The Arsenal league winners in 1997-98 had it, the winners in 2001/02 also had it and so did the Invincibles in 2003/04 so why don’t the current Arsenal side adopt a double central midfield shield?
The answer is probably due to the performance of last season’s team which went so close to winning the title. Mathieu Flamini was the one man shield that allowed Arsenal to play, working tirelessly to tactically position himself and tackle. This allowed Fabregas to dictate play while the wide men in Rosicky and Hleb were able to keep the ball and create chances. However with Fabregas now out with injury maybe there is a chance to play with two central midfielders shielding the defence as there isn’t another Flamini type player in the ranks.
The Arsenal teams which won the league titles under Wenger had two central midfielders though they were not necessarily defensive midfielders. In 1997/98 it was Vieira and Petit, 2001/02, Vieira and Edu and in 2003/04, Vieira and Gilberto/Edu. In fact this is implemented by Liverpool (though more defensive) and Man Utd in the Premiership and has been prevalent throughout Europe for quite a while.
To be effective however the central midfielders must possess a good passing range while the movement in front must be strong. The recent games have shown a interchangeability from the Arsenal front and wide men, coming in centrally, dropping deeper and going out wide. However in the centre there has been less ingenuity and urgency from Diaby and Denilson. The individual skill and dynamism of such players as Cristiano Ronaldo and before that the Galacticos (Zidane, Figo, Raul, Ronaldo) have meant teams have built systems to accommodate these players’ strengths and weaknesses and such a set up could allow Arsenal to do that.
In today’s game there is bigger need for players to be able to do more (an article on this close to the Roma game) but with Arsenal’s relative lack of options and less variety in central midfielder maybe it is a time to implement the formation.
The discipline performed can give protection to the defence and the full backs while allowing the attacking players to play with more freedom. Before one starts to get the wrong impression, the central midfielders will not stand idly in the centre; they will be the basis of attack, looking to negate some of the shortcomings of the midfield cover and the absence of Cesc Fabregas.
The 4-4-2 looks to be the long term formation for Arsenal with Cesc Fabregas to come back. In partnering Song in his last games before injury, there was a balance in central midfield as Cesc Fabregas dropped back to dictate play but with Arsenal unable to keep the ball as effectively this season it hasn’t allowed him to make a bigger impact.
A new signing may make this article obsolete if it is in fact someone to eventually partner Fabregas but as the current central midfield are still improving there may be a pressing case to play with a dual central midfield shield.
What do you think? Would this system solidify the team and help develop the youngsters? Is the current system the best? Leave a comment.