In case you missed it, watch the highlights of Arsenal’s 3-1 victory over Leeds yesterday, in a FA Cup replay (following the 1-1 draw a couple weeks ago). All four goals are worth watching: the first goes from Chamakh to Arshavin to Nasri in 5′; then crackers by Sagna & Bradley Johnson which made the score 2-0 and then 2-1; and then finally late in the 2nd half, after Wenger was forced to bring on Fabregas and Robin van Persie, the latter scored with a header off a great cross by Bendtner (didn’t think we’d ever have occasion to write those last few words).
We’ve been having some discussions about Arsenal’s optimal starting lineup, sparked by this post by Coach Larry–in particular his inclusion of Jack Wilshere among his list of “Players who if they play too much kill their chances” (along with Denilson and Bendnter btw).
Now young Jack Wilshere has been among the most lauded players in the Premier League this season, and he has been in Wenger’s top XI all season, as one of the 2 holding midfielders alongside Alex Song in Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1.
The “3-1” part of the starting XI has been under discussion as well: Nasri and Fabregas are given; Arshavin (on the other wing opposite Nasri) and Chamakh (up front) rounded out the starting XI for the first couple months of the season, but with Arshavin losing form, Walcott coming on strong, and van Persie coming back from injury, the ideal front four has been part of the discussion too.
Larry’s argument re Wilshere:
My contention is he represents a non-ideal Arsenal formation. Song is a better tackler and reader of the game, Nasri, RVP, and Cesc all far superior in distribution and possession. I’d prefer to play Chamakh up top as he adds an extra dimension in the air others not named Bendtner can offer. Arsenal are so good at holding the ball, they just don’t need to have 2 ball winners in the center. I do like how Wilshere and Song work together, especially in their flexibility to cover one another, but ultimately, they’d be better served with more pure attack so they can turn their dominance into more goals. And, hey, you never know when Arshavin will return from his moon pod.
In sum: take Wilshere off and replace him with Chamakh as a striker up front, meaning Arsenal would be playing a 4-1-4-1 (RVP pulled back from his usual striker position into a 4-man midfield: van Persie and Fabregas in the center (which is attractive), and Nasri and either Walcott or Arshavin on the wings. More explanation from Larry: “It has the beauty of adding an actual shooter/scorer to the very top of their formation [Chamakh], plus RVP should be able to find a couple of spaces underneath, so he can create some shooting lanes for himself, instead of having a defender right on his hip. And for when he gets injured, Nasri is more than capable of sliding inside.”
For reference, Arsenal’s starting lineup for this FA Cup match v Leeds was as follows is shown to the right (courtesy of ZonalMarking–click thru on the image for their analysis of the match). Wenger was forced to bring on van Persie and Fabregas for Chamakh and Arshavin in the 2nd half