Friday, August 24, 2007

Arsene Wenger: "You Need Two Strikers"

Many Arsenal fans have been delighted with the free-scoring start which Alex Hleb has had this season. Hleb has found himself more than comfortable in a supporting role in the 4-4-1-1 system which Arsene Wenger has chosen to use for much of the pre-season as well as Arsenal's first two league matches, scoring 2 goals in 3 matches since Arsenal's first EPL game against Fulham. Hleb's remarkable run of form, which also includes a goal against Ajax in a pre-season friendly has lead me to believe that the correct managerial decision would be to drop the 4-4-2 in favor of the 4-4-1-1 which has been bringing out the best in Hleb this season.

We have genuine quality in the form of Robin van Persie, who could easily win the Golden Boot this season if he stays fit, and with a superb creative dribbler such as Hleb, Arsenal's new system could see Hleb scoring more and more. However, with Adebayor's return imminent after a groin injury, Wenger has told, "I cannot isolate Robin van Persie up there the whole year. It does not work on a longer period. It can work in some games but it cannot be the basis of your game. You need two strikers." I was dismayed upon hearing this, because unless Wenger opts to play an unlikely 4-3-1-2 formation (which would further weaken our play on the flanks) Hleb will no longer have the freedom to play in the center. Unfortunately, despite Hleb's brilliance on the ground, he is not a good crosser of the ball, and therefore does not work well on the right wing - where he was played last season and managed to score only 3 goals. Hleb's tendancy to cut in towards the center of the pitch means that he is not nearly as useful on the wing as he is in the hole. Arsene must realize this at some point, and either play Hleb in his preferred position or not at all.

Adebayor is not good enough to start for a team of Arsenal's stature, and while I rate Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo highly, one is not yet ready for such a big role in the Premiership, while the other has yet to prove his ability at the highest level. If Arsenal are to see the best of Hleb this season, we must play him in the hole, supporting a lone van Persie up front. If it ain't broke, don't fix it... other than Lehman's blunders we've had a fine start to the season, and until we are comprehensively beaten, I would like to stick with the formation we have been playing.