Aaron Ramsey: How Will His Return Effect Arsenal’s Strategy?


Photo Credit: Ronnie MacDonald

Arsene Wenger faces a dilemma ahead of Wednesday’s clash with QPR, seeing Aaron Ramsey returning from injury and Francis Coquelin battered badly. The tactics he’ll likely employ may be similar to the 4-2-3-1 seen against Everton. Here’s how to break it down.

The Background

Wenger has preferred a 4-1-4-1 for many matches this season, which is frustrating for those who saw the success of the 4-2-3-1 he deployed for much of last year. However, his use of the 4-1-4-1 has likely been out of necessity. The Arteta-Ramsey double pivot (the “2” of the 4-2-3-1) has been unavailable for much of the season due to injuries. Because of this, Wenger has run the 4-1-4-1 with Flamini and then Coquelin as the deep-lying defensive midfielder. This isn’t a tremendous downgrade, as the technical quality in advanced midfield aids in keeping opposition from putting together end-to-end free flowing moves, helping Coquelin shield the back four more effectively.

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However, the 4-1-4-1 sacrifices the powerful “spine” the 4-2-3-1 creates down the middle of the pitch. Two deep-lying midfielders allows one to sit back and shield the defense while the other pushes forward as a box-to-box type.

Against Everton, Santi Cazorla tended to sit deeper with Coquelin, giving it the appearance of a 4-2-3-1. Ramsey’s availability and the question mark over Coquelin presents two scenarios.

Wenger can elect to play the dinged-up Coquelin as his defensive midfielder and deploy Aaron Ramsey as the box-to-box midfielder, effectively rendering a true 4-2-3-1 formation.

Potential 4-2-3-1

It seems a bit of a stretch to start Aaron Ramsey given that he just returned to full training in very late February, which points to Coquelin either playing alone in the defensive midfield or having a partner like Cazorla in a faux 4-2-3-1.

A Dangerous 4-1-4-1

As Wenger will likely not start Ramsey, expect to see the above formation with one of the four advanced midfielders (Cazorla) dropping deep to assist Coquelin. Notice the issue with this, no matter the final lineup: Arsenal doesn’t possess a healthy midfielder with the defensive attributes required in a true 4-2-3-1, so it will likely resemble a 4-1-4-1 anyway. This will expose Coquelin to a lot of speculative balls forward; he’s a bit of a soft center.

The Verdict

Arsenal’s best weapon in a compromised defensive position will be mastery in the midfield. It is QPR, so Arsenal should be perfectly capable of dominating. Chris Ramsey will have instructed his side to make it a physical affair, and if rhythm is lacking it could spell real trouble. The pressure Arsenal’s midfield generates will likely determine the outcome on the day.

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