Arsenal's transfer activity this summer has been a little puzzling to many.
It seems likely that the Fabregas soap opera will end with his leaving for the Nou Camp, and Nasri might force his way out as well.
What's intriguing is that their potential replacements are all natural wingers.
Gervinho, a winger/striker has been signed and has shown good pace and crossing ability in preseason. Arsenal tried and narrowly failed to sign Ricardo Alvarez, another winger/striker, and now the Gunners are linked with Juan Mata.
Admittedly, it is tough to find a world-class playmaker in world football—just ask Sir Alex Ferguson.
But is Arsenal's transfer strategy driven by a plan rather than circumstance?
After the departure of Patrick Vieira, Arsene Wenger built the team around Fabregas, and the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation was a natural outcome. The system worked reasonably well as it got the most out of the Arsenal midfield.
But it left the full backs terribly exposed to counter attacks.
On several occasions, the forward-minded Clichy and Sagna were caught out of position, leaving acres of wide space (of which the Emirates has plenty) for opposition wingers. The wide players in midfield—Walcott and Nasri—often drifted into the middle and as a result were unable to help out the full backs in defense.
Moreover, among all of Arsenal's wingers, only Walcott possessed real pace, which unfortunately was not matched by his crossing ability. Thus, Arsenal's attack was too narrow at times, resulting in frustration against the packed defenses of mid-table teams.
The wider 4-4-2 formation would have helped against such teams, but Arsenal did not have the players for this.
This season, it seems Wenger is looking at the 4-4-2 option. It can be achieved even if Arsenal fail to sign Mata.
Such a formation will give Walcott his wish of playing in a central-striker role, something Wenger has been considering for a while, with Gervinho providing the crosses from the right flank. The experienced Sagna should be able to cover for the forward runs of Gervinho.
On the left, either Arshavin or Mata will feed balls into the box, where Arsenal will have two targets instead of the usual one. Marouane Chamakh's aerial ability will be especially useful here. The left back will have to be more defensive as Arshavin is not the quickest to track back.
As for the playmaker role, it can fall to either Ramsey, Wilshere, or Rosicky, who has looked sharp in preseason. This is in case Nasri does leave before the deadline.
The defensive midfield position is going to be fought for by Song and the promising Frimpong.
But, the old-fashioned 4-4-2 might just be what it takes to get past the likes of Stoke and Blackburn.
Tactical flexibility helped Manchester United win their 19th title. There are signs that Wenger has taken a cue from his old rival.