After beginning the season strongly, Arsenal’s yearly capitulation between February and April saw them fall spectacularly down the table, to a point where they allowed Manchester United to escape 6th position. The Wenger-Out campaign grew louder than ever, with most sections of the fans reluctant to see the same faces in management next season. The club had become stale and predictable, on and off the pitch.
The only change that could be brought in immediately, was a tactical one. Following the humiliating losses against Bayern Munich and Crystal Palace, Arsene Wenger opted for a 3-4-3, for the first time in almost 20 years.
Goalkeeper : The new formation gave Petr Cech a stronger defence in the league matches, allowing him to regain his form.
Defenders : With Mustafi and Koscielny nailing down two spots when fit, Gabriel, Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding, in particular, stepped up when called upon as the third centre-back. With two centre-halves to support him, Mertesacker’s lack of pace was not exposed, as he orchestrated the defence against Chelsea, in the FA Cup final.
Wide Midfielders : Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain bombarded up and down the right flank, and looked more than capable of handling it alone, despite being caught out of position on certain occasions. On the other flank, Monreal’s lack of pace exposed the Arsenal defence to opposition counter-attacks, while second-choice Gibbs was not consistent. New signing Sead Kolasinac looks set to replace them both, being more versatile, quicker, and adding more aggression on the physical front.
Central Midfielders : The position in which Arsenal have been lacking whenever Santi Cazorla is injured, seems secure under the revitalized duo of Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka. Ramsey has been dictating games with his passing and endless energy, and looks set to get back amongst the goals with his attacking nature. Xhaka, meanwhile, has been sitting deep, breaking up play, and spraying long passes across the pitch. He seems to have channeled his aggression in a disciplined manner, and has added some much-needed strength to the side.
Attackers : After a small dip in form, Alexis Sanchez pulled some more goals out of his hat, to end the season in fine form. Mesut Ozil initially struggled when not playing through the centre, with lesser options available to complement his passing philosophy, but his game improved vastly, as he resorted to dribbling through tight situations, which created more space. For the striker, Wenger alternated with Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck, both having contradictory styles. Welbeck was good at stretching the defence with his pace, while Giroud added strength and flair, and was extremely effective as a substitute.
Following the switch, it was evident that Arsenal were no longer depending on individual talent for a win, but on the team’s hunger and determination. The players had a point to prove to both, Wenger and the fans.
The first few games were error-prone as the players were adjusting to the new system, but they still managed to grind out wins against Middlesbrough, Manchester City and Leicester City. The 2-0 loss against Tottenham Hotspurs proved to be nothing more than a blip in their form, as Arsenal went on to win the next 6, including a tactical masterclass against Chelsea in the final to lift a record 13th, and Wenger’s 7th, FA Cup trophy.
(Photo Source : Awake and Dreaming)