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Friday, 9 November 2012

They're queuing up in the middle

Use him right, get more of this

Lukas Podolski’s comments in Germany this week with regards to playing in the middle should give Arsene Wenger food for thought. Over the past few weeks the team has struggled to create against better opposition (and Norwich) with the lone striker, whether it be Giroud, Gervinho or Chamakh (as it was for 55 minutes at Reading), looking an increasingly isolated figure. We have a squad in which the only two players recognised as centre-forwards are the aforementioned pair of Chamakh and Giroud. We’ve heard Wenger tell us year on year that Theo Walcott will end up in the middle, but he is no closer to getting his opportunity in the place he wants to play. I don’t doubt that Theo would look a far better player in the centre, and that is certainly where his best work comes from. When Walcott moves himself closer to the middle he causes defenders problems and his finishing is generally very good. The trouble for Walcott is that he is too lightweight, for me, to be playing as a lone striker. He needs the support of someone else in order that both opposition centre-halves are suitably tied up with someone to mark. Podolski himself played as the lone striker on the first day of the season against Sunderland and it was not a productive day.
As you can see, it would seem that it might be a good idea to get two up top. We did it at Reading to devastating effect when the situation dictated that even Arsene Wenger had to try something different in the interests of a positive result. I wrote a piece on here a few weeks ago identifying a change in formation that would see Walcott getting his opportunity in the middle, while also possibly shoring things up at the back a little (Andre Santos would also be able to play in this system with no detriment to the defence, while also utilising his abilities going forward). As you will see from the couple of comments that were added some people see it as a negative move but, as I explained in the post, it need not be a defensive formation.
When you have a player with the quality of Lukas Podolski you should use him in the best way possible. You could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times Andrey Arshavin has played in his favoured position, and his talent has been wasted by Arsenal (though the idea that he plays there in the Russian national side is nothing more than a myth as he plays from wide left for them). We must not waste the talent of Podolski as well. His strength and finishing ability can be the missing piece in Arsenal’s attacking jigsaw. Any combination of the four people who want to play up front - Giroud/Podolski/Walcott/Chamakh - could do damage to a number of quality defences, as well as providing us with more options from the bench.
I have never really understood why Wenger has persisted with his version of 4-3-3. We are always outnumbered in the middle, giving no options for the wide players. We also see our full-backs totally exposed at times, and that is where I have some sympathy with the over-criticised Santos. I fail so see how Wenger has not considered a change that occupies the opposition defence more, and means that they would no longer always have an extra man when we try to go forward. Put Podolski’s power, or Walcott’s pace, up alongside the aerial threat and ability with their backs to goal of either Chamakh or Giroud and you would surely be playing to the strengths of the players in your squad. It seems to me a no-brainer, but then I’ve never worked even one day in football so clearly know nothing. 

I will try to preview the Fulham game early tomorrow, but it’s the Wife’s birthday and I’m not going to the game as a result. My seven year-old is well pleased as he will once again be taking my seat and hoping for the three points. If I don’t get to write tomorrow then I will endeavour to do something on Sunday, work permitting.

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