How Arsenal Machine Will Work This Season? – In-depth Tactical Analysis

As an astute reader of the game and fervent believer in a foundational philosophy that is reflected in the style of play of his teams, Arsene Wenger is always associated with beautiful, free flowing, attacking football. His teams over the years have scored some exquisite goals, with intricate passing and blinding pace often bamboozling opponents and delighting viewers.

Wenger Arsenal

This season, having added the talents of Alexis Sanchez to the squad and replaced the rock solid Bacary Sagna with the similarly rugged Mathieu Debuchy, Wenger will look to build on the team that did so well to stay on top of a highly competitive table for most of the season.

To the casual eye, Arsenal appear to be playing a 4-3-3 with a holding midfielder in Mikel Arteta and wide forwards in Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez but seasoned Arsenal fans will tell you that the formation is closer to something in between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, offering the structural stability of the former and the fluidity of the latter. Well, in theory at least.

In a perfect injury free world, Arsenal would typically line up with a double pivot of sorts comprising anchorman Arteta with Aaron Ramsey next to him. Ahead of them would play Mesut Ozil in a free role, often switching with Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott on the wings. Up top, Olivier Giroud would offer strength and a springboard to bounce passes off as the team tries to break down tough and well disciplined sides.

In a 4-2-3-1, the central core of two midfielders is typically a combination of an interceptor and a tough tackler, retrieving possession or hounding opponents into mistakes through man marking. Notable examples of this are the pairings of Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel at Chelsea or the more unconventional Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson of Liverpool. Arsenal follows a slight variation of this system with Mikel Arteta acting as the team’s metronome, keeping play moving as he feeds the playmaker or wingers. In this sense, Arsenal are not a purely tackling side but, like Barcelona, aim to defend via the means of ball retention, without the elaborate midfield play of the Catalans. Quite simply, Arsenal play to keep the ball as much as possible and attack so much that the other team is forced into defence more than attack.

In this setup, Aaron Ramsey combines brains and immense stamina to identify the side of the pitch where play is being concentrated and arrive at the best possible time and place to cause an overload on the opponent’s defence. A typical example of this would be the game against Norwich last season where he scored a brilliant goal overshadowed by Wilshere’splaystation-like effort.

Up ahead, MesutOzil seeks to influence the game in his typical fashion, always lurking on the edge of play, looking two to three passes ahead to decide where best to spray the ball. He suffered last season as the lack of pace on the wings through injuries to Walcott and Chamberlain meant teams could fearlessly double mark him without the danger of a breakaway attack. As the schemer of the squad, Ozil will hope to have more pace this year to work with in the form of Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell along with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain when he is played on the wing.

The two wide forwards Arsenal employ are again unconventional, shifting definition to suit the style of play of the players being played there. For example, during the Invincibles season, Robert Pires, despite being a conventional right footed attacking midfielder, played on the left wing, often setting up and scoring spectacular goals by unexpectedly moving towards the centre of the pitch into the gap between the opposition’s first central defender and his respective wing-back. Alexis and Theo will look to do the same, especially the Chilean who brings exceptional dribbling and finishing skills with fearsome pace to the side. Playing in a central role is also an option for the South American as he has done so numerous times for his country.

Olivier Giroud divides opinion among Arsenal fans perhaps more than any other player in the club’s history. His critics lambast his lack of pace and killer finishing but Arsene Wenger and the rest of the supporters back his never say die attitude, aerial prowess and inventive link up play. For a man so criticised it is surprising to note that he has scored a 39 goals in the two seasons he has played at Arsenalwith seasonal figures of 17 and 22, an upward graph that is quite encouraging. The manager is also a fan of the defensive sturdiness and aerial threat that he brings. The most underrated quality to Olivier Giroud is his link up play. In the most beautiful goals scored by Arsenal last season, Wilshere against Norwich, Rosicky against Sunderland, Ramsey against Swansea, Giroud was the one who made it possible with his delicate flicks and one touch play.

The manager has an interesting variety of players to mix and match in order to make his team more unpredictable. The irrepressible Santi Cazorla brings one of the finest first touches and unreal two footedness to the side to make up for his pace. When played as a wide forward, he usually drifts inwards to help set up runners for breakaway goals or help relieve pressure by accurately switching play with his pinpoint 50-60 metre passes to the opposite wing. In Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Arsene Wenger has pace, power and technique to introduce as he sees fit to either central midfield of one of the wings, replacing like for like or bringing fresh legs into the match at the death. His wonderful performance against Crystal Palace at the Emirates last year is an example of the talent this boy possesses.

Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell bring varying strengths to the Centre Forward possession with Campbell also capable of playing on either wing. The Frenchman is powerfully built and offers physicality while the Costa Rican brings a mixture of pace and unpredictability. However, both have a way to go before becoming first team regulars.

All in all, Arsene Wenger will look to use the potency of his squad to set up an attack that seeks to entertain and perform with all Gooners wishing to be transported back to the days of Bergkamp and Pires. Maybe an Henry-esque signing might just complete the dream!

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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