All-out attack could save Wenger as Arsenal season teeters on the brink

All-out attack could save Wenger as Arsenal season teeters on the brink
From ESPN - February 13, 2018

Arsene Wenger seemed to have a clear idea of how to solve Arsenal's defensive issues ahead of the North London derby.

"The best way to defend is for us to have the ball and to take the game to them," the Arsenal boss said last week, apparently falling back on the old adage "the best defence is a good attack."

He did not exactly back up those words at Wembley, though. Instead, Wenger shuffled his formation into an unusually defence-minded 4-3-3 system where his shiny new attacking weapons were rendered completely useless.

In the end, Arsenal were lucky to only concede one goal and did not create a proper scoring chance until the very end of the game.

The lesson must be this: As Wenger makes what could be his last stand as Arsenal manager, he should go into all-out attacking mode.

Enough of the back-three formation, or this weird experiment we saw at Wembley on Saturday. Wenger has not been able to sort out Arsenal's soft defence in 10 years, no matter what he's tried, and he's not about to find a magic solution in the next three months.

What he has been able to do in the past is play devastating attacking football, and he now has -- on paper at least -- the most devastating attacking players the Emirates has seen in years.

But what's the point of spending 56 million on a new striker and giving your top playmaker a 350,000-a-week deal if you are not going to make full use of them? Mesut Ozil has been in terrifying form of late but looked a shadow of his normal self when pushed out on the right flank against Spurs. Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked similarly forlorn and isolated out on the left flank, which meant Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had absolutely no service to work with the entire game (aside from Jack Wilshere's perfect pass when he was wrongly flagged offside).

Arsenal made massive financial decisions in January, staking the club's near-term future on the trio of Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang. And in their first big game together, Wenger seemed hellbent on making them as ineffective as possible.

In some ways, you can understand why the Frenchman opted for a three-man midfield, with Mohamed Elneny deployed as extra cover for the defence in an attempt to neutralise Spurs' dangerous attack.

It would have made perfect sense if Elneny was a good enough player to tilt the midfield battle in Arsenal's favour and the rest of the team was good enough at sitting back and waiting for counter-attacking opportunities.

Spurs, though, proved that neither is the case, and Arsenal were fortunate indeed that things did not descend into a Bayern Munich-style humiliation in the second half. And those of us who had watched the 5-1 rout against Everton and marvelled at the pace and movement of the Gunners' new attack were left scratching our heads.


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