Arsenal: Why a 4-3-1-2 formation could be the way forward

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park on December 28, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park on December 28, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

Arsenal’s formation has been a point of contention lately, with Arsene Wenger rotating between his favored two, but a third option, the 4-3-1-2, may be best.

One of the biggest criticisms of Arsene Wenger recently has been his lack of flexibility when it comes to the tactical aspect of the game. While he did switch Arsenal to a back three, it is still very unclear what our best formation is.

No matter what formation is played, we tend to be very open at the back, thus leaking bucket loads of goals in the process.

Another problem is that we are lacking the incision needed to open up teams in the final third. In some games we struggle to work the ball out past our own half way line, which is starting to become a recurring theme.

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Whether we are playing 3-4-3 or a 4-5-1 , there are two central midfielders and a sole striker. Some of the differences between the two formations are that in the case of a 3-4-3, there is an extra centre back and the wingers play more infield than wide, as they would in case of a 4-5-1.

Also in our a 4-5-1, we have an attacking midfielder instead of the extra centre back. So surely there should be a huge difference on the pitch? However, in our case there really doesn’t seem to be much of a change in the way we play, irrespective of three or four at the back.

Since we’re leaking in goals anyway, the best thing would be to play four at the back and maximise on the attacking side of our game. But hold on, what if we could defend better playing a back four?

That’s where the the 4-3-1-2 formation comes in. It is also called the ‘Diamond formation’ largely due to the fact that the four in midfield form the shape of a diamond. The traditional diamond involves a defensive midfielder, two central midfielders and an attacking midfielder. This was the same formation that Carlo Ancelloti used when he won the league with Chelsea in the 2009/10 season and what current Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte regularly used in his solid Juventus sides.

How would this formation suit Arsenal? Firstly let’s consider how we’ve been outrun in the middle of the park on numerous occasions, not just this season but in the past several seasons.

Having a midfield three of Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere could be an answer to this. More midfield personnel would mean less space for the opposition to exploit. A lot of goals we concede stem from giving the ball away cheaply in our own half.

Having this midfield three along with Mesut Ozil in a free role would give us the much needed stability needed in the middle of the park, to work the ball out efficiently.

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Some might say this formation offers a lack of width and they’re right. However, when you have full backs who have energy and quality, this formation works wonders.

Just take a look at Ancelotti’s title winning Chelsea side. They had Ashley Cole and a young Ivanovic as their full backs, so width was never a problem for them.

I feel we, too, are blessed to have two quality full backs in Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin. Suppose they get caught high up the pitch, it becomes important to tell Wilshere and Ramsey to move to their respective sides to close the space. This is to ensure that the flanks are not exploited by the opposition wingers. Damage may not be avoided, but damage control can certainly be done.

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The beauty of this formation is that we can play a midfield three, Ozil in the free role and two strikers.

Let’s assume the worst for a moment, that Alexis Sanchez leaves. That still leaves us with two world class strikers, both experts in what they do, yet so different from each other. Olivier Giroud is a target man who thrives laying balls off and attacking crosses. Alexandre Lacazette is always making runs in behind and waiting patiently for that one chance to arrive which he normally takes.

It is very clear for me that Giroud, along with Lacazette, will thrive. I always was a firm believer that the former is twice the player when paired alongside a quality second striker to make runs off him.

One thing is for sure, you cannot expect results overnight. Persistence is needed. Arsenal are blessed with the players needed to play a 4-3-1-2.

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Will Arsene Wenger change from his ways of playing 4-5-1 and 3-4-3? Time will tell.