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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

4-5-1 system is averaging Arsenal just 0.166 goals per match!

When I see Arsenal line-up in their new 4-5-1 system my instinctive reaction is to lower my expectations for the match.

And after seeing Arsenal play out a goalless draw with Man Utd last night using the 4-5-1 system, I racked my memory of recent past matches where Wenger has opted for this formation and came up with a stat that explains my instinctive negative reaction to it.

Starting with the 2005 FA Cup final - where Arsenal looked really makeshift with Bergkamp as a target man and Reyes lost on the right wing! - I can count six games including last night where we have used the 4-5-1 system. These are:

Man Utd (cup final); Chelsea (away); Ajax (home); Chelsea (home); Charlton (away); Man Utd (home).

These six matches have seen Arsenal score just one goal… coming from Reyes at Charlton. This averages out at 0.166 goals scored per match.

This poor statistic says a lot about our attacking success with the 4-5-1 system. It also betrays the AFC that all Gunners' are rightly proud to have seen revolutionise attacking football in recent years.

On the plus side, these six games have seen four clean sheets plus a Drogba shinner. So 4-5-1 has proven merits for keeping the goals out.

But the high price for defensive stability is - as backed up by the above evidence - a lack of an attacking threat that is the AFC trademark and helped produce real fear and intimidation in the opposition during the previous eight seasons of the Wenger era. I don’t want AFC to lose this special trademark.

For me, 4-5-1 should be used sparingly because our attacking movement in the system is not grooved to high standards. It should be reserved for tough away matches or as a plan B at home if Wenger wants to defend a lead.

I really don't want to see it as the starting system for a home match. It puts AFC on the back foot in an uncustomary system for the players; when we should be on the front foot using the 4-4-2 system that the attacking players at AFC have incorporated into their DNA over the years.

Every Arsenal player played with great commitment yesterday. But the system let the team down when it came to looking to hurt Man Utd.

In particular, Henry loves to rove, but was inhibited to play his natural game because as the sole striker he was aware that if he left the centre of the park than AFC would effectively be playing a 4-6-0. But when stuck in the middle - as has happened on past occasions using this system - he can't get free of his defensive markers.

A system that negates Henry is a system that negates AFC. And the stats prove the 4-5-1 system negates goal scoring and attacking threat for both. Because of this, I'd definitely prefer it if Wenger does not start with the 4-5-1 system at home for some time to come.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if Titi was 100% fit then 451 would be better. There was one defining moment in the second half when thierry raced down the left as he has done thousands of times, but this time, a fat scouser who only runs fast when a policeman's behind him or a KFC is in front of him out paced him and retrieved the ball. This showed that Thierry is carrying an achilles injury and playing through the pain barrier, rather than thinking about sunny Barca. If thierry could run to his full ablility, i think he would thrive from passes from Hleb and Fabregas.

1/04/2006 8:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think he is playing a deeper playmaker role precisely because he cant out run the defence and play on the shoulder anymore

1/04/2006 8:02 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wenger is a hypocrite, he says 4-5-1 is negative and bad for football then starts using it himself.

1/04/2006 8:30 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

4-5-1 is garbage. This article highlights perfectly that it restricts Arsenal's strengths -attacking play and Henry's ability to lose his markers.

Wenger is panicking after dismissing 4-5-1 last season. He is trying to create a formation to accommodate Cesc as a playmaker - what top club changes it's formation for a "prospect". This might work out in the long run, but anyone could see it will put us in the wilderness for 2-3 years just like 1999-2001 until he can make wholesale changes.

This was completely unnecessary. In the former instance players like Anelka, Petit and Overmars wanted to leave so he had no choice. Now players are being forced out by Wenger to accommodate unproven talents. Immaturity breeds inconsistency.

Last season he identified a lack of players between 25-29 as an issue and has done nothing to resolve this. Meanwhile, Campbell, Pires, Lehmann and Bergkamp are all coming to the end of their careers at Highbury and so he has to replace them too.

I agree with not buying worse than we already have at the club, but players like Cicinho and Cassano have already moved for less than £3million each this winter break. The players are there, you don't have to pay exorbitant fees.

1/04/2006 8:35 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

in wengers years in charge we have generally had db10 as a second striker, dropping deep (more so as he's got older). i think, and im not how many are going to agree with me here, that the player with the attributes to replace bergkamp is in fact cesc. as an attacking midfielder he can get into the 'hole' and play throughballs. With den floating and titi drifting we often got left with 4-6-0. it also allows room for reyes to play more freely.

1/04/2006 9:15 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That formation is being used to get the best out of Cesc Fabregas and Alexander Hleb, and furthermore provides greater defensive stability for the team as a whole. Henry should be experienced enough to handle a lone striker role for the sake of the team - its not a role he's used to, but remember that its new for everyone, not just him!

Using it against Manchester United was a sensible tactical decision given we've suffered in midfield against strong opponents.

1/04/2006 9:22 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

why dont arsenal shoot anymore?arsenal need to be more dangerous around the box. where sum players wud jus av shot and at least work the keeper and maybe get the crowd goin arsenal jus pass the ball. then u see the same thing it gets to larren on right and he crosses nothing wrong with his cross jus no1 there and we lose possession and im sick of campball jus giving the ball away with all his long balls that come to nothing!imho im glad to see wenger using a 4-5-1 we looked a lot more solid using that.they ve been soft in some games this season.aston villa were bullyin us the other day.

1/04/2006 10:42 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest I dont care what formation we play as long as we play fast flowing football. It doesnt matter if you play 5 in the middle as long as you play good football. I dont think chelsea can match the quality of our football even if they changed to 442. So I think what arsene meant by hating the 451 is the way 451 is deployed by chelsea and other teams, with 5 guys who dig in and make things uncomfortable, all the while launching long balls to the lone striker.

1/04/2006 11:06 pm

Anonymous Valentin said...

Here are the problems that we have:
+ Henry is playing through pain, meaning that he can't run behind defense negating alot of our usual play. Bendter or even Lupoli should play some of our games, instead of aggravating his physical aproblems and not solving our scoring problem.
+ Our players do not seems to adapt to new style of play. Hleb tend to slow our style of play, he wants to control the ball instead of releasing it as soon as possible. The problem is that our strikers are then offside or frustrated of not receveing the ball when they expect.
+ Some of our more experienced players have not been playing to their full capability. Freddie has been so bad, it is unbelievable and AW refuses to play a kid in the team (IMHO Eboue is currently playing better and offer more offensive help. The cross against Doncasted behind a case in point).
+ Our midfield players are not impact players, they are just passers. They can be bullied out of play, and because of point 1 they cannot increase our speed of play to overcome that pressing. We need somebody to replace Viera.
+ None of our players tries to shoot anymore. Only Van persie takes his chances from outside the box. His deflected goal against Birmingham confirm that if you do not shoot, you cannot score. Last year Toure was tring at least once a game a long range free-kick. Most were sailing wide, but often they were resulting in chaos in the opposing defense.
+ Cygan is adequate as left back. The problem is that Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy are outstanding left back. The difference of level is therefore easy to see. Pascal Cygan does not provide as much assistance in the attacking game as our original left back. That loss is not being compensated by a more attacking side on our right.
+ Arsene Wenger refusal to work on set pieces. Yes I believe that Bolton styleof play is agricultural, but we need to work on set piece. We rarely looks like scoring on a corner or a free-kick. Knowing on how to head the ball, should be mandatory to professional player not optional.

1/04/2006 11:39 pm

Blogger Skippy said...

I was very disappointed with the way Arsenal approached the game yesterday. They set out not to lose, but this is not the Arsenal way as T states.

I know, Liverpool deployed this system in the beginning of the season. That saw us gaining 10 points from 8 matches.

The 4-5-1 is a good system to play in the Champion's league against a good side. Liverpool used it to good effect last season and this year against Chelsea.

1/04/2006 11:46 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wenger has always built his teams based around pace and power. With Henry clearly playing at under 100%(why did he play 90 mins agains Pompey when we were 4-0 up at half time)we lack pace, and our midfield clearly lacks power.
We do not look dangerous going forward because although our passing is still good it is not incisive, as the movement is not there and the understanding we have had down the left of Henry-Cole-Pires has been removed virtually all season.
Against Utd we missed Van Persie who has a physical presence and is prepared to shoot on site. With the lack of goals from midfield,(at the current rate it will be about 30 goals less than last season) we cannot afford to be without one of our 2 main goal threats against good teams.
In the circumstances 451 was a fair tactical decision, the problem we have at the moment is more that we do not have players of sufficient pace and power to play the Wenger way regardless of formation.

1/05/2006 12:30 am

Blogger BlindJak said...

Closely watching Chelsea as I do has taught me that no formation should be rigged and that it changes as possession is won and lost. When Chelsea have possession we are playing our much vaunted 4-3-3 with the wingers pressing high up the pitch. However as soon as possession is lost they race back and the formation becomes a 4-5-1 with the defenders expected to pitch in defensively and tackle or harry the player in possession. Once the possession is won back they again tear forward on the counter.

Over all this places a huge work load on the wingers but if they can do it, it lends the team not only defensive stability but also maintains offensive capabilities.

This would also allow Henry to keep drifting as he enjoys as when play is on the left the right sided winger drifts into the box to add numbers and help the striker and vice versa. So it need not turn into a 4-6-0.

Could Arsenal not utilise Pires and Freddie in this sort or role? Or is their age/temperament against them?

1/05/2006 8:41 am

Blogger Hamid said...

I think the main reason why the 4-5-1 system has not worked for Arsenal is because they do not have the players to harnesst the formation to full effect. For this system to work, as Chelsea has done, you need a really strong target man at the top and two pacey wingers who can convert the formation into a 4-3-3. Arsenal have got no one to fit the bill as a strong target person. Henry is not patient enough to stay up there in wait of the ball and Bergkamp is not strong. Van Persie is still learning his trade. On the wings, Pires has lost half a yard on his pace with age catching up with him. On the right, there has not been much consistency for Arsenal is there? So many players have played there since the start of the season. Chelsea play Drogba as the lone man, depsite all the criticism levelled at him he still performs his role efficaciously. Crespo could do the same job for the blues. In the wide areas, Chelsea can utilize Cole, Duff, Robben and Gudjohnsen. All these players are very lethal from these wide positions and these are the main reasons why Chelsea are sitting at the top and Arsenal are languishing at 5th.

1/05/2006 12:36 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanx everyone, a lot of quality analysis has been written in these comments!

Would really like to comment individually on each point raised but I would be here all night! Suffice to say that many of the points made I was nodding my head too and am proud that EFT attracts such quality observation.

Valentin's nutshell analysis was fantastic.... thanx for that.

Anon (12:30am) made the crucial point about how AFC's left-side attacking threat has gone missing since Cole has been out.... and underlines why I think his return will raise AFC's potential by a marked percentage.

Anon 9.22pm makes a good defence of the 4-5-1 but I still don't think it should be used as the starting formation for a home match for the reasons I explained in my article.

TH's mobility issue with his achilles was well raised by a few commentators... playing four games in nine days is not going to help and I agree with the point made: why did AW not sub him at H-T against Pompey with the game won?

Finally, BJ raised some good points which Kung Ham It made a really good response to... so much so that I'd basically just be repeating his analysis. Two points I would add is that it comes as no surprise to me that Arsenal lack top quality cohesion in the 4-5-1 because our players are so grooved at playing 4-4-2 with all the specific movements and combinations that this involves. The second point is that Pires/Ljungberg do not have the requisite attributes of a speedy Shaun Wright-Phillips, who can quickly race forward to support the centre-forward from the right side in a 4-5-1; nor does Henry have the strength or gameplay to be a powerhouse target-man/sole striker like Drogba to hold the ball up or bulldoze thru CB's.

So I don't think its a question of temperament BJ- its just that our players attributes suit a 4-4-2... plus its the only system they expertly know having played it for the entirety of Wenger's time at the club.

Finally, the Skipper made a really good point about the Pool using it successfully in Europe last season... which I'm sure Wenger noted. With us out of the title race, Wenger may well be using the Premiership as a testing ground for a 4-5-1 that will be our starting system in the Champs League?

P.S. BlindJak, you may not be aware but in July on this site I asked Wenger to use the Vieira money on SWP. He would be ideal on our right-hand side either playing 4-5-1 or 4-4-2.... and I rue the day that Chelsea put in a bid that both Man City could not refuse nor Arsenal could compete with!

1/05/2006 11:31 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

4-4-2 is Arsenal's best formation, but I sense the 4-5-1 is now being utilised to accommodate Henry solely, possibly emphasising to the Frenchman how much Arsenal will be a team built around him to help him ponder come May. The fans call for 4-4-2, others are not bothered provided it pays, or plays, dividends, and it seems a 'aint broke don't fix it' sturdy formation that has seen great football over the seasons from Arsenal.


1/06/2006 12:12 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says.....Sorry Redsman, you have missed the point of Arsenes trial run using 4-5-1. It is entirely for Europe. Over the past 8 years, we have consistantly been the best footballing side in the UK, but because of lack of money ( note that we have always had to sell before buying) our squad has never been strong enough to do a 'Pool' or Chelski, that is , go to away games and bore for England, but get a draw / lucky win. This year, with an even weaker squad, AW has got us through without the usual panic. I see this as a prelude to better away results ie; not losing to lesser sides, and when the new boys arrive, a great season next year. With Cole back soon, I expect AFc to go on another run to finish second, but to win back our crown Arsene has to think very big. The most important signing should be young our team he would play in place of Freddy ( who is ready for a move elsewhere ) this would give AFC the most dinamic forward line in Europe. Henry, Van Persie, Walcott...with Lupoli etc to come in when required. So dont expect us to play 4-5-1 at home ever again...its done its job for now, and has nothing to do with Titi's needs, but all to do with repairing our European away record.

1/10/2006 10:06 am

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