Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday March 27 2007
Last season the Gunners were unwittingly forced to apopt the 4-5-1 formation in Europe due to a striker shortage. Without wishing to be too ponderous in detail, it worked a treat, Arsenal were not beaten in Europe with it (before you raise objection, we were down to ten men in Paris with the score at 0-0, therefore it was mathematically impossible to adopt such a formation). It added a defensive steel to the Gunners game in Europe and enabled Cesc Fabregas to establish himself as the hub of our team. With Gilberto taking care of business at the back, the Gunners league of ball players, such as Hleb, Pires and the diminutive Spaniard were given free reign to express themselves.
Fast forward a few months and Arsene started to experiment with the formation domestically. Hleb and Fabregas were given free reign to create, Rosicky undertook the free role behind the striker- all flourished. However, the sticking point came as van Perise was wasted out on the left and a fatigued Henry was nutured in the lone striker role. After a series of frustrating home draws, the formation was shelved. But with injuries currently decimating our current line up, I feel it's time to jolt Frankenstein from his perpetual slumber. Hleb and Fabregas are still fit and have shown how adept they are in this system. With an extra man in the middle, they need not be so rigid in their play. I believe Rosicky can really flourish in a free role behind the striker, his boundless energy, eye for a subtle pass and lethal shot are perfectly tailored for this role.
Of course, most could see this back in the autumn. The sticking point of the formation was that van Persie and Hnery could not adapt to it. Well, while the cats are away, the mice can play. Adebayor's natural strength and ability to hold the ball make him the ideal lone striker. He is also a tireless worker and gets himself into goalscoring positions in the box (remember the goal at home to Pompey). Ade is not the most technically gifted striker on the planet, but he occupies defenders, leaving holes for the likes of Rosicky, Hleb and Fabregas to run into. Ask Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic if Manu is any good on his own up top. The beauty of the system for our current purposes, is that it is interchangeable with our players. If Hleb or Rosicky are not available, Ljungberg can slot in perfectly. Most of you are aware that I am hardly Freddie's most drooling admirer (my sister would probably take that trophy), but the adoption of the 4-5-1 gives us a chance to rotate the second striker when we are in attack. For instance, Freddie and Rosicky/Hleb can seemlessly swap positions, if Tommy Gun attacks centrally, Ljungberg can fill his left wing berth and vice versa. One thing even Freddie's biggest detractor (I take that trophy I think) cannot deny is his immense work rate.
Of course, this gives us another tantalising option. Baptista has struggled of late because he is being asked to lead the line, but with Ade as a buffer, the Beast can occupy his favourite haunt just behind the front man. His late runs ghosting into the box Martin Peters style would prbably best be utilised in this formation. I feel Aliaidere could have a role to play as an attacking wide man if Rosicky or Hleb are injured/tiring. But for me, the most important reason for us to adopt this system is to help bleed in two marvellous prospects. In the enveloping gloom of the last few weeks, a great geyser of glory has arrived in the shape of Abou Diaby and Denilson. Both have demonstrated huge talent and established themsleves as first team contenders. With a side so bereft of experience and shorn of our skipper, Gilberto simply has to play. Similarly, Cesc is just undroppable- particularly without our skipper. So we could spend the remainder of this season slotting either of the youngsters in alongside Gilberto and Fabregas, two contrasting types of midfield players, equally gifted in their diametric roles. How better for the two kids to serve their apprenticeship? It would also mean we could cease drafting Bert in at centre half to accomodate him and hone the highly promising partnership of Toure and Gallas at the back. Starting at Anfield, this system can ensure third place for this campaign, and set the groundwork for next year. Starting at Anfield, I would play this team (if international football's burglary permits)
31.HOYTE 5.TOURE 10.GALLAS 22.CLICHY
Diaby has experience on the left hand side and would be able to tuck in if Rosicky goes central. On the bench, we could throw Baptista into the equasion behind the striker, or Ljungberg into that role. Aliaidiere can attack from either flank, while Djourou can cover across the back. Simple this management lark! LD.
Date:Tuesday March 27 2007
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