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3 Questions with The Short Fuse

We joined forces with SB Nation’s Arsenal blog to talk about this weekend’s match.

Arsenal v Everton - Premier League Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Many thanks to Aaron Lerner (@AaronCLerner) from our fellow SB Nation blog The Short Fuse for taking the time to chat with us ahead of Everton’s home match against Arsenal this weekend.

RBM: Arsenal only brought in two senior players during the transfer window (Lacazette and Kolasinac). Is there a feeling among Arsenal supporters that the club should have done more, or was the squad simply too big to continue adding?

TSF: Everybody would have liked to see more summer signings, including Arsene Wenger (probably). It came down to the wire with Thomas Lemar, but Arsenal couldn’t get the deal done. Reportedly it was an Alexis-out, Lemar-in situation, and they couldn’t make the deal with City work.

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the squad being too big. Arsenal had to shed some out of favor players and their salaries, which they did. Kierran Gibbs, Gabriel Paulista, Wojciech Szczęny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all sold, Joel Campbell, Lucas Perez, and Carl Jenkinson went out on loan. Arsenal still have work to do in that category – Mathieu Debuchy is still on the team – but they are getting there.

When the transfer dust settled, one of our writers took a step back to evaluate the “Arsenal didn’t have money to spend” rumors in the media, and it is quite possible that it didn’t. This is especially bad news for a club that looks more and more like it needs a rebuild of the roster rather than tinkering around the edges.

RBM: I'm sorry, but I have to: any chance Olivier Giroud is allowed to leave in January? Please?

TSF: Stay away from our outrageously handsome striker and his meaty French forehead!

The likelihood of Giroud leaving the club in January is very low. About a month ago, Wenger and Giroud addressed the rumors that the striker might leave the club. Wenger said that he told Giroud he was free to go, but Giroud elected to stay because he had more to do at Arsenal.

Giroud leaving is made even more unlikely by Wenger’s recent comments about Alexis and Özil potentially being sold in the upcoming window. Wenger does not like buying or selling during the January window, but if the club is forced into moving one or both of its out-of-contract stars to cut its losses, there is no way Wenger parts with even more attacking talent in Giroud.

Crvena Zvezda v Arsenal FC - UEFA Europa League Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

RBM: Arsenal are yet another club that have switched to the popular back 3 system. How is that working out? From afar, it doesn't seem like it would necessarily fit the Gunners' personnel - I mean, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal are starting at center back.

TSF: The 3-4-3 formation has produced mixed results for the Gunners, but I don’t think the problem is the three at the back. Arsenal’s current predicament (starting Per Mertesacker) is due to injuries to Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers. Rob Holding’s slow development / propensity to pass the ball to the other team rather doesn’t help things either.

Nacho Monreal has quietly been one of Arsenal’s best players this year. He doesn’t do anything flashy. He just plays solid defense and rarely makes mistakes. Of course, now I’ve jinxed him and he’s going to be part of a howler on Sunday.

The lack of a true defensive midfielder and the lack of a role that fits Mesut Özil in the formation are much bigger problems with the 3-4-3 at Arsenal. Wenger’s preferred central midfield pairing is Granit Xhaka (who has had a poor season so far) and Aaron Ramsey, neither of whom are known for their defensive abilities. The back three has often been left exposed when those two get caught out of position or are easily beaten in the center of the park.

Mesut Özil has been used primarily on the left side of the attacking three with Lacazette in the middle and Danny Welbeck / Alex Iwobi on the right. The problem is Özil is at his best playing the traditional #10 role and creating from the middle of the field. I think a better formation for Arsenal would be more of a 3-4-1-2 with Özil sitting behind Alexis and Lacazette, but because of Alexis’ various injuries, slow recoveries from international duty, and a seeming unwillingness from Arsene Wenger to play those three together, we haven’t seen what could be.