A Tactical Change To Be Champions Again

So here we are again, after being in a seemingly fantastic position to win the title, having numerous opportunities to stretch our once lead over rivals we’ve stuttered, faltered & struggled. Approaching February with 15 games remaining it really is becoming crunch time, we are closer to 4th spot than the top as it stands & with trips to Old Trafford, White Hart Lane, Goodison Park, Upton Park & the City of Manchester we’re going to need to do it the very hard way. By all means the title is achievable but for me we need some drastic changes in our approach to each and every game. In this blog I will be discussing my personal insight into a few tactical issues I feel we are suffering from.



The first scenario I’d like to get stuck into is a recurring situation that we just never seem to address. Even well before Alexis Sanchez injury this season Arsene Wenger has chosen to play a 4-2-3-1 system but adopt what I would like to call “Inverted Wingers”, these 2 ‘attacking’ wide men are clearly instructed to come inside, look to take possession to feet & make things happen. In our current situation and recent form Theo, a right footed winger has been stuck out on the left and Joel a left footed winger has been stuck out on the right. This in turn creates a scenario where by our full backs are then asked to affectively become our width in any attack, If Monreal or Bellerin don’t advance up the pitch then we are completely stuck for ideas and the move becomes stagnant. What’s the issue here you may ask? Bellerin & Monreal can both get up and down, both a decent crossers of the ball, surely it’s Aaron Ramsey causing all the issues, here’s an explanation of what keeps happening time & time again.

In numerous games this season we’ve seen the same thing happen, Full Backs advance on either (normally both) sides of the pitch, leaving our 2 centre backs as the only real protection if we lose possession. With the lack of width provided by our attacking players its highly likely that teams will adopt the same tactic against us, sit narrow, sit deep, starve the midfield of any space be aware of the full backs but know they are a secondary park to our attacking play, then they win the ball and pounce. The opposition manager then instructs the striker to pull into the space occupied by the advanced full backs which in turn isolates our CB into a 1 on 1 situation, below I’ll insert a few images so you can see a few of the times we’ve found ourself in that situation.

Most recently vs Chelsea Bellerin and Monreal advanced, Diego Costa pulls onto the shoulder of Per, An unopposed pass from William means CB isolated utilising space behind Per, red card game over.


Southampton really, really picked up on this and completely tore us apart with it, Bellerin and Monreal advanced again, our DM nowhere to be seen, Shane Long pulling into the same space behind our full back and isolating Per, through on goal, amazingly in the other image we are caught 2 on 2.


The Manchester City game at home, in this image you see Kevin De Bruyne take up this position, Monreal miles up the pitch, centre backs now isolated, this was at 0-0 De Bruyne luckily went on to spurn this huge chance. Incredibly our DM is miles up the pitch nowhere near where he should be.


This time its Newcastle who take full advantage, Monreal again the man ahead of the ball, Wijnaldum in the same fashion De Bruyne did pulls intelligently into that space, centre backs isolated no pressure on the pass from our non-existent DM, luckily Cech saves the day.

The other key point is that without Coquelin we are well and truly in trouble. I see a lot of people giving Aaron Ramsey stick stating that its his fault we keep getting caught, saying he doesn’t do enough to help the team when this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Flamini is the biggest LIABILITY we will ever have in our central midfield. His intelligence levels are 0, his ability to retain his position is 0. The main purpose of his role is to never be ahead of the ball, always in that space between the back 4 and midfield, he should be screening being proactive never reactive. So many times he’s ahead of the ball & ahead of Aaron Ramsey, his inability to do anything has cost us seriously. When he isn’t ahead of the ball he either is diving in wrecklessly or he drops so deep he in turn gets in line with the centre backs leaving a huge hole in front and a simple ball between the lines.

Take a look at this video, this is a pretty good indication of our struggles, firstly Flamini goes flying in like a complete nutcase, all he needs to do is retain his position drop off a few yards and deal with the space that he has now left. Mane has all the time in the world both centre backs are now in trouble, Long has peeled off and should score. This is a recurring theme that we see time & time again with Flamini. I have countless videos and images of Flamini & I could write a blog alone on him, for instance since 06/07 Flamini has started 45 away matches in which we’ve kept just 10 clean sheets and have a win percentage of just 35%.


So we’ve looked how it affects us as a team defensively now how about offensively? As discussed earlier since the injury to Alexis Sanchez Arsene has been starting our wingers in inverted positions. This for me makes our attack predictable, it makes us easy to defend against. As a defensive unit you know that the only players that will be entering wide areas are the full backs and a lot of the time our 6ft4 striker to try to find some space for himself, which is exactly where I’d want him. If you take a look at a comparison between our average player position in the game against Newcastle compared to the last time we really actually played with width last season at home when we dispatched West Ham 3-0 it gives a clear indication of the struggles that we are creating for ourselves.

avg plyr posn

Average player position with inverted wingers (Left) vs Average player position with wingers (Right)

Theo has been anonymous on the left hand side, unable to make his bursting runs from outside to in, unable to get to the byline to deliver to our brilliant 6ft4 striker to actually get on the end of something, Joel Campbell has played well but again I feel he can be far more effective on his natural foot, like you saw against Sunderland when his run in behind from outside to in resulted in him slotting the ball home. We’ve aggressively played with width for just 20 minutes this season, that was against Manchester United, Just look in that game at the way for the first 20 Alexis retained his position out wide on the left hand side, he isolated Darmian into a 1 on 1 situation. This stretched the pitch created the space for a striker to drop off into, gave Ozil the space to completely run the game. We’ve been poor in the Bournemouth, Southampton, Newcastle, Stoke and Chelsea games in an attacking sense despite having all the weapons in our team to blow sides away.


Stretching The Pitch, Utilising Width.


For me it’s fairly simple. We need to go back to getting the very best out of our best players. Firstly in midfield Mathieu Flamini should never keep another ball for Arsenal football club, Aaron Ramsey is the perfect midfield partner for a disciplined intelligent DM, he has the legs to cover the whole pitch from box to box, often criticised for the amount he loses possession which I’ve personally never understood. If you take a look at a comparison between Ramsey alongside Flamini and the widely regarded best box to box midfielder in Europe Paul Pogba you will see that it really isn’t all about pass completion and passes made, it’s about risk taking about making things happen. His role is to make a difference, to be on the end of balls into the box, to make late runs (much like at Anfield) to create and also to do the defensive side of the game too. Unfortunately alongside that clown this is impossible for Aaron Ramsey, this man is one of if not the best box to box midfielder in Europe, he’s 6ft tall, strong, skilful, his intelligence in on a wavelength with Sanchez and Ozil. He can play 50 yard passes, cutting through balls and equally he can tackle and do the dirty work at the other end. Just look at what the ex pro’s who have played against him say about him, the best in the league.

rams vs pog

Secondly we need to revert our wingers, Alexis Sanchez is a world-class footballer, he can make things happen in an instant but the sooner we tell him to retain his width THEN come inside he will have so much more joy. Theo Walcott for me has to be on the right-wing, he’s our biggest weapon, if he stretches the game defence’s drop 10 yards, they don’t know how to deal with him if they get tight its a 1/2 and he’s spun in behind, if they drop off it creates more space for Ramsey to run into, Giroud to link up play in and again Mesut Ozil to dominate. Mesut loves wingers, he loves the movement from outside to in of Theo Walcott, he loves the space to operate in width provides and he certainly will love having Aaron Ramsey around him. Take a look at this statistic with the Ozil (10) & Walcott (RW) pairing.

With Mesut Ozil playing in the number 10 role and Theo Walcott on the right-wing they have completed 1,018 minutes together on the pitch, in this time that have scored or assisted a combined 24 goals, this works out an astonishing one every 42 minutes.

Also Olivier Giroud will benefit from this, width means crosses from our wingers. This means Giroud replicates that near post run that used to get him so many goals time and time again, he needs proper delivery not from our full backs but from Alexis and Theo wide, he also thrives from Aaron Ramsey’s inclusion, his approach play with his back to goal is as good as anyone’s in Europe and if we can begin to give Ozil & Giroud the runners from deep and wide areas we will certainly improve as a side. With our full backs also not as advanced due to our wingers providing width we will certainly be less susceptible to all the defensive frailties I’ve discussed in this article. I’m of the opinion we have 2 full squads to play the way I think we can and should to march to the title.


afc woz line ups

My strongest Arsenal XI (Left) vs my backup Arsenal XI (Right)

Its going to go right down to the wire this season. If Arsene makes a change and goes back to the old aggressive attacking manager we will win the premier league title, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott & Alexis Sanchez will provide the key numbers to take us to be champions. I’m not so confident it’ll happen, but here’s to hoping.






Warren Ratcliffe

3 Responses to “A Tactical Change To Be Champions Again

  • Clearly got way too much time on your hands, get a life pal

    • Warren Ratcliffe
      3 years ago

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for the feedback.

      Much appreciated.

  • Maynard
    3 years ago

    First of all Sanchez is a right footed player who plays on the left for arsenal, but you note that arsenal should not play inverted wingers. Inverted wingers are not the issue, Coaching offensively is the issue. In that goal against United, Sanchez held his width and did not get dragged towards the ball when it was over on the right side. That is what our wide players should be doing holding width then creeping of the side into space so that they become harder to mark. Barcelona, Bayern Munich are two great exponents of this phase of play, but yet both play with messi or robben left footed players on the right and neymar, or ribery right footed players on the left, All of these players have been in the top three Ballon D’or podium in the last 3 years. so they can’t be doing that bad. At a lesser level Riyad Mahrez has been arguably the best player in the prem this season n he also is left footed playing on the right, Hazard last season player of the year plays on the left roaming and cutting in on his stronger right foot. why is this? because when coming infield the game opens up for them they can link one twos with the midfield and also slip through balls in for their striker ( see Arsenal third goal v zagreb Campbell Assist), or even have a crack at goal. The point is if they are coached properly like how Guardiola coaches his offensive players then they will stretch the game by staying wide and allow for the midfield to switch the play when congested on the opposing side of the pitch, This in turn creates an overload where the fullback can join in and have 2 v 1 situations on the opposing fullback.

    On your point about Ramsey, I believe he is a superb talent whom in my opinion lacks the tactical intelligence to play in centre of the pitch in a duo. In a three i believe he can thrive. which in turn bring me back to the point about arsenal system. you compare ramsey to Pogba, he has played majority of his football in juventus on the left side of a diamond or left of a three when they utilise the three centre back system. My opinion is personally that Cazorla is our key player, you clearly don’t share that vision, however surely the responsibility of the manager is to find a system which caters to the strengths of your side and I’m surprised that very few people have raised this point but, to get arsenal best 11 on the pitch you replicate what juve have been doing and what liverpool did when they almost won the title play with a diamond. ozil as a 10, cazorla as the deep line player ramsey in a box to box role and coquelin as the high pressing destroyer/ball winner therefore having energy and athleticism either side of a cazorla allowing his time and space to pick passes. Use Alexis in his best role as a support striker like he did in udinese with Di Natele and like he does with chile with eduardo vargas and he could have a choice of walcott or giroud to partner him depending on the opposition, both of which i believe would benefit from a strike partner, with alexis in our current system on the left it is starting to become a little bit obvious what he is going to try and do so i believe utilising this system and would allow all our key players to play where they can demonstrate there strengths most whilst allowing us to be more unpredictable. When Suarez and Sturridge played the system they would often work the channels which allowed liverpool to get width so imagine alexis and walcott doing the same think we could have some real joy. The issue is does Wenger know how to coach this system and implement it.

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