Monday night’s performance sparked criticism from many Arsenal fans which was evident on Andy Goldstein’s Sports Bar Show. One of the major debates to arise is Wenger persistence with playing Ramsey on the right wing so that Cazorla can play centrally.
Although, this formation worked at the back end of last season and was successful when Arsenal kept winning consecutively it now seems that it has become a problem due to it becoming predictable. Recently on Monday night football Jaime Carragher analysed the two players and commented that Ramsey works on the right hand side because he helps Bellerin at right back but then come in field to join up the play but this has now become a weakness in this Arsenal side.
Ramsey does not work wide right mainly because he does not have the pace to beat his man which means he comes in centrally which at the same time takes away width. This decision then gets ridiculed because Arsenal have options on the bench in terms of Walcott and Oxlade – Chamberlain who are better suited.
Wenger tried to change this in the opening game of the season by playing Ramsey central and Cazorla wide but once again this did not work. The reason for this being Cazorla does not have the legs to play wide anymore and is better suited to a central role which allows him to dictate the play. It was evident that Arsenal missed Cazorla centrally against West Ham because the tempo was slow and struggled to control the midfield which left Coquelin exposed.
This then creates the Cazorla/Ramsey debate. This debate is likened to that of Gerrard and Lampard in the England national team which many managers had a problem with. So who is the better option?
What does Ramsey offer?
Let’s assume that one of the Ox or Walcott plays wide right, Wneger must decide who is better next to Coquelin. Firstly, let’s look at Ramsey. Ramsey’s strength is that he can get box to box quickly and contribute in both phases of play. It can also be seen that in his preferred position he will get you goals just like the 2013/14 season. This happens because Ramsey can time his runs and decide when to get into the box. However, the major downfall is that Ramsey does not control the play as well in that central area. I can also remember that at the start of the 2014/15 season Ramsey became a bit unreliable in that area often trying to be too clever and losing the ball.
Now let’s look at the contribution Cazorla can make in that central area. Cazorla has the intelligence to be able to play tricky passes in congested areas which allows players such as Sanchez to find room and make a difference in the final third. The other major benefit is that he provides a balance to the midfield due to his understanding with Coquelin and can dictate the play and adjust the tempo accordingly. However, Cazorla does not contribute as many goals in that deep central area unlike Ramsey.
What do you do?
This leaves Wenger with a big decision and this then create three options. The first he persists with the current formation and team and hope it pays off but he will lose width and the ability for the right winger to take on his man. Next he can drop one of Cazorla or Ramsey so that the team can benefit. This would be hard to decide between both players as they both have different qualities however, if I was the manager Ramsey would marginally shade it to play centrally just because of his ability to grab goals but Cazorla would still get games due to rotation.
The third option is try a new system to accommodate both of these players. A system which I believe would work with Arsenal’s midfield options is a narrow diamond with the fullbacks providing the width. This would then allow Sanchez or Walcott to play off Giroud in a front two. A formation of 4 -1 – 2 – 1 -2 would seem the logical choice. Obviously Coquelin would be the one to sit in front of the back four with Cazorla and Ramsey just in front with Ozil at the top of the diamond. This then allows all the players to play in their preferred position. Would it work? I don’t know but then again I’m not paid to make them decisions.
Wenger is unlikely to change formation which means he needs to decide to keep both in the team or drop one. This is not an easy decision but with the in form Oxlade –Chamberlain waiting on the side-lines he must start. This then provide pace on the wings and a directness to challenge the full back. If not Chamberlain, then Walcott would be the choice as he adds goals to this Arsenal attack. Only time will tell but Wenger must act quickly to avoid dropping important points.