Arsenal’s loss to Liverpool showed one very important formation flaw. Spanish manager Unai Emery deployed a 4-3-1-2 formation and never wavered from the tactics he set his team out in until it was too late.
Emery has the players at his disposal to rival both Liverpool and Manchester City in terms of the team’s attack. Although Arsenal’s defence and depth are lacking, Emery’s attacking players are just as good as any other Premier League club.
Unai Emery should shift to 4-2-4
Arsenal’s 4-3-1-2 formation gave Dani Ceballos the chance to play as the No. 10 behind two strikers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe. Yet, Ceballos was well off his game giving away the ball regularly. He was dispossessed four times and completed 85% of his passes, according to WhoScored.com.
Emery’s attack players should be deployed in a four-man attack testing opposing opposition. Had Arsenal played a 4-2-4 against Liverpool, goalkeeper Adrian would have been under further pressure.
Arsenal had nine and 10 men behind the ball at large points of the match at Anfield. Aubameyang and Pepe were the team’s only outlets and though they did trouble Liverpool at times in the first half, never really got the Gunners long periods of possession. Arsenal managed 48% of the possession in the game, but much of that came in the second half toward the end of the fixture.
So, why should Arsenal move to a 4-2-4 formation?
Attack is the best form of defence
Arsenal can take the pressure off their defence by attacking and turning up the pressure on their opponents. Deploying four attacking players rather than just two or three can give Arsenal the chance to overrun opponents.
A four-man attack of Pepe, Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Ceballos could be the best attacking group in the Premier League. Unai Emery could mix and match his players as well with Mesut Ozil or Henrikh Mkhitaryan able to fill in.
The only problem with a four-man attack for Arsenal is they need another speedy winger. Pepe showed he can be a pacy player down the flank. The left side is an area Arsenal need to address to make the 4-2-4 formation work. However, using Ozil, Ceballos, or Mkhitaryan on the left flank would allow one of those players to move infield. Emery would still have two pivots able to play in front of the back four.
Liverpool pushed Arsenal’s three midfielders and four defenders back throughout Saturday’s game at Anfield. The Gunners were repeatedly trapped and held near Bernd Leno’s goal. Having attacking players to put more pressure on the opposing defence would have alleviated the problems Arsenal had on Saturday.
Thus far, Arsenal have used two different formations in the Premier League. A 4-3-1-2 and 4-2-3-1 have been deployed by Emery. An all-out attack could be the difference between conceding goals to a top-six team and finally getting a victory.