The Gunners have slightly changed their formation in the last couple of weeks. With Alex Iwobi and Mesut Ozil unavailable through injury, Arsenal have had no real natural number 10 and that has forced Wenger to drop his 4-2-3-1 and move to a 4-3-3 and with that, in my opinion, we’ve seen much better midfield performances.
We caught up with Harry Scott, Premier League guru over at FootballPredictions.com. According to Harry, one of the main benefits of the 4-3-3 is it seems to bring out the best in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Granit Xhaka. Xhaka is allowed to play to his strengths and conduct the midfield whilst two midfielders support him either side, ensuring his lack of mobility is not an issue. Chamberlain is clearly a better player when playing centrally, and he needs to be played in that position more often. The problem is when playing in a midfield two, Chamberlain perhaps doesn’t offer enough defensive security to be partnered with someone like Xhaka.
The problem is, can Ozil fit into a 4-3-3? The German midfielder has spent the bulk of his career playing in the number 10 role, but the physical and tactical demands of the Premier League at the moment is making playing with a number 10 very difficult. Ozil could of course, leave Arsenal at the end of the season so that could be one reason why Arsene is perhaps testing a new formation.
I do think that with a bit of re-training and desire, Ozil could adjust to a deeper role and excel there. The German has done so on occasions for this National Team, excelling in a central position alongside Toni Kroos. With two other midfielders alongside, I feel Ozil could be devastating in that position. In recent games we’ve seen him drop deeper to pick the ball up, thus allowing him to connect the midfield to the attack easier. Playing in a 4-2-3-1, Ozil is often isolated alongside the striker and if the deep midfielders cannot control the game, Ozil is ineffective. The problem is Francis Coquelin is often one of the deeper midfielders, and he seriously struggles to be part of a functional midfield.
With the personnel Arsenal have it seems to make much more sense to switch to 3 centrally. Ozil is the one player who it would not benefit, but then again, he has really struggled for form this season and Wenger has built the midfield and team around him, perhaps that needs to change. We will see what tactic Wenger will choose on the 18th of March against WBA. According to Harry’s premier league predictions (which can be found here), the Gunners will probably win that match.