Eduardo da Silva’s comeback from injury means Arsenal have five quality forwards, possibly the best front line in the league and with the signing of Arshavin, giving greater dynamism and interchangeability.
“It was a good team performance – dynamic, convincing, the kind of game we like to play, with added drive going forward and Eduardo played a big part in that,” said Wenger after the 4-0 win over Cardiff. The return of Eduardo, and in amongst the goals brought the greatest smile to fans faces but after the game, such was his impact one may have been forgiven for thinking the Croatian had brought about a renaissance of the slick passing football that has been missing for much of the league campaign.
It may be an overstatement but it is no coincidence that the return of the man with the ‘mental strength of a mountain’ corresponded with Arsenal’s best performance since the Carling Cup demolition of Wigan. Eduardo’s link up play and movement was superb, instigating much of the attacks and also won the penalty for the third. Even after he was taken off Arsenal managed to play with the same intensity and freedom; the confidence he had given ensured better decision making.
With the Croatian back to fitness the Gunners have five quality front line players to choose from (Eduardo, Adebayor, Van Persie, Bendtner and Vela) and possibly the strike force best in the league. All bar Adebayor are able to play out wide while the signing of Arshavin adds to the dynamism and flexibility on the wings of those who are ready to come back.
Manchester United had won plaudits (and the Championship) for their interchangeable front line last season and at times this season, described as a 4-2-4-0 or 4-3-3-0 however long before then were Arsenal using a similar tactic. In the days of Capital Gold and Jonathan Pearce’s unique style of commentating, Arsenal’s system was seen as a 4-2-4 when attacking. Vieira and Gilbero/Edu or Vieira and Petit provided the platform for the attacking players to play with freedom and guile, attacking with great explosiveness which would see the ball in the back of the net in three seconds of regaining possession.
The game against Cardiff was a taste of things to come and the coming together of Arsene Wenger’s philosophy. Nasri and Vela were able to interchange positions with the main strikers dragging defenders out of position with their movement. Bendtner’s comments on playing wide typify this interchangeability: “It’s similar to playing as a second striker, but a bit wider.”
With the quality of forwards Arsenal have the choice of picking the best two is not easy, with most likely to lean towards a little and large partnership or the inform Van Persie and Eduardo. The question remains whether the pair can play with each other but as the two are not one-dimensional players there is no reason they can’t function together. Alternating roles one can drop off while the other plays higher, providing good link up and movement with the rest of the team. Like United if Arsenal can get good fluidity from the front players it will be hard to play against, dragging defenders out of their positions, creating crossing and shooting opportunities especially with the instinctive Eduardo. In fact you can argue, any one of the forwards can pair with each other.
Nevertheless it is about functioning and moving as a team as shown by Adebayor’s lack of form as opposed to the season before where there was greater support and the recent reliance on Van Persie. Being more fluid and interchanging positions can give them a real dynamism to break teams down who tend to defend in a compact block against the Gunners. As Slaven Bilic says “it’s about the movement of 10 players now.”