive support which, in the case of Arsenal, is just about every match. Recently, however, he has opted for his trusty 4-3-3—but the need to accommodate two forwards could see a three-at-the-back formation used more regularly.

A 3-5-2, for example, would look similar to the previously used 3-4-3, but with an attacking midfielder playing behind two strikers rather than two attacking midfielders behind one striker. The prospect of Mesut Özil pinging through balls to Lacazette and Aubameyang is enough to make Arsenal fans quickly forget about that strange Chilean who loved his dogs a bit too much. Mkhitaryan, then, can take up a position in midfield where he’s able to combine with Özil and burst forward when the opportunity arises. He’ll have to be a bit more disciplined, though, as Wenger said he sees the 29-year-old as a potential “box-to-box player.”

Although the prospect of Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, and Özil in the same lineup is truly tantalizing, Arsene Wenger faces a genuine challenge in fitting all four of them into a functional starting eleven. It’s a good headache to have, and if the Frenchman gets it right he may just have the scariest attack in the Premier League. In what’s turning out to be an increasingly grim season, things might be a little less depressing if the club is at least fun to watch. After all, isn’t that the whole point?

 

Follow me on Twitter @MattCelly

 

MATCH REPORT: SWANSEA CITY 3-1 ARSENAL

Arsenal collected their sixth defeat away from home in the Premier League, losing 3-1 to Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, this Wednesday.

In a game marked by Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s debut and Olivier Giroud’s probable final appearance for the club, the Gunners proved to be their own worst enemies with a series of defensive mistakes, despite taking the lead first on the night through Nacho Monreal.

A brace from Sam Clucas and a fortuitous finish from Jordan Ayew, courtesy of a Petr Čech clanger, converted the score into a 3-1 Swansea win, as Arsenal continue to distance themselves from the top four.

With Aaron Ramsey back in the team to replace the absent Jack Wilshere, Arsène Wenger left Mkhitaryan’s debut on ice when naming him on the bench, alongside Giroud, despite reports of a move away from the club.

The much-improved Swans welcomed the Gunners to South Wales by claiming the first chance of the game, as Nathan Dyer’s cross towards the back-post in the 7th minute required an alert Ramsey to deny Alfie Mawson a tap-in at goal from close range.

It was Swansea, through Mawson once more, who continued to have greater joy in the final third, as the English defender aimed to bend a strike at goal in the 28th minute before missing the target.

Arsenal’s response fell to Alex Iwobi’s feet a minute later, receiving Alexandre Lacazette’s quick lay-off inside the box before forcing a save out of Łukasz Fabianksi from the left.

The North Londoners would grow to break the deadlock by the 31st minute, as Mesut Özil picked Nacho Monreal out with a cross into the back-post prior to the Spaniard’s first-touch finish.

Swansea replied through Clucas, entering the area via the left-hand-side and squeezing an equaliser in at Čech’s near post, just two minutes after Arsenal had taken the lead.

With the 1-1 draw being maintained into the half-time break, there was little sign of the Gunners altering the score in the second period, prompting Mkhitaryan’s anticipated cameo in the 57th minute.

Calamity struck on the hour-mark when Mustafi aimed a pass back to Čech inside his area, with the veteran scuffing his clearance directly into Jordan Ayew’s path and gifting Swansea a 2-1 lead.

A third goal neared Swansea’s grasp, as Mustafi’s header into his own box was pounced upon by Dyer before the winger could flash a shot wide at Čech’s near-post, with 71 minutes on the clock.

Arsenal’s struggles continued, with Monreal miscalculating an acrobatic clearance and setting the hosts on their way for a quick counter, momentarily halted by Mustafi before Clucas could pick up the scraps and smash a third home in the 86th minute.

Offering nothing in return, even with Giroud on the pitch, Arsenal were consigned to a 3-1 defeat come full-time.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (3) – Héctor Bellerín (5), Laurent Koscielny (5), Shkodran Mustafi (5), Nacho Monreal (6) – Mohamed Elneny (6), Granit Xhaka (5), Aaron Ramsey (5) – Mesut Özil (6), Alex Iwobi (5) – Alexandre Lacazette (5)

Subs: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (6), Olivier Giroud (5)