Tactical Tweaks Arsene Wenger Should Make at Arsenal Next Season
Arsenal fans are understandably excited about a summer of promised transfer activity. However, there are minor changes Arsene Wenger could make on the training ground which could have just as big an impact on the Gunners' 2013/14 campaign.
Arsene Wenger was once regarded as a tactical innovator. In recent seasons, however, he has shown a stubborn side, persisting with a variety of tactical ideas that have failed to bring success to the Emirates Stadium.
Over the coming slides, we look at four tactical tweaks that could transform Arsenal from also-rans to title-contenders.
Abandon the High Defensive Line
The change in Arsenal's defensive shape has already begun.
After the catastrophic derby defeat against Tottenham in March, Arsene Wenger dropped Thomas Vermaelen and abandoned Arsenal's kamikaze offside trap. After that nadir, a more pragmatic Arsenal embarked upon an unbeaten run to secure Champions League qualification and raise hopes ahead of next season.
Key to that improvement was a deeper defensive line, marshaled by the intelligent Per Mertesacker. Arsenal's defence dropped to the edge of their own penalty area, with Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey patrolling the area in front of the back four with discipline and determination.
Arsene Wenger must resist the temptation to return to the more dynamic offside trap favoured by Vermaelen. Instead, he must persist with the more conservative yet effective shape offered by Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
Arsenal are in danger of becoming predictable.
In the last few seasons, the Gunners have stuck rigidly to a variant upon the 4-3-3 system. Sometimes they'll field two holding midfielders rather than one, but in the essence the shape remains identical.
It's worth noting that every trophy-winning side Arsene Wenger has assembled has predominantly played in a 4-4-2 formation.
I'm not necessarily advocating that Arsenal should revert to 4-4-2 on a permanent basis, but having the option available would keep opposition defences on their toes.
In Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, Arsenal already possess a classic partnership in the making. Giroud's aerial ability and hold-up play is a perfect match for Walcott's searing pace and clinical finishing.
Flexibility Within 90 Minutes
Arsene Wenger's substitutions can sometimes feel pre-planned.
He rarely makes changes until the game has been played for 67 minutes. Even then, the switches are wearily predictable. They are usually like-for-like, and rarely involve a change of system.
Wenger should be more proactive. Sometimes, earlier action is required. The manager should be willing to give under-performing players the hook and introduce fresh impetus.
Let the Wingers Be Wingers
Last season, both Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott flirted with the central striking position in Arsenal's 4-3-3 system. Walcott had a short spell in the middle around Christmas, while Podolski started Arsenal's last four Premier League games through the middle.
However, both players are more productive on the wing.
According to WhoScored, nine of Podolski's 11 Premier League goals were scored while playing on the left of a centre-forward. Similarly, the majority of Theo Walcott's goals and assists also came while playing on the flank.