In the yesteryear, Arsene Wenger lined up a formidable 4-4-2 formation that had the right balance in defense, midfield and attack.
Using the Invincibles of the 2003/04 season as a classic example, the defense had rock-solid personnel that instilled fear in opposition forwards, the midfield had a mix of doggedness, aggression, panache, flair and creativity and the attackers smashed in goals with ruthless and clinical efficiency.
As the years went by, Wenger changed his approach, fixing his focus on his team’s technical side, which involved passing the ball around intricately before unlocking defenses with that killer through ball for a teammate. With this approach, the manager sacrificed a striker to accommodate an extra midfielder, thus the 4-2-3-1 formation came into fruition.
Wenger used this formation to bring out the best in his prized asset, Cesc Fabregas, and his 19 goals as well as numerous assists in the 2009/10 season epitomized the fact that Arsenal had resolved its football around its Spanish creative hub in midfield. After his flirtations with Barcelona, El Capitan departed North London, but the formation remained intact.
Soldiers come and go but the barracks still remain intact, I presume.
Deploying Aaron Ramsey as the creative outlet in the 2011/12 season with Mikel Arteta and Alex Song providing the fulcrum was regarded as a failed experiment as the Welshman became a lightning rod for vitriol from the Arsenal faithful. Tomas Rosicky’s renaissance was a bright spark in a relatively dark campaign and a third place finish was meant to pave the way for good things to come.
This season, the Gunners acquired the services of Santi Cazorla and to everyone’s surprise, Arsenal made their second major sale, when Alex Song joined Barcelona for £15 million. Song’s shock departure caused a stir, but with Arsenal not bringing in any replacements, Arteta took one for the team, curbing his attacking instincts to become the team’s primary holding midfielder.
As the season progressed, Cazorla became the team’s creative lynchpin, while Abou Diaby and Arteta provided the pivot supporting defence and attack. Diaby had his trademark injury layoffs, but players like Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin put in decent shifts while Jack Wilshere made his comeback from a lengthy injury.
This is the third installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already published my ratings on the performances of the goalkeepers and defenders ,but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s fulcrum in the middle of the park.
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