Can Arsene find the balance with this squad

A lot of Arsenal fans seem to agree that Fabregas and Arshavin are the most important players for us this season. I am convinced about that. But in order for them to be most effective, they also need a lot of freedom, especially Arshavin.

A couple of years ago, Ruud Gullit was talking about Rijkaard’s Barcelona. He said that the most important thing was for Rijkaard to find a place for Ronaldinho, where he would cause the least damage – to Barca. With players of such skill, it often happens that a stunt doesn’t come off, or they make a mistake or lose the ball in some other way. Did anyone see Arshavin play a cross field ball, during the pre-season, from the left touchline right in front of our own penalty area and straight to an opposition player? (I am not sure what game that was)

The idea, here, is not to fault a magician, but to say that he should not have any defensive duties, if he is to flourish into a Ballon D’or candidate. If he plays on the left wing in a 4-4-2 formation he will invariably end up supporting the defense. I think Le boss is trying to move to a 4-3-3 partly due to this reason. But do we have a squad that can succeed with that formation.

In order for it to be a Barcaesque formation we would need someone to play Iniesta. Cesc can play Xavi, Arshavin can play Messi and any of RVP, Eduardo, Walcott, Vela and Bendtner can play the other two strikers. Those who have seen Barca play would have noticed that the front three hardly came back to defend. The five attacking players pressed high up the field, well supported by the full backs and a defensive midfielder. Song is no worse than Kieta or Toure and our full backs are collectively comparable. The only missing link is Iniesta. If Rosicky can return to his best and stay fit he could slot into that role. He has the body movement, intelligence, passing range and vision to excel in the central role occasionally switching with the wingers as well. But apart from the Czech maestro, I am not convinced about anyone else who can provide the incisiveness. Moreover, this formation demands phenomenal positional intelligence from the players at all times as it can easily turn into a defensive nightmare if the ball is not recovered quickly.

Perhaps that would necessitate a more orthodox 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1. In either of these, if Arshavin is given a free role, the attack will have more penetration and the chances of nil all draws will significantly reduce. A 4-4-2 with Arshavin as the second striker would mean that the left wing would be occupied by Nasri, Diaby, Denilson, Rosicky, Eduardo, Vela, Bendtner or RVP, although I am not a fan of putting a striker out on the wing in this formation. The right would be Theo, Eboue, Nasri or Denilson (leaving out the strikers). This to me looks like the weakest formation. The moment we have Diaby, Denilson or Eboue on one wing the attack loses something.

The 4-2-3-1 formation would see Song and Denilson sweeping horizontally on the pitch while the front 4 had complete freedom to interchange upfront. If Song and Denilson can pull it off, this could turn out to be the most devastating attacking formation the premier league has seen in recent years.

In any case, as long as Arshavin and Cesc stay fit we have a good chance of defeating any opponent. If one of them goes down with injury the squad can still challenge. I am afraid of speculating what happens if both were unfortunate.

In the short term, for the Everton game my guess is that the boss will go with a conservative 4-4-2 bordering on 4-5-1

Almunia

Sagna               Gallas               Vermaelen        Clichy

Eboue              Fabregas          Song                Denilson

Van Persie        Arshavin

My ideal starting line up would be a more attacking one

Almunia

Sagna               Gallas               Vermaelen        Clichy

Song                Denilson

Fabregas

RVP                        Eduardo                       Arshavin

Here’s hoping for a flying start…


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