Arsene Wenger is simply a legend- one of the greatest managers of his time. And a great groomer of the young talents. With honour and his contributions to football, we replicated this Arsene Wenger greatest invincible 4-4-2 tactic in Arsenal’s 2003/2004 campaign. However, since we don’t have a 2003 database in FM20, we replicated this tactic in @MadScientistFM 2006 database – at least some of the players who participated in the invincible era were still available in the 2006 database.
FM20 Tactic: Arsene Wenger Greatest Invincible 4-4-2 Tactic
Back then, Arsenal’s build-up was fast, including their attacking phase. However, they built from the back before advancing. The sweeper-keeper, Lehmann, had the ability to distribute the ball to his central defenders who were comfortable with the ball at their feet. Moreover, Wenger’s defenders were ball-playing defenders and had a good passing range that influenced effective counter-attack.
In most cases, Arsenal’s build-up and attacking focus go through the middle, with both Viera and Gilberto making passes to breaking players in the final third. However, the keeper sometimes went long quickly to find a teammate in space, which resulted in counter-attacks.
The nature of Arsenal’s possession playing style was coupled with a faster tempo. They kept moving the ball in urgency to overwhelm the opposition with quicker transitioning. Arsenal were really good in converting defence into attack.
Arsenal attacked with fast transition, which is termed counter. They had two midfielders who were good at winning the ball and finding teammates in dangerous positions. Because of the fast nature of the squad, the team often passed ball into space for teammates to run into. Henry was good at receiving such passes, as he often made runs behind the defence. He had an excellent pace and off-the-ball skills. Actually, he was a thorn in the flesh for defenders.
Furthermore, Wenger’s Arsenal were just really quick on the pitch, which made it extremely difficult for oppositions to mark. Their runs and freedom of expression were overwhelming for oppositions too.
Arsene Wenger’s men were very good when it came to defending. Although they didn’t use the now effective counter-pressing, they had their way of suffocating the opposition. They pressed high and hard. However, when they lose the ball, they fall back, regroup immediately, and start their intense pressing. They defended in a 4-4-2 setup and sometimes in a 4-5-1 setup with Bergkamp dropping deep.
Moreover, the Gunners always protected their central areas by staying compact with a narrow defensive width. Though, Wenger used a high defensive line when in possession, which made sense since his defenders had that pace to recover balls behind the defence; plus a sweeper-keeper who often came out to sweep up through balls.
Arsene Wenger Role Selections
Lehmann was the main sweeper-keeper all through his carrier under Wenger. The German keeper was really quick in distribution and had quality anticipation. Almunia was also a sweeper-keeper but was the second choice stopper.
Ball Playing Defenders
Campbell (now Gallas in the 2006 database) and Touré were ball-playing defenders back then. They had the passing range, vision, composure, and good decision-making. In addition, they had the pace that encouraged Wenger to play with a high line.
I would say the fullbacks back then were performing well as wingbacks. They always support the attacking phase and often make those lethal crosses. Using the wingbacks was part of Arsene Wenger’s attacking strategy.
The likes of Ashley Cole (now Clichy) on the left side-back was vibrant and knew how to conduct and balance both his defence and attacking responsibilities. This is why the WB-support is ideal in FM20.
On the right side, Lauren was the main man for Wenger. He also played as a wingback, just like Ashley Cole. Though, sometimes he performed as a traditional fullback in cases where Arsenal attacked from the left side.
Midfielders: Double 6
Arsenal had two great midfielders back then in the 2003/2004 season. Practically, they were the double 6. Patrick Viera was a ball winner with the freedom to get forward. Then, his partner in crime Gilberto Silva was a hardcore defensive midfielder. Silva sat deeper than Viera. However, both players were really good at tackling and zonal marking.
In FM20 with the 2006 database, I started training Fàbregas as a ball winner. He’s young and his playmaking abilities became an advantage. Players like Mathieu Flamini and Abou Diaby were good in any of the defensive midfielder roles.
Pires, during the time, was actually a wide playmaker. Though he also showcased the character of an inverted winger. He would frequently drift inside, giving Cole the wide space to exploit. However, in FM20, since I don’t have Pires, I used Rosicky as an attacking wide playmaker (with the instruction to get forward). But I actually prefer the inverted winger role. Because since this is a fluid counter-attacking tactic, the IW role is better in attacking and defending. Both Ljungberg and Rosicky play excellently well as IW-S.
On the other hand, Ljungberg in 2003 played mostly as the right traditional winger. The Swedish winger usually held the width Wenger’s tactic. But he sometimes played as an inverted winger. In addition, he often tracked back to help the right fullback defend, which created a cover against opposition overload on the right. But in FM20, I used Alexandr Hleb and Walcott as the supporting winger on the right.
Thierry Henry was at the peak of his life during that invincible season. He usually kept making forward runs and exploiting spaces. Moreover, he had that sensational flair that made him so unpredictable. I feel like he was the advanced forward rather than a complete forward, which made him focused in putting the ball at the back of the net with his feet and not with his head. Moreover, Arsene Wenger preferred his French striker stay wide on the left (I used the same instruction in FM20).
Then, the Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp was the deep-lying forward. He was the striker with playmaking abilities. He enjoyed assisting more than scoring lots of goals – he even admitted this in one of his interviews. Bergkamp’s touches made him a special player in Wenger’s incredible 4-4-2 tactic.
In FM20, with the 2006 database, I mostly used a positive mentality when playing at home. But when I faced Barcelona in the UCL at Home, I tried a cautious mentality when they used a balanced mentality. I beat them 2-0. So there’s power in cautious mentality at home.
On Away games, I consistently used cautious mentality.