Blueprint for a New Dawn
Arsene Wenger’s final home game was not the send-off he deserved, that night in Madrid still hurts, but it was still a great farewell. Arsenal scored goals, the fans sang his name and it was an emotional roller-coaster.
This article is not about that. This article is about the football and I’m going to stick my neck out and make another, tactical prediction, if you will. Arsenal will not change the way they play football under a new manager. In fact, we’ve already seen the new dawn, it happened in January. We’ve begun the Post Wenger Era.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen a new Arsenal. 4-3-3. Xhaka, Jack and Ramsey in the middle, Mkhitaryan & Ozil out wide and either Lacazette or Aubameyang up front. This is mainly due to various cup related squad issues and I expect the latter 4 to start together from next season.
The reason they will also probably play 4-3-3 is because it’s probably the best distribution of players on the field to start with and the most convenient to maximize passing triangles. Arsenal will however, move their wide players inside to create a diamond, allowing at least 2 of the big 4 to be close to goal at any point in time.
(I might not have explained that well, so here’s a video of the maestro, Johan Cruyff, doing it)
Pep Guardiola’s teams do the same thing. At Bayern, they brought Lahm and Alaba into the middle while dropping a midfielder deep and at City, Kyle Walker has taken a central defensive role while Delph moves up to play with the midfield.
In the image, Xhaka has just received the ball from the centre backs with his back to goal and played a quick one touch ball around the corner from the base of the diamond to the left. But the diamond here is created by the movement of Welbeck, coming inside from the right and Aaron Ramsey pushing further up. Welbeck did not have the appreciation of space to turn towards Ramsey and attack but instead plays a simple pass to Kolasinac.
Unfortunately, I don't have a view of the entire pitch but Mkhitaryan would have moved into the inside left channel and created the front 2 with Aubamayang (top-right of the screen), as you shall see in the next image.
This next picture is a little further up the pitch and further back in time to the first one. Arsenal are still trying to break down a rejuvenated Burnley in the second half. Xhaka (not in the frame), has dropped off into his role as the #6. The movement of the wide players and the forwards here is sublime. Lacazette leaves his central position (just like Cruyff in the video) to make a diamond with the midfielders and the two wide players have tucked in to create the goal threat.
Arsenal did the same in the 2 games against Atletico and, with Mesut Ozil triggering the movements, it was fascinating. Ozil will take the place of Iwobi in the above line-up, mirroring the role he plays for the German national team.
Debates on who the next manager will be are pointless. Arsene Wenger has already defined the tactical identity of this great club.
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