October 2016: Chelsea came to the Emirates Stadium with a new fiery coach called Antonio Conte. They weren’t the in-form team in the league at the time but given their record against Arsenal, they were favourites to earn another routine win over the Gunners. They lined up with a 4-5-1 formation against Arsenal and after 90 minutes, they took a 3-0 beating with a touch of Sanchez-Ozil magic. It would be the last time Chelsea lined up with the 4-5-1 formation. After that, Conte switched to a 3-4-3 and since then, they’ve lost only once. Moreover, they sit top of the table with a million points separating them from the others, including Arsenal (who couldn’t repeat that October performance…again).
It’s been said that if something isn’t working, you could freshen things up and perhaps results could go back in your favour. Chelsea proved that this season and now we’re just waiting for the crowning ceremony for them to lift the EPL title. A huge part of this was the formation change and Arsenal could do with such a change as well. In the past, Wenger would switch up the personnel to get back on track, especially towards the end of the season (when they are charging towards top 4…as usual). Maybe this time, he could consider a formation change (in addition to personnel changes). Like Chelsea, I don’t think the players are that bad, but they can be better if fitted in a different system. My formation of choice? The 4-3-3.
First up, before you criticize it, take a look at Liverpool. The formation is working wonders for them and don’t tell me Arsenal don’t have the same caliber of players for that formation. A frontline of Sanchez, Walcott & Welbeck (or Perez) is as good as any frontline in the league. Now, I believe that Arsenal is due for a new formation because the 4-2-3-1 s getting old and stale…simple. However, I also think that with the players we have, the 4-3-3 will work rather brilliantly.
The 4-3-3 allows Arsenal to cover more space on the pitch. Let’s face it, Arsenal is not a pressing team. It’s a passing team and passing teams tend to cover more space on the pitch because the players need to always be available to receive and…wait for it…pass the ball. When the team doesn’t cover most parts of the pitch, opponents can easily catch them on the counter and find spaces almost at will. The full backs can be adventurous when attacking because you can have about 2 midfielders dropping back to cover up with the wingers offering more options in the box, when crosses come in.
The 4-3-3 also allows the team to easily turn to a 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1 when defending. Teams will have to go through 2 defensive lines to cause any trouble and that should make the team hard to beat. Plus, it will allow the team to easily build from the back as they normally do, because teammates will be available to receive and…wait for it…pass the ball. Counter attacks from our end will be easy to execute.
Finally, the formation will take some attention (and possibly pressure) off Ozil. First off, the midfield will be closely-knit because their job will be to KEEP the ball and thread it forward to the attackers. It will be a collective creative hub and opponents will struggle to mark him and everyone else. I deeply think this could work.
It certainly can’t give us worse results that this currently stale formation.