Does Giroud’s Signing Herald A Change In Formation? Merits Of 3-5-2 & WM
After my post yesterday a few of my regular readers asked me why it had been a full week between posts when I’m usually a 2 post a week a blogger. The reason is that I actually had a post that I’d spent the best part of 5 days working on almost ready to go last Friday when a piece of a very similar nature was posted on 1nildown2oneup, it was a great piece so check it out if you haven’t already. I decided to bin my post and work on something different. Dave Seager of 1nildown2oneup said I should just post it anyway but by that point I had lost the motivation to finish it as I didn’t feel it was original to North London Is Red any more. However, with the news of Giroud official signing breaking today I thought I could work with my binned post again.
My original post was going to be about utilising different formations, mostly the 3-5-2 in order to play Mertesacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen together and how we could easily change formations mid game and from game to game without changing personnel too drastically. I think that a 3-5-2 could improve us defensively but I also think it would be the perfect formation to fit our new signing Olivier Giroud!
I believe that a 3-5-2 would offer us the very best of our current system as well as the very best of the 4-4-2 that as many believe is outdated as there are those that long for a return to it. Formations are like clothes and fashion trends. Some work for the masses, some only work in certain eras, some only work for a small group of people and some never go out of fashion.
4-4-2 works for many teams and is a formation I believe will never go out of fashion. 4-3-3 is the hot trend at the moment but I believe that it is on it’s way out of fashion. I believe that a 3-5-2, as an option, would help improve upon Arsenal’s defensive frailty as well as support our attack instincts but it’s not the only formation I want to explore. I also want to explore the famous WM formation of the Chapman era.
What 3-5-2 can go for Arsenal is aid our attacking mentality, possession based football, quick passing whilst also improving our already impressive counter-attacking and defending from the front. The benefits of having the ability to use many formations, WM and 3-5-2 being a couple of them, is that we can adapt to any situation be that a stubborn team, an attack minded team or even injuries crises like we had in January.
Arsenal play with their fullbacks high up the pitch which I believe leaves our centre backs exposed and often leads to the wrongful maligning of Alex Song for “failing” to protect the back four which are only really a back two. Unlike our great teams of the past under Wenger we rely almost exclusively on our central midfielders to create chances and without the worlds best chance creator (statistically) in Cesc Fabregas in our team we depended on our other players to step up. Unexpectedly that was Song which was a nice surprise but also led to him being “out of position” on a number of crucial occasions. It is because of this that I believe we can afford to push our fullbacks up a little higher and allow more creative freedom amongst our midfield without compromising defensive stability.
I believe that playing with one centre forward as we do isn’t suited to the English game unless you have a forward who is as much of a bully as the defenders he will undoubtedly face week in week out or a world class superstar. Luckily for Arsenal we have one of the worlds best strikers so coped reasonably well but I think Arsenal supporters reactions to every tackle on Van Persie and the dreaded thought of what would happen should be be injured shows how ineffective our system is with our back up players. However in Podolski and Giroud I believe we have more than adequate back up now.
In a 3-5-2 you have three defenders with two players marking the opposition’s forwards and a sweeper behind them. The midfield has two wingbacks and three central midfielders who are organised depending on whether they have the ball or not. The two strikers are positioned high up the pitch with a traditional number 9 and a number 10 switching between playing in the hole and being a supporting striker.
Modern fullbacks overlap with wingers down the flanks to great attacking effect but at a club like Arsenal they are often exposed by the lack of effort or ability from their wingers in their defensive duties. This is only to be expected when you consider that Arsenal do not play with wingers; they play with wide forwards, on paper at least. So why not add the extra defender in the middle allowing the midfield to push up and add an extra man up top? The fullbacks would continue as they are as they have very little cover as it is already.
Our three defenders would be Mertesacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen of course with Mertesacker playing as a sweeper. There is a question mark over Mertesacker’s pace but playing as a sweeper or in the centre of a back three would suit him very well as he has fantastic positioning and his reading of the game is superb.
Koscielny and Vermaelen are both capable of playing as fullbacks which would help them as they set up slightly wider than usual and control the edge of the box on their respective sides when defending. When attacking Mertesacker could push up from his sweeper position and have one of the others tuck in beside him and allow the third man to take up a front sweeper position. From a defensive point of view 3-5-2 works well teams who play with two strikers which would help against United who were the only top team we haven’t been able to beat over the past couple of years.
For wingbacks we have Sagna who is defensively and offensively astute so would work very well as a wingback. Aside from Jenkinson when Sagna is not fit we always have Coquelin whose proven to be capable in midfield as at fullback who I believe would also play this role to great effect and dare I say it even Ramsey could play this position. On the other flank we have two excellent players in Gibbs and Santos who both started as left wingers so aren’t short on attacking ability and are not entirely incompetent defenders. Dave Seager wrote a great piece on utilising Santos’ offensive abilities.
We can play with one or two deep midfielders which would accommodate any combination of Jack, Arteta and Song or we can play with two attacking midfielders by pushing our sweeper up just behind the holding midfielder. With two attacking midfielders we can play Rosicky, Ramsey, Wilshere and The Ox or we could even play with a very advanced attacking midfielder and play RVP or Podolski behind two other strikers.
In attack the flexibility of the formation would allow us to play any combination of Giroud, Poldolski and RVP or even all three if we so wished.
We could also change formation at will to a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3. I know it’s not Football Manager but all it would take would be a shout from Bould to change formation or with one substitution we could completely change formation and bring on an impact player.
Without making a substitution we could change from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3 with no ill effect. With just one substitution we could change from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 or 3-2-2-3 (WM). 3-5-2 is a very flexible formation and is perfect for switching from defence to attack in the blink of an eye and vice versa.
I’ve made up a GIF but pay no attention to the actual player names as I believe that we can can play these formations to great effect regardless of the personnel. (The GIF shifts to a new formation every 10 seconds).
I cannot see Wenger buying players of the calibre of Giroud and Podolski just to put them on the bench and despite my feelings on RVP earlier this year I think we may just have planned for selling him. If we don’t then that means a change in formation which I would prefer and I honestly think that Wenger is considering. I don’t think he has been wrong with his tactics or his formations in the past but I don’t think that our current formation will best serve the players we have and the players we have added moving forward.
If RVP does stay, which I hope he does then I can’t see him, Giroud or Podolski being benched long-term so I think all three will play together but only if Robin stays. I believe that only 4-4-2 or WM will allow us to play all three together and that would be a very exciting proposition.
In Podolski we have an extremely versatile player but more importantly a player who is happy to utilise his versatility. Although Robin has played wide for his country I don’t believe he would want to do it for club and will only play as a 9 or a 10. Our latest addition, Giroud is less versatile in my opinion but no less dangerous. He can score with both feet and with his head, he can play with his back to goal and as a main striker. He is an aerial threat and is probably going to be our focal point in attack.
I think we could quite easily see Giroud being the main striker in any formation and the question I think is going to be who will partner him. I personally would like to see Giroud and Podolski upfront with Van Persie in the Bergkamp role.
The WM formation also intrigues me as I believe it could work well with the players we have.
Similar to the 3-5-2 you start with 3 defenders but as there are two holding midfielders I think you could easily get away with using fullbacks as the outer defenders and having the holding midfielders drop deep to allow the fullbacks to join in the attack. Ahead of the two holding midfielders you have two attacking midfielders/playmakers and I believe that Jack, Rosicky, Ramsey, The Ox, RVP and Podolski could all play in those advanced roles. You have a main striker who I think will be Giroud and two wide forwards who would most likely be Podolski and Theo. It’s an almost 90 year old formation but I think it still has merit especially against 4-4-2 teams.
I’m no conspiracy theorist (we only bought Park to sell shirts in Asia and only bought Giroud to sell calendars to girls ;-)) but the new shirt does have WM embroidered in the back. Maybe it’s a hint?
I would be surprised if we are still playing 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 next season as our main formation but however we line up next season I think we’re in for a great season and I can’t wait.
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