Arsenal 3-0 Burnley: Arsene Goes Back to the Future with 4-4-2

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This might have been Arsenal’s best 90 minutes of the season…

There were dazzling 20 minute spells against Manchester City and Hull, but neither of those was sustained for an entire match. The wins against Aston Villa and Galatasaray might have been more eye-catching, but there were mitigating circumstances which took the shine off both those victories: Villa were afflicted with illness, while Gala were suffering from a severe case of Felipe Melo. For different reasons, both their defences spent most of the game shitting themselves.

Burnley might be the weakest team in the Premier League, but they couldn’t blame bad health or errant Brazilians for this defeat. Arsenal were simply superior. Even when the half-time whistle sounded with the score at 0-0, I wasn’t concerned. The team looked confident, patient, and in control.

Finally, 4-4-2 is back…

I honestly didn’t think I’d see the day.

When the line-ups were first released, the selection of both Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta was met with some consternation. However, the thought process behind the decision soon became clear, as Arsenal lined up in an old-fashioned 4-4-2 with Alexis playing up top alongside Danny Welbeck.

Having relied upon the solidity of a midfield three for the best part of a decade, Arsene was clearly feeling a little insecure about reverting to a two, so opted for the conservative choice of Arteta and Flamini.

That shouldn’t come as any enormous surprise. Think of the great Wenger sides of the first half of his reign: he consistently favoured two deep-lying central midfielders who could break up with the play, with roaming wingers and two strikers ahead. Arteta and Flamini aren’t exactly Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira or Gilberto Silva, but they’re the closest thing we’ve got.

The results have been good, too. Since fielding both our defensive midfielders in tandem, we’ve kept two consecutive clean sheets — and that’s with Nacho Monreal at centre-half.

An Arsenal side struggling for balance has found equilibrium by reintroducing the formation that brought Wenger the majority of his success. It’ll be fascinating to see how frequently we see this new 4-4-2 deployed. With Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil and Walcott all to return to the starting XI, it’s difficult to see it becoming the default system.

The two Chambo’s are linking up well…

Along with all the praise for the team’s obvious star on Saturday, the performances of the two players on Arsenal’s right side also deserve a mention. Calum Chambers had a stormer from full-back, getting his first senior goal and another assist. Ahead of him, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked to be regaining confidence and composure on the wing.

It’s clear these two share a great understanding. It seems Chambers has not only replaced Carl Jenkinson as the team’s back-up right-back, but also as the Ox’s best mate.

Alexis is a leader…

Leadership comes in many different forms. Alexis doesn’t have the physical stature of a Patrick Vieira. He doesn’t even speak the language, so can’t command or cajole his team-mates with words.

Instead, Alexis leads by example. He leads by being brave enough to constantly demand the ball. He thrives on responsibility. Nor is he scared to attempt the improbable, as with his 6’10” leap to put the Gunners ahead. When the going gets tough, Alexis gets going.

Much has been made of Arsene Wenger’s decision to hand Alexis a spot in the middle. However, the truth is that he’s influential wherever he plays. He was always going be a central figure. Alexis’ place at the heart of this team is contingent on his personality, not his position.

Gunnerblog is 10 today

To my considerable surprise, Gunnerblog is 10 years old today.

I can’t believe that it was fully a decade ago when I took my first faltering steps in to the world of blogging. Although I have neither the time nor inventiveness to blog on a daily basis, the site (and its accompanying Twitter feed) has been a pretty consistent presence in my adult life. It’s brought me huge satisfaction, and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has looked in along the way. Without the support, the debate and the encouragement I almost certainly wouldn’t have made it this far. Thankyou. It continues to be a pleasure.

Writing about Arsenal is a particular joy this summer, with the club conducting it’s transfer business in an unfamiliarly efficient manner. Today, the club added David Ospina to a growing list of signings alongside Mathieu Debuchy and Alexis Sanchez.

Ospina looks to be a fantastic acquisition, especially at the bargain price of around £3m. His signing follows the growing trend for every elite club to have two top class goalkeepers. With Ospina around, Wojciech Szczesny faces a real battle to keep hold of the No. 1 shirt.

Another announcement could be just around the corner. Arsenal are also on the verge of declaring a deal over Southampton’s England U-19 captain Calum Chambers.

I have to say, I’m enormously excited about this one. I watched Chambers play right-back against Arsenal back in January, and was struck by his athleticism, technical ability and poise on the ball. The youngster obviously made a similar impression on Arsene Wenger, who is prepared to spend in excess of £10 million to get his man.

Speaking to The Daily Mail, Wenger admitted that Chambers’ versatility was one of the main attractions:

“He hasn’t played many games but the English players on the market in England are very expensive. At the end of the day I was ready to take a gamble because he is a one for the future.  

He is a player I wanted because I rated his quality and intelligence. He is only 19 and can play at centre-back, right-back and central midfield. I hope he will give us competition for the players in those three positions.”

Wenger was disappointed to miss out on Phil Jones a couple of years back, but now it seems he has the promising, powerful, adaptable English defensive player he’s been craving.

On that note, I’d better depart. Thanks again, and here’s to the next decade of drivel.