The end of the Premier League season is coming which means that it is time for managers to start planning on how to restructure their line-ups in the transfer window and also try out new formations or strategies for next season.
Arsenal play an elegant attacking style of football under Wenger which made them top the EPL during the first half of the season and qualify through the group of death (that included Napoli and Borussia Dortmund) in the group stages of the Champions League. However, the style was shown to be lacking against the big clubs in the Premiership and Champion’s League.
From attack to defence, Arsenal have to make some major changes to be able to compete seriously against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea next season.
1) Supporting the attacking midfield; A huge problem with the Gunners’ attack is that it lacks an industrious and mobile striker that can take the pressure off the attacking midfielders in very tight games. Giroud is not a striker that could chase down long through balls from a midfielder or switch to the wings or even put constant pressure on defenders. Giroud is a simple target man that lacks pace and his style of play placed more pressure on the midfielders because they have to work to set him up to score. Giroud is not the striker that would create his own chances because he has to be fed them. With teams like Chelsea and Stoke, one doesn’t get chances to feed strikers easy tap-ins.
Top teams like Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City all have strikers that could still score goals with no midfield support. Suarez, Aguero and Sturridge are all strikers that can create chances on their own with the use of speed and power. They are useful in counterattacking situations because of their mobility and agility. All three can switch to the wings if necessary. Even without the use of speed, a striker like Eto’o is still dangerous because of his agility- he is always ready to pounce on any loose ball or defensive error.
Simply, Wenger should get one or two world-class strikers both fast and hardworking in order to support the midfield on counterattacks. Giroud and Bendtner are neither mobile nor hardworking. Sanogo is inexperienced despite his work-rate while Podolski is now more of a supporting striker on the left. Benzema, who coincidentally is an Arsenal target, actually is the perfect striker for such a role.
2) Beefing up the defence with “parking bus” tactics and a “hardman” defender; Mourinho’s “parking the bus” strategy has proven to be quite effective whenever his team needs to defend their lead in a match. Chelsea at times are impenetrable, especially when they want to play “negative football”. The Gunners have failed numerous times this season in not conceding against stronger opposition. Arsenal could benefit from practicing such defensive tactics from Mourinho because there will always be a match where a team would have to park the bus to stop a stronger opposition from scoring or equalising. The fact here is that every team can play a totally defensive game but only few are good at it and Arsenal could learn from the best defence in the league.
John Terry is the quintessential “hardman” defender who takes a no-nonsense approach to defending. He throws himself at shots and makes strong tackles for the ball. Arsenal needs a Terry-esque defender. Koscielny has such qualities but the same can’t be said of Mertersacker. The German barely manages to keep up with the pace of speedy forwards and doesn’t recover quickly. Adding a tough defender to partner Koscielny or Vermaelen would really boost Arsenal’s defence.
3) Adding another defensive midfielder with offensive capabilities; Arsenal’s Mathieu Flamini is one of EPL’s best defensive midfielders. Arsenal lacks a defensive edge when he is not on the pitch. However, Flamini is not a “hybrid” like Yaya Toure or Ramirez- he lacks the offensive capabilities that the two others have as defensive midfielders. Arsenal lack a player who has both defensive and attacking capabilities in the midfield. Arteta doesn’t have the physical strength needed to stop opposition attacks like Flamini.
Getting such a hybrid defender would also bolster Arsenal’s overal defensive strength. Such a defender could act as a partner to Flamini when Arsenal want to go all defensive or also replace the Frenchman when he is injured.
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