Arsenal’s Fab Four: Will Wenger finally play them together?
Arsenal’s four best forwards played together for 15 minutes against Stoke City at the weekend and scored twice. Will Wenger give them the chance to start again?
Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Stoke City at the weekend was one of the more flattering scorelines of the season.
The Gunners were a long way from their best, and new Stoke boss Paul Lambert would be justified in any frustration at not seeing his side come away with at least a point.
However, the last 15 minutes of the game – prompted by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty to open the scoring – could prove to be a significant period in the immediate future for Arsenal.
At last, the Fab Four that Wenger pieced together in January were all on the pitch at the same time.
Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Özil, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Two top-bracket strikers and two top-bracket playmakers. A manager’s dream.
So why has it taken so long to set them free together?
Circumstances conspire against Wenger
In Wenger’s defence, he has to some extent been a victim of circumstance. Aubameyang, having featured for Borussia Dortmund already this season, has been unavailable in the Europa League and Lacazette was kept out of action with a knee injury prior to the international break.
But it is tempting to feel that Wenger has been reluctant to deploy all four at once regardless, despite lessons from earlier this season.
At the start of the season, Lacazette had been hailed as the star striker that the club had been missing since the departure of Robin van Persie. Skilful, intelligent, quick, deadly, he would be the perfect foil for Özil and take some of the burden off Alexis Sánchez, opening space up for him as a result.
This was correct but the fans had to wait until late October for vindication. Against Everton, Lacazette, Özil and Sánchez were let onto the playground together and told to have fun. They tore Everton apart.
But by the time Arsenal faced Manchester City two weeks later, Wenger had reverted to type, dropping Lacazette and starting the largely ineffective Alex Iwobi instead.
Iwobi and Welbeck inexplicably comfortable in their roles
It is perhaps harsh on Iwobi. Still only 21, he is an attacking player at one of England’s top clubs with 30 appearances to his name this season and it is hard to see exactly why. He has two goals – against Brighton and Crystal Palace – and five assists to his name.
He hasn’t appeared to develop much since he burst onto the scene a couple of seasons ago, and it is concerning that he may be falling into the comfort trap that the Emirates seems to have become.
He knows he will get plenty of game time despite doing little to justify it – Danny Welbeck has had a similar season, with no goals in the league since September but 31 appearances in all competitions regardless.
Whatever the tactical implications of trying to fit all four of Arsenal’s star men into the starting eleven, to do otherwise gives their opposition a psychological boost ahead of kickoff.
An opposition full back will look across in the tunnel at Aubameyang and Lacazette and worry about how they are possibly supposed to contain them for 90 minutes; it is unlikely the presence of Iwobi and Welbeck will elicit the same degree of concern.
Has Wenger found the right mix?
Arsenal fans have to hope that Wenger has seen the light after the final 15 minutes against the Potters.
He had his four best players on the pitch in a formation that makes sense. Aubameyang coming infield from the left as he has in the past, with Özil and Mkhitaryan feeding Lacazette up front.
They may not click immediately. There may be moments of miscommunication, of misread runs and intentions, of crosses going to the back post when they were wanted at the front. But given the malaise that hangs around the club, Wenger simply cannot afford not to find a way to fit them all in.
Given time to gel and build an understanding, this is a group of four players who can be a match for anybody in the league. There are still issues to be addressed throughout the rest of the team, but the front four is finally there.
For the first time in a long time, Wenger has an attack that will frighten opponents. He just has to use it.
Disagree that Arsene Wenger should play the Fab Four together? Let us know by commenting below.