Arsene Wenger fielded four at the back for the first time this season and it could ignite a change in tactics going forward
The opposition may have been abundantly poor and the match somewhat meaningless where their Europa League campaign is concerned, but Arsenal’s 6-0 demolition job of BATE Borisov provided a glimpse into the formation change which Arsene Wenger could decide to deploy for the rest of the campaign.
Wenger’s men started with four at the back for the first time this season on Thursday night in front of a below-capacity Emirates Stadium. While the official tickets sold numbers were 54,648, it became more apparent that just under 30,000 were inside the north Londoners stadium to watch what turned out to be Arsenal’s most consummate and easiest victory of the season so far.
Arsenal’s squad have certainly benefitted from fielding their fringe players in the Europa League with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all getting game time under their belt. A sumptuous strike from Mathieu Debuchy was enough to remind the supporters that they have a decent right-back in reserve for Hector Bellerin, although a summer exit still remains inevitable for the Frenchman.
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A 3-4-2-1 formation helped salvage some pride in Arsenal’s campaign last season yet it seemingly acted as a placebo instead of a breakthrough tactical change. The likes of Walcott are unable to fit into the current system Wenger deploys and his impressive performance against the Belarusian side, who were beyond abysmal at times, showed that he is ready to play when called upon.
Could it be that Wenger used Thursday’s game as an experiment for the rest of the season? The formation change may be seen again for the coming games including Sunday’s match against Southampton if the 6-0 thrashing is anything to go by, with the likes of Alexis, Ozil and Lacazette all set to return for the trip to St. Mary’s.
Wilshere’s first goal in over two years almost sent a message of its own to Wenger who witnessed the Gunners academy product involved heavily in three of the six goals Arsenal scored. With Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil yet to sign new contract extensions, there could still be opportunities for both Walcott and Wilshere in the first team on a more regular basis.
The Europa League games have been a mixed bag of quality so far but Arsenal have benefitted in almost every possible way. Players who wouldn’t usually be involved have been given game time and Wenger’s men have a genuine chance of reaching the latter stages if they continue to blast opposition apart like they did on Thursday. Admittedly, this will be as easy as it gets for the Gunners but they will surely be confident of going all the way with the amount of depth they possess in their squad.