Arsenal Following the Manchester United Blueprint? Goals Galore, Defence Ignored

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterSeptember 16, 2013

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  Mesut Oezil of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on September 14, 2013 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The transfer window closed 15 days ago, and Arsenal fans still cannot be certain they're happy with the summer business.

It was well-established before a ball was kicked in preseason that the Gunners were extremely light on numbers in both defensive midfield and centre-back. A striker would have been ideal too, and perhaps a left winger to replace the outbound Gervinho was necessary.

Despite numerous departures, loans and releases, it appeared as though Arsenal were set to resume the 2013-14 season with just one player—free agent Mathieu Flamini—added to the ranks. The Frenchman's signature was secured just before the North London Derby, and he added bite in the midfield after replacing Jack Wilshere after 43 minutes. 

Quizzed on potential incoming players after the victory, Arsene Wenger smiled knowingly before suggesting a surprise or two is in store.

Enter Mesut Ozil.

Undeterred by his failure to land Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain, Luiz Gustavo and Lars Bender, among others, Wenger pulled off a sensational £42 million deal for one of the world's finest No. 10s.

Defensive issues ignored—stating Bacary Sagna can play centrally doesn't count—holding midfield still a little light and very few options up top remain, but there were street parties and calls for Wenger to be rewarded a new contract within days of the German's capture.

Ozil showed what he's capable of inside 10 minutes of his debut, sliding a nice pass into Olivier Giroud's path after outfoxing Ondrej Celustka with a clever run. At that point, Arsenal were sailing but required three goals to put Sunderland to bed as defensive issues cropped up.

The Gunners don't care. They've got Ozil, Giroud is scoring and Aaron Ramsey is in God mode, but neutrals were quick to point out the frailties in the side.

Whichever way you look at it, the summer business is odd. Ozil aside, Arsenal needed to spend in other areas and failed to. But perhaps the precedent Manchester United set last season is something Wenger is set to subscribe to.

At the start of the 2012-13 season, it felt as though United seriously needed to address the centre-back and defensive midfield position. Instead, Sir Alex Ferguson bought Robin van Persie for more than £20 million, adding elite firepower to his attack.

United outscored most teams they played, and thus, the 15 pre-Christmas fixtures in which they yielded a goal or more in were largely converted to wins. The 3-1 scoreline was extremely common, with Fergie's side comfortably besting their opponents but simply conceding the odd strike to spoil David De Gea's sheet.

Van Persie ended up with 39 goals in all competitions, with United scoring 86 in the league alone.

In the new year, they tightened up, and a run of six clean sheets across February and March undoubtedly aided their title win, but what's to say Arsenal cannot follow this blueprint?

Extreme firepower up front, Flamini looking solid and Theo Walcott seemingly set to profit from Ozil's brilliance. Factor in Thomas Vermaelen's potential return to form, and you've got yourself a very strong outfit should it steer clear of injuries.

The Arsenal of old—Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Co.—attacked ruthlessly, so why can't this crop? No comparison can be made between the calibre of the squads, but the philosophy can take a similar form.