Football has changed alot in the Premier league since Arsene Wenger became the manager of Arsenal sixteen years ago, in fact the Frenchman can be seen as responsible for a large part of those changes. The old chant of 1-0 to the Arsenal and the famous Arsenal back four are things of the past. The role of defenders, especially centre halfs has changed considerably in the modern game, as they have to adapt to the new formations and styles of play.
Arsene Wenger and Arsenal mostly use a 4-3-3 formation with one central striker and a much more flexible role with players needing to be more versatile and drifting into different positions. Wenger explains that this means that defenders now need a different set of skills to the old style big and strong central defenders.
“In a 4-4-2 system, the full backs get the ball first because the two strikers are in the middle and the two centre backs are marked so the keeper’s first solution is to the full backs.
“In the modern game, the two full backs are marked by two wingers or wide midfielders and the first available players are the centre backs as they are playing two against one.
“Even if they are less good defensively, they have less to deal with than two against two. They are always in a two against one situation.
“The start of the game is with the centre backs nowadays. That’s why that technical ability has suddenly become important.”
Having said that, today’s opponents West Ham are something of a throwback. They may well start the game with two big Old School strikers in Andy Carroll and Carlton Cole. Mertesacker would probably have started anyway after Koscielny made a couple of mistakes, but the big aerial threat of West Ham makes it a certainty.
Wenger has warned his players that Carroll is starting to regain the form he had at Newcastle and he could provide a serious test for the Arsenal defence.