Tactical Changes Arsenal Need to Adopt in 2014/15 Season
Though Arsenal finished last season with a trophy, there is still a feeling that they could have done so much more.
The Gunners did, after all, lead the Premier League for longer than any other team last season before letting it slip against the best opposition. There is still tactical tweaking that needs to be done if Arsenal are to make up the seven-point gap that separated them from Manchester City.
Here are four changes Arsene Wenger should try to make.
More Width on the Wings
Theo Walcott's ACL tear last season effectively robbed Arsenal of their only true winger and one of only two players in the entire team (along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) who could provide any pace on the wing.
For the rest of the season, Wenger deployed a variety of players on the left and right wings, including Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain and even (after Walcott's first injury) Jack Wilshere.
Each of these players constantly tried to cut inside and find his way back to his midfield home. If the Gunners do sign Alexis Sanchez, they will have already made significant progress towards getting back to the speedy wing play that a balanced team needs.
More Players in the Box
Unlike many other teams, Arsenal primarily try to create chances through the middle of the pitch. Fluidly moving the ball through the midfield and slicing open the centre of the opponent's defence is one of the cornerstones of Arsene Wenger's philosophy of beautiful football.
Yet, like any other team, the Gunners often fail to find an outlet through the middle against dogged sides. So they rely on crosses, primarily from their full-backs (see the previous slide for an explanation why).
Too often, however, Olivier Giroud is the only person in the penalty box making a run towards the ball. The opposition's defence can then focus on him and take him out. The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil need to commit themselves forwards more; let the defensive midfielders worry about providing cover.
More Precision on Set Pieces
It is extremely difficult to remember an Arsenal goal scored from a free-kick last season. The brilliance Santi Cazorla displayed in a dead-ball situation during the FA Cup final was anomalous, but more anomalous still was a ball put into the box and subsequently converted.
The former is simply a case of individual skill, but Steve Bould and the rest of the coaching staff really need to work on coordinating the team on corners and free-kicks next season. Arsenal are not a wimpy team anymore, and their conversion rate was abysmal.
Those small improvements make massive differences in tight games and tighter tittle races.
More Squad Rotation
Sometimes, Arsene Wenger had an excuse for running his players into the ground last season: There was simply no one to replace them. But often the manager would simply stick to a line-up he trusted.
There needs to be more tactical shifting based on other teams' strengths and players' fitness next season. Olivier Giroud is unable to perform at his potential when he is forced to carry the attack for nearly every minute of every game, and Aaron Ramsey's prolonged injury layoff was likely due to the fact that he played almost every available minute during the first half of the season.
Hopefully, Arsenal can add more players than they let leave this summer to help alleviate that problem. Though Mathieu Debuchy would merely be a replacement for Bacary Sagna, Alexis Sanchez would be a proactive addition.
Another centre-back is probably needed, but as long as Wenger can rest his best players routinely, the squad will be able to perform at the level it is capable of.