Are United ready for Wenger's tactical rethink?

Analysis

Arsène Wenger was christened Le Professeur by the Arsenal players when he arrived at the club. It seems the university graduate has come up with another successful formula. Arsenal's switch to 4-3-3 has reaped impressive dividends with the team winning all four matches this season scoring 15 goals in the process.

The stimulus appears to have been last season's two Champions League ties against today's opponents, Manchester United, when his midfield two were overrun. Wenger's new formation features a third central midfielder usually Alex Song, in a holding role. Song does not just protect the central defence, he also gives freedom to his fellow midfielders, and eases their workload.

Cesc Fàbregas, Arsenal's creative font, will miss today's match with injury but explained: "For the last two years I was finishing games really, really tired because I was defending, I was attacking, I was pressurising, and usually there was just two of us in the middle against three from the other team. It was tough. In this position I don't have to run as much. I have my own zone, a little bit to the right. When you play 4-4-2 you have to go left, right, everywhere."

Abou Diaby is likely to deputise for Fabregas today, with Denilson making up the midfield trio. The key, though, is Song, who is revelling in the responsibility, and perhaps flourishing in this specific role. "He is important," said Wenger. "He smells where to be on the pitch which is the main quality of a midfielder."

Song, who described his main task as preventing couter-attacks, said: "We still pass the ball as people expect Arsenal to, but when we lose it everyone closes the ball down quickly. Maybe we didn't do that so well last season."

An unexpected side-effect is that the midfield are providing most of Arsenal's goals with the forwards scoring just three, one of them a penalty. "In this formation we create good space for the midfielders to run into the box," said Wenger, alluding to the mobility of his front three. He added: "Our strikers provide more than they score."

The weakness is that the full-backs have a heavy load. With a narrow midfield they must provide attacking width, but can lack defensive support. Today's match may turn on whether United, who conversely have moved to a more traditional 4-4-2, can expose that dual-role, or whether Arsenal's midfield trio can control the game.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
tv

News
VIDEO
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
news
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
books...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower