So What’s It Gunna Be, Mr Wenger?

I’ve got a special guest for you today. His name is Fabian Odhiambo (@IlFabiano)  and he’s a very passionate Gooner from Kenya. Fabian wrote for Dave Seager’s (@goonerdave66) blog a few days ago: and after a recommendation from Dave, I was eager to snap him up. Unfortunately, I could only acquire a one day loan deal, but nevertheless it’s a great piece and I hope you enjoy it! Over to Fabian:

This lack of Premier League football is killing me already! Anyway with the 2012-13 fixtures having been released, it at least implies that the wait is close to coming to an end. Thank God. As we countdown to the new season, I’ve been pondering, wondering even, what it has in store for Arsenal. There’s the small matter of the trophy drought stretching to its 8th year and this is a worrying trend, which has to be arrested with absolute finality this season. The question still remains, are we good enough to finally win something? Something here basically means the Barclays Premier League title, make no mistake about this. In a nutshell I sought to look into the tactics that we may employ during the season and their implications in our quest for redemption.

Last season we finished 3rd in the league behind the two Manchester heavyweights, mainly by employing a fluid 4-3-3 formation. If we really want to win the league, should we stick to this? Maybe, but maybe not. I mean, it didn’t push us to the top, did it? Does it mean it is a bad system? No, that’s a bit preposterous. After all, it was the driving force behind Pep Guardiola’s successful 4 years at the Camp Nou, right? Given that our skipper and lead striker Robin van Persie was the top marksman in the division with a phenomenal 30 goals, I find it strange that it wasn’t enough to fire us to the top of the pile. Normally, a team whose striker bags such a superb return of goals usually goes on to become champion. It therefore means, somewhere somehow our tactics did not give us the productivity that we so needed. I don’t want to go into the details of what didn’t work as that’s a waste of time and in any case we’re moving forward, aren’t we?

‘Well err … I believe that errr … you Arsenal fans might want un trophee, non?’

Definitely what I’m trying to say is that Arsene Wenger has to change his tactics. It is imperative, no two ways about it. Change to what, then? Good question. Since the season ended I’ve been hearing and reading from various Arsenal blogs calls for us to revert to the traditional 4-4-2. The reasoning behind this is that after all, it brought us success in the past, thus tried and tested. That, I’m not refuting, but to be honest, I don’t think it is the way to go. For me, that’s regression and it won’t get us anywhere. If there’s something I credit Wenger for, it’s doing away with the 4-4-2. I always maintain that with the passage of time, football dynamics have changed too. The game has become more midfield-centered and thus the 4-4-2 system has lost its place in the game.

You could point out that it has continually worked for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Well, yes but not exactly. For starters, they failed to win the league last season. Ok, alright, that cannot be solely blamed on the system, but if you look at their disastrous showing in both European competitions, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand that the reason behind this was their midfield being utterly dominated. In a 4-4-2, emphasis is not on ball retention (as the midfield of two is outnumbered) but rather on use of width and speed to get the ball to the strikers to finish. At times it works, but against technically equipped sides, it is bound to fail as happened to United against City, Newcastle, Basel, Athletic Bilbao, etc.


Definitely what I’m trying to say is that Arsene Wenger has to change his tactics. It is imperative, no two ways about it. Change to what, then? Good question.


So what am I suggesting? Well, for now I can only describe the type of players we need and that will more or less give direction on the system best to employ. For a successful league campaign we’re desperately going to need an anchor-man in the midfield, ‘sitting’ just in front of the back four. I hear murmurs of ‘but there’s Alex Song’. Fair enough, we do have the Cameroonian maestro who designation in any case is defensive midfielder. Question is, judging from last season did he really perform the aforementioned role? Sadly, no. That’s not to imply that he didn’t perform for the club. On the contrary, he was one of our best players during the campaign. The problem with Song  is that he became too adventurous, assuming the role of playmaker at the expense of his main defensive duties as testified by his outrageously brilliant haul of 11 assists. It’s no surprise then that we shipped in something close to 50 goals, a disastrous number at any level.

So, what’s the remedy? We need someone who’s going to sort of reincarnate the ‘Makelele Role’. This is a player who will sit back, make simple passes, break the opponent’s play, tough-tackle (if need be), initiate our attacks and in essence be our ‘third’ center back. In the just ended season Song did not do all of these and you know, football is quite unforgiving. Opponents punish heavily for ignorance of such facets of the game. For a long time Arsenal has been linked with France star Yann M’Vila. I got a feeling that he would be perfect for the role, but it’s up to Wenger to be the judge of that. Either way, point is, we need someone to play such a role for us, the way Sergio Busquets does for Barca and Spain. Whether it’s Song, M’Vila, Biglia, Coquelin or whoever, let’s see.

“Yann, seriously mate, you won’t have to wait long now before you pull on that red, white and err blue jersey. So need to cry about it … I mean, you’ve got Spain in the quarters; you’ll be back home before you know it! .”

I’ve always maintained that Cesc Fabregas wasn’t replaced and that this was a big, big blunder on the management’s part. Prior to his departure, our game had been so much built around him to the extent that we always struggled to cope whenever he was out injured. Some argue that maybe him being the focal point of our attack and general play was harmful to our progress. Maybe, but with the type of football that Arsene advocates for, we are always going to need that creative midfielder. The one that can create chances out of nothing, that can find the tiniest of space to exploit and the one that can thread those defence-splitting passes for our forwards to latch on. Don’t mention Aaron Ramsey, he got his chance and proved a bit inadequate to deliver the goods on that front.

This role for me is of absolute importance and is imperative for success in the modern game. Wing play that we kind of resorted to cannot always be relied on to unlock defences and should be used to support the attack marshaled from the center. If I were Wenger, my number one transfer priority would be getting a playmaker. What about Jack Wilshere? He’s indeed the future of Arsenal, but after his long injury lay-off, the role shouldn’t be thrusted on to his shoulders just yet. In fact this coming season he should play a more back-up role to the main man, occasionally making cameos so as to accelerate his healing and bring him back to full fitness.

Jack Wilshere can make play, maybe he should be our playmaker?

Going forward, I think it is important Robin van Persie stays at the club. There are no questions about that. I envision him leading our line flanked by new signing Lukas Podolski and either of Walcott, Gervinho or Oxlade-Chamberlain depending on the game and circumstances. That brings my ideal formation to something close to 4-1-4-1 which to be precise can mutate to 4-1-2-2-1 which essentially can still shift to 4-2-3-1 depending with the need at the time. Then of course, it’s up to the manager and his staff to drill the players thoroughly and make it work, because trust me, it can bring us success. Just to be clear, in the 4-1-2-2-1, we have the back 4, the 1 anchor, the 2 after the anchor being the playmaker (or trequartista or number 10) and the other, a link between the defensive midfield and attack. Then the next 2 are the wide forwards who support the 1 lead striker. Complex? Well, success doesn’t come easy. Thanks for reading.

Well I hope you enjoyed that one guys. If you liked Fabian work then you can follow him on Twitter by clicking this: @ilfabiano.

As ever, you can follow me @CookieElGooner

Leave a comment


  1. That’s a good post, there.
    I have to say the possibility of us signing M’Vila is very remote. More so, because Wenger still trusts Song and Diaby. The problem with that is Song isn’t too defensive, and Diaby isn’t too fit. Moreover, there are the youngsters Coquelin, who I think is the real deal, and Frimpong coming through. Would Wenger really want to splash the cash. We have seen Arteta and Song link up well in midfield, and that’s something he wouldn’ want to disturb.

    • Thanks. Yeah, I think you’re right. Although our defensive deficiencies are pretty obvious in midfield. I do think that Wenger wants M’Vila but is probably put off by the asking price.

  2. arsenalbonc

     /  June 22, 2012

    Very interesting the thought of playing a 4-1-4-1 if the midfield 4 is flat, a bit of a more cautious approach. The 4-1-2-2-1 you described is just 4-3-3 though is it not?


  3. fantastic article. kudos fabian

  4. Space Cadet

     /  June 22, 2012

    So you’re saying change the formation from a 451 to a different 451, why not 352, thus giving RVP more space around the box, also 442 can work against ‘park the bus’ teams if the forwards pose an arial threat.

  5. seimok

     /  June 22, 2012

    I like n support your article fully the formation is the best atleat some creative ideas other than rumors of who is. comming in n who is deadwood.,

  6. Good stuff. Do You have any views on where Giroud might play? To be honest I have not watched the towering Frenchman play a lot. I do think he possesses an aerialthreat and from what i gather he is an efficient finisher, something we have only had from #Hescoreswhenhewants!

    • Hi, do you mean in the formation Fabian suggested or in the 4231 formation which has been used over the last few seasons?

  7. Angelanjanja

     /  June 22, 2012

    This is a very interesting article.I think you’re very right but i think we should sign M’Vila to help Song. Kudos Fabian.

  8. Well, in essence you have 10 players being distributed in the various formations. I guess these systems may overlap. A can be a 4.3.3 as it can be a or a 4.5.1. My point of concern was having an anchor and a playmaker being fitted in to our system. I think these two players are important components if we’re to take a stab at the league


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