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Can Wenger fit two world-class strikers into one effective first eleven?

By Jerry Jones

The Gunners have spent £105m this season on two centre-forwards of real world-class quality. Alexandre Lacazette finally secured his move abroad after leaving Lyon in the summer, before being joined by Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January. The only issue now is how to get the best from both players at the same time.

Football tactics have evolved over the past decade or so and the days of two up front seem to have passed us by. Once upon a time, a strike partnership was the stable of any great side: Sheringham and Klinsmann, Yorke and Cole or Beardsley and Lineker.

However, the Premier League of 2018 brings more emphasis on the midfield and wide players, with a lone centre forward often the preferred option. With that in mind, can Arsene Wenger possibly squeeze his two prized assets into a starting eleven? It isn’t a problem he has to address immediately as Lacazette is on the sidelines with a knee injury, but when he returns, decisions need to be made.

Lacazette by @cfcunofficial (Chelsea Debs) London from London, UK – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 2 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Wenger has a couple of options, one of which is to play Aubameyang out wide on the left, Ozil in the centre of the attacking midfield three and Mkhitaryan on the right. That would leave Lacazette up top on his own and get both players on the pitch. There are obvious downfalls to this, though, not least it diminishes the effectiveness of Arsenal’s record signing. Also, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang have a relationship from their Dortmund days, but being on opposite sides of the pitch may stifle that. Put simply, that won’t happen.

No, Arsene Wenger has brought Aubameyang to play up front which means if anyone is going to make way, it will be Lacazette. French publication L’equipe insisted that it would be Lacazette forced out onto the flanks, despite only being half a season into his £47m switch.

Aubameyang by Dirk Vorderstraße – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (BVB) (CC BY 2.0)

If Arsene really wants to accommodate both, he could revert to a 4-4-2 and go ‘old school’. Gunners legend Thierry Henry thinks this is the smart way forward and in doing so, he retains both Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka in midfield. That might not be entirely positive, though; after all, Xhaka has come in for criticism from some of his own fans.

Currently, Arsenal’s odds of qualifying for the Champions League can be found decreasing by the day with Betsafe’s football predictions and betting tips, but successfully integrating the two big-money signings could put paid to that. Xhaka has come in for some criticism and certain fans think the solution might not be 4-4-2, but a variation of 3-5-2.

The outcome is the same: Lacazette and Aubameyang start up front, but summer arrival Sead Kolasinac plays as a left-sided wing back and Hector Bellerin on the right. Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Wilshere occupy the middle ground, meaning Xhaka is relegated to the bench.

Granit Xhaka (left) by Ludovic Péron (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Arsene Wenger isn’t prone to bouts of transfer folly and fans won’t stand for having £47m worth of striker on the bench when the team are struggling for goals. Whether the result is to force one out wide or not remains to be seen, but surely to reap the rewards of such extravagant investment, both players must play in their favoured position.

If Wenger gets this right, Arsenal could be set for a glorious 18 months of free-scoring football. Get it wrong and it could accelerate the end of his tenure in charge.

12 comments to Can Wenger fit two world-class strikers into one effective first eleven?

  • thanks, jerrry, for this interesting analysis

    about the 4-4-2 “old school”
    i suspect AW, as many of us french people, has been an admirer of the best french national team ever, the one that reached the semi-finals of the 1982 world cup in spain (actually michel hidalgo’s (the then french manager) philosophy has, in my opinion, strongly influenced AW)

    the line-up read as follows:

    ettori
    bossis-trésor-janvion-amoros
    giresse-platini-tigana-genghini
    rocheteau-six

    as you suggest, our current squad could allow AW to pick up the team below:

    cech
    bellerin-mustafi-koscielny-monreal
    mkhitaryan-ramsey-wilshere-özil
    lacazette-aubameyang

    which would be – quite eerily,actually – strongly reminiscent of 1982 “les bleus”

    the only caveat being that, under the guidance of platini/hidalgo, the french team oozed joyfulness and confidence, which is not exactly the case of our lads today …

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Why not Jerry? Arsenal can fix two world class strikers into one if they are fixable. But in the absence of Lacazette, why can’t Le Boss fix the two strikers of Aubameyang and Welbeck into one in the AC Milan ELC game at San Siro on Thursday night to see if it’ll jell. Or Alternatively, since Welbeck has appeared to be struggling to come back to his best form for Arsenal this season, Le Boss could fix two of Aubameyang and Nketiah in one upfront against AC Milian. Let’s not underrate this option. It could turnout to be the most viable of the two options. But a Welbeck/Nketiah is a possibility substitution option against AC Milan that Le Boss could explored for fixing when he decides to take Auba off at a stage in the match. But it shouldn’t be less that 20 minutes to the end of the match so as to give the duo strikers enough time to accustomed to effective striking partnership in front for Arsenal.

    I think against AC Milan, I’ll prefer to see a 5-3-2 Arsenal playing formation in this match to give a strong defensive solidity to Arsenal through the 5 Gunners at the back in the game.

    My provisional early Arsenal 5-3-2 starts and 7 Gunners bench for our AC Milan match to ponder on.

    Starts:
    Ospina
    Bel’rin Cha’bers Kos’lny Mustafi Monreal
    …..Mkhitaryan. …. . .Ozil….. ..Kolasniac….
    ………Aubameyang…… …….Welbeck………

    Bench:
    Cech Holding Maitland ElNeny Ramsey Wilshere Nketiah.

    How has Le Boss see these my usual 5-3-2 Arsenal starts and 7 Gunners bench for AC Milan? Will he trust them? We might need to play the unusual playing formation starts to beat AC Milan at San Siro who are fully ready for us. Let Le Boss play this unusual playing formation to unready AC Milan on Thursday night.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Samuel,

    Please understand that Aubameyang can’t be involved in the Europa League this season due to a stupid ineligibility rule. He can play in our League games but not in Europe no matter how much you would like to include him.

  • Polo

    I think 4-2-3-1 is a better option than 4-4-2 due to controlling of the midfield, going forward the team is not bad, only need more time for the front 4 to gel and understand each other. Arsenal need a proper defensive midfielder who actually know how to defend, and things should improve.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I would love to see both these players play together and give the opposing defence a headache by constantly interchanging their positions and stretching them.

    The key would be getting the midfield combination right. We need to get our speed back and attack with width.The defensive midfielder must always read the game and close down the opposition quickly , while starting an attack.

    Early crosses from the deep should be a must to allow our forwards to get to balls over and behind the opposing defence and to manufacture more one on one situations .

    I would love our central defenders to stay put always to cut off those breakaways that often result in goals against us. The fullbacks will have to work hard to support the attack and give us width , but must be able to recover quickly and track back fast when the ball is lost.

    I personally would love a 3-5-2 formation.

  • Reg

    Definition of a world class player for me would be to perform consistently in the toughest leagues and at international level. German and French leagues don’t come close so neither warrant the world class tag.

  • PTO

    I don’t think Arsenal have had a world class striker since van Persie, but gelling these two very good forwards shouldn’t be too difficult as Lacazette does have experience of playing in wider positions.
    As for the team’s shape……well who knows?

  • Josif

    Aubameyang played on the right flank with Lewandowski down the middle at Borussia Dortmund in 2013-14 so it’s an option.

  • Jerry

    I think it they can both fit in a line up also.

    I would expect Aubameyang to move out wide to take advantage of his pace, and use Lacazette in the middle who I think is better at ball retention and passing.

    Obviously the players roles will interchange throughout a match to confuse a defense.

  • Jammy

    Reg – Are you honestly suggesting that no players in the French or German leagues is world class?

  • Josif

    Reg

    06/03/2018 at 6:29 pm

    “Definition of a world class player for me would be to perform consistently in the toughest leagues and at international level. German and French leagues don’t come close so neither warrant the world class tag.”

    Neymar, Thiago Silva, Cavani, Verratti, Mbappe, Lemar, Falcao, Di Maria…none of these is a world-class player?

    Neuer, Hummels, Lewandowski, Robben, Ribery, Javi Martinez, Reus…are not world-class players?

  • Menace

    Idiots can also be world class. Now there you go I’ve Trumped you.