Arsenal Commentary: Lukas Podolski Complaints And Links To Trio of Wingers Show the Folly of Arsene Wenger's 4-2-3-1 Formation

 
on November 08 2012 8:28 AM
Arsenal Commentary: Lukas Podolski Complaints And Links To Trio of Wingers Show the Folly of Arsene Wenger's 4-2-3-1 Formation

Lukas Podolski's demand to play as a central striker for Arsenal, exposes the folly of Arsene Wenger's 4-2-3-1 formation.

The issue is compounded by the number of wingers Arsenal are linked with in the January transfer window.

The Daily Telegraph reports Podolski has joined Theo Walcott in publically agitating for a move off the flanks. Both players are natural strikers who have been wedged uncomfortably into wide roles.

On the face of it, Wenger's decision is not unreasonable. In a fluid and narrow 4-3-3, wide forwards are expected to drift in from the wings and attack central areas.

The problem is that Arsenal's 4-2-3-1 is a more rigid formation. It is essentially a 4-5-1 that requires dual responsibilities from its wide players.

They must be able to split their time between defensive duties and supporting attacks. That's the job description of a classic winger.

It is not something forwards like Podolski are going to be comfortable with.

Wenger has four players competing for a role through the middle, in a formation that accommodates just one central striker.

Olivier Giroud seems like the most natural candidate. However, the Frenchman may receive better service from players more comfortable out wide, despite Podolski already providing two assists.

Recent reports indicate Wenger could indeed be looking for more natural wingers. Hatem Ben-Arfa has been linked, and today the Daily Mirror hints at moves for Wilfried Zaha and Adel Tarrabt.

Any of these players would seem better suited in the current formation. However, their additions could mean writing off the likes of Podolski and Gervinho as expensive mistakes.

Wenger modelled Arsenal's existing tactical structure on Barcelona's attack. However, the Catalans have had the luxury of players like Pedro Rodriguez and Isaac Cuenca.

Both are wingers first, with the pace and movement to create chances from the flanks. They move in only to link with the darting runs of Lionel Messi, who is a constantly moving target.

Arsenal don't have that kind of false 9 to rely on. Gervinho has played the role at times this season and his current injury is certainly a blow.

When Giroud plays, he is a striker others must play up to and around. Arsenal's attacks are funnelled to him, much in the same way they were to Robin van Persie.

That approach demands assist-makers in wide areas, not opportunistic forwards like Podolski and Walcott.

Fitting the German in the middle might work if he was in tandem with Giroud. After all, Podolski played his best football for his national team, when he operated alongside another tall striker, Miroslav Klose.

Yet that would leave Walcott and Gervinho out in the cold. It would also call for a shift in responsibilities for midfielders like Santi Cazorla.

The diminutive schemer would likely have to move out of the middle, to instead fill a wide berth.

The fact is Wenger has created these problems for himself by  forcing players into uncomfortable roles.

Whether it's new personnel or a tactical switch, Wenger must address the folly of his 4-2-3-1 formation.

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