WBA 0-1 Arsenal: Is Arsene Wenger trialling a formation to suit Theo Walcott?

Arsenal celebrate after Danny Welbeck's goal at West Brom

I was intrigued by Arsenal’s starting XI at West Brom. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was afforded a rest, so Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez both started on either side of Olivier Giroud. It was a proper front three, with the two wider forwards frequently rotating and drifting in to the centre to join the Frenchman.

Welbeck performed extremely well in what’s a familiar role to him. He created the most goalscoring opportunities of any Arsenal player, completed the most sprints, and racked up the third-highest passing accuracy in the opposition half. More importantly, he got the winning goal with an excellent header to end his brief barren run.

However, his long-term place in the team is far from guaranteed. Debate has recently focused on the duel between Welbeck and Giroud. Watching him at West Brom, I wondered if his real competition might yet come from Theo Walcott.

The fluid front three system Wenger trialled at the Hawthorns seems ideally suited to Walcott’s attributes. He could switch wings with Alexis Sanchez, roving infield to play off Giroud when appropriate. He doesn’t offer as much defensive cover as Welbeck, but is historically more productive in the penalty area. Welbeck will have to improve his goalscoring ratio if he is to see off Walcott on his return to fitness. My hunch is that, as last season, Wenger sees Giroud as a crucial cog in his first-choice XI.

Having Giroud and Laurent Koscielny available certainly makes the squad feel a lot stronger at both ends of the pitch. It might be a strange time to say it after Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal both picked up knocks at the Hawthorns, but I’m almost wondering if strengthening the midfield might become a bigger priority than adding to the defence come January.

With Debuchy getting closer to a comeback, we do at least have Chambers and Monreal who can offer a measure of cover at centre-half. At present, Mathieu Flamini is the only fit holding midfielder. Impressive though he was at West Brom, his erratic form this season suggests he’s not the reliable alternative to Mikel Arteta we require.

Our next opponents are a lesson in the importance of that ‘DM’ role. With Morgan Schneiderlin anchoring their midfield, they’ve had the best defensive record in the Premier League this season. It was telling that all three goals Manchester City scored against them this weekend came after his withdrawal with injury. Let’s hope it keeps him out for Wednesday too.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.

10 Comments

  1. davi   •  

    “He doesn’t offer as much defensive cover as Welbeck, but is historically more productive in the penalty area. Welbeck will have to improve his goalscoring ratio if he is to see off Walcott on his return to fitness.”
    If you look at their goals/appearance in the league to date, Welbeck and Walcott are actually almost identical at 0.23 goals/appearance

    • Brandon   •  

      Not a great statistic to show Walcott’s improved efficiency in front of goal. He was a very poor finisher early on his career and has shown massive improvement(when fit) in that category over the past couple of seasons

  2. G10   •  

    Wenger is tactically inept. Why give him credit? Until fans like you stop thinking it is 2004, the club will continue in this rut.

    What is more disappointing is that you author a very influential Arsenal blog. What we need is change – a change of manager, to be precise – and that day is being delayed while fans like you keep trying to perpetuate the myth that Wenger is still a top level manager.

    Wenger is a busted flush and he doesn’t have the decency to walk; therefore, he needs to be forced out.

    The club is owned by the only bigger specialist in sports failure than the manager so the impetus for change will have to come from us.

    Blogs like yours won’t help.

    • Ram   •  

      Idiot

  3. Hamez   •  

    Welback is a cf im pissed that giroud claimed the cf role easy

  4. Mark   •  

    I agree that Wenger’s time is up. But to call a manager who went 49 games unbeaten “inept” and a “failure” just makes you look stupid.

  5. Camber   •  

    The inept comment relates to the present day Wenger, not the one from 10 years ago.

    • Mark   •  

      Would you say, then, that most other Premier League managers are inept also?

  6. Rich   •  

    If Arsene’s had signed Nastasic and Schniderlin in the summer, i don’t think this negative stench around the club would be lingering anywhere near as badly, but he continually avoids doing the bleeding obvious and were in the same position as 2007/08 and 2010/11 by missing the obvious…. but this time we have more for manoeuvre on both transfer fees and wages.
    Arsene’s brought this on himself, has only himself to blame, and it’s his fault we don’t have a squad that can at very least compete.
    But if we are to replace him, now is not the time, and we have to replace him with someone better.
    We’re stuck between a rock and a cold place, in football purgatory. Go and buy what we clearly need and stop worrying about paying more than you want too.

  7. silikon   •  

    When some one searches for his necessary thing, therefore he/she needs to be available that in detail, therefore that thing is maintained over here.|

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