After my blog post yesterday, questioning the set up of the squad in previous matches and, offering out a suggestion of how I feel we should play, it got put into practice. The exact formation I wanted to see, with Ramsey playing deeper alongside Arteta, was put out to play at Villa Park.
The back five pick themselves, currently, and we had the two deep-lying midfielders. There was more than one reason I suggested that Ramsey should play this role, other than to help provide cover for the defenders. It was to allow him to get into the game more as it suits his playing style. He would get on the ball more and be able to make things happen without being caught too far up the pitch.
Danny Welbeck, up front, was a given and after his last two matches you just knew a goal was going to come very soon. Behind him we the trio of Ozil, Cazorla and Chamberlain. Alexis Sanchez is not injured, he was simply rested as he looked off the pace against Dortmund. Chamberlain provides pace, energy and directness that Alexis also offers so no complaints.
The star of the show yesterday was Mesut Ozil. Why:? Because this formation allows him to shine and pull all the strings. Constantly interchanging with Cazorla allows him to bamboozle Villa’s marking and make it harder to keep track of him. Everything we did yesterday was through Ozil.
Villa looked threatening in the opening stages of the game, but once we settled and managed to get our passing together, it felt less uneasy. Although Szczesny made some great stops, he also carried on his awkward kicking, this season. The ball skimmed along the floor to Delph who played a neat one-two and fired in a low shot.
Then came the magic 3 minutes and 12 seconds. The first goal was a thing of beauty and sheer relief. Danny Welbeck picked the ball up and played a ball through to Ozil, who was running through the middle off the last defender, to calmly slot the ball around Guzan.
Just moments later, Ozil turned provider. He drifted out left, into the space created by Cazorla coming in centrally and played a low ball across the area to be met by Welbeck.
Villa, feeling left out, wanted to get on the score sheet too. So they did, by turning in an own goal from a scuffed Gibbs shot. Cissokho saw the onrushing Chamberlain and was under pressure to knock the ball out of a corner. Fortunately for us, it was into his own net.
The second half was very quiet. Pretty much nothing happened, which makes a change. It was good to seal the win in the first half and then play the game out without any nerves or capitulation in the second.
What can we take from this? The manager has now surely noted that this formation is far more effective with the players available. Playing two deep-lying midfielders allows them to get involved in the game more, as well as providing the extra security for our defence. As I stated yesterday, a clean sheet would do wonders for our defenders’ confidence, especially in the run up to the Spurs and Chelsea matches.
Ramsey playing in the deeper role allowed him to play his game, even though at times he was extremely poor again, it will hopefully get him to play his way out of his current rut. There was one back pass, under no pressure what so ever, went straight out for a corner. A few poor touches, passes and decision-making can all change with that magic ingredient, confidence.
Another benefit of playing two players deeper, is that it allowed Ozil and Cazorla much more room to dictate play. Instead of having four players around each other, in close proximity, causing them to play short intricate passing, whilst being tightly marked. It allowed the playmakers space and time on the ball to be able to look up and play the correct balls and make the correct runs.
Personally, Wilshere should be starting ahead of Ramsey, due to his poor form of late. But he is the sort of player who plays his way out of it. Some players need to be benched and have take heed of some advice from the coaches, whereas others need to just play it out of their system. It’s a tough call to make, as Wilshere is the player in form but Ramsey on his day is one of the best in that position. Either way I think the team plays better with one or the other on the pitch, at the moment.
Kieran Gibbs also deserves recognition for his game yesterday, as he is extremely underrated. He does his job so well that it often goes unnoticed. He was positionally aware, more so than Monreal, and got back when he had to as well as up the field to attack.
Capital One Cup action this Tuesday against Southampton. This will be a very tough game, regardless, but I think we’ll see a very different team line up. Quite a lot more youth and players who we haven’t seen much of will probably start. Bellerin, Coquelin, Podolski, Campbell (I hope), Rosicky, Diaby, Zelalem, Akpom and our new goalkeeper, Ospina. Oh and don’t forget Sanogo.