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arsenalformation
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Arsenal Formation History

4-2-3-1

In a typically magisterial and
insightful piece,Arsenal Column
has laid out the strengths
of the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation
as used at this year's World Cup
by numerous teams as well as
by Barcelona. The stability
offered by using two deep,
holding midfielders to occupy the
space in front of defense has
certainly become a popular
formation. As the Column points
out,Arsenal have enjoyed some
of their best runs when
employing two deep midfielders
(Vieira and Petit, Vieira and Edu,
Cesc and Gilberto). Last year's
use of Alex Song was a little
different, and potentially
problematic:

The previous season, Alex
Song was often left
isolated in what essentially
was a 4-1-4-1 formation
and Wenger found that, if
a team bypassed the first
wave if pressure, the
Gunners could be exposed
in the centre. The
revitalisation of the two in
front of the defence
should give Arsenal
greater structure in
defence and organisation
into four easily identifiable
bands.
Arsenal look at their best when
using another holding midfielder
alongside Song (or whomever is
given the task of shielding the
defense). This preseason,Jack
Wilshere has featured in a deep
role alongside Emmanuel
Frimpong, and the pairing has
worked well.
Spain, at the World Cup, used
Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets
alongside each other defensively,
Busquets winning the ball back
for Xabi to distribute. The holder/
passer/creator midfield triangle
for Spain (and Barcelona)
functions very well for quickly
converting defense to attack. As
has been discussedhere before,
Arsène Wenger can set up
Arsenal's midfield talent in any
number of possible combinations
within this system.
It is important, though, as
Arsenal Column points out, that
he does not isolate Song in front
of defense, as Arsenal's two
attacking midfielders often leave
gaping spaces behind their runs
which good teams (Manchester
United, Chelsea) exploit on the
counter. If Abou Diaby or Cesc
Fàbregas plays alongside Song,
taking the passer role, and then
respectively Cesc or perhaps
Samir Nasri plays in the more
attacking, creative role, it should
limit the space for the opposition
and allow Arsenal to quickly
shore up their defense when the
other team is in possession.
Such is the attacking talent for
Arsenal that using two attacking
midfielders is probably overkill;
scoring goals (as long as
Arshavin isn't forced to play
center forward) will not be a
problem. Limiting space behind
the attack should be Arsenal's
priority this season, and Wenger
looks to be moving in that
direction based on the evidence
from the preseason fixtures in
Austria and at the Emirates.


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