Three reasons why the AFC 4-5-1 should be abandoned by Wenger
I wrote about the terrible 4-5-1 after the Man Utd match, and produced the stat that it averages AFC only 0.166 goals per match. Since then, AFC have had two more matches with the 4-5-1, and true to form the team did not score in either (a 1-0 loss to Wigan, and a 1-0 loss to Everton), nor barely created a chance worthy of the name in the 180 minutes of play. The stat now reads 0.125 goals per match, or in other words just one goal in eight games dating from the FA Cup final.
Here are three core reasons why Wenger should abandon the 4-5-1:
Opposition teams love the AFC 4-5-1
I have always believed that anything about AFC that the opposition loves is something that needs immediate rectification. A record of only one goal and one win in the eight games employing the 4-5-1 is ample evidence that the opposition must love to see the recent 'invincibles' in the AFC 4-5-1.
4-5-1 neutralises Henry
Thierry Henry has won the European Golden boot in the previous two seasons. More than that, he has produced loads of assists in the same period. Yet the AFC 4-5-1 has seen no goals for Henry, nor is he creating chances for others. Instead we see Henry confined to the centre of the park putting in a really unconvincing impression of a target-man. Henry is no Drogba, is no Beattie, is no Davies. A system that destroys Henry and tries to re-construct him into someone he isn't is one that destroys Arsenal.
4-5-1 betrays the Wenger legacy of fantastic, fluent, positive, winning football
Since 1996, Wenger has transformed Arsenal from a defence-first team into an attack-first team. He has produced a fantastic style of play that has won championships and broken magnificent records. And it has been achieved by drilling an attacking 4-4-2 system into his players.
Conversely, the 4-5-1 is a relatively negative system, favouring a team that primarily has a defensive mentality and a strong target-man. This is mainly why AFC players have no fluency in the 4-5-1: they do not have a defensive-first mentality nor a target-man. Moreover, it sets an alien, negative tone into their mentality in comparison to the attacking spirit they are used to when setting up in a 4-4-2. In other words, it is a totally wrong fit for the AFC players- and it shows in the 4-5-1 performances and results.
So on a number of levels, the 4-5-1 is a wrong system for this AFC squad. I reckon Wenger has persevered with it in preparation for the match in Madrid because the extra midfielder theoretically provides added protection to the defence. Yet this protection has now consistently been proven to come at too high a price.
I hope Wenger now realises he can't go to the Bernabeu playing this system because away goals are a crucial asset: and the 4-5-1 holds out very little hope that Arsenal can gain away goals.
Overall, the Arsenal 4-5-1 system frustrates me because it is self-inflicted damage on the Arsenal players who simply can't find any attacking fluency playing within it. I was happy to see it changed on Saturday at half-time, but by then the damage had been done as Everton had a goal advantage, self-belief and the bit between their teeth.
Post-Everton, I hope Arsene's analysis comes to the same conclusion as me: don’t go back to the 4-5-1 because it is simply a wrong and failing system for this AFC squad.
P.S. Kerrea Gilbert was fantastic on his league debut: pace, tenacity, kept things simple and solid, made constant overlapping runs. He created AFC's best chance just before Everton's goal with a deadly run and cross that Ljungberg took away from a better-positioned Reyes. For a few months I have been anticipating his break-through, and his peformance on Saturday underlines the fact that he has a lot of potential to be a right-sided Ashley Cole.