The reliance on Fabregas is old news, but he hasn't looked himself lately, and when that's the case the team are bound to struggle.
Another potential facet of the 4-3-3 that must have attracted Wenger is that it allows room for two central playmakers. Playing in a 4-4-2, if Fabregas was closely followed by a man-marker, we would be relying on the creativity of our wide players, something that hasn't really been consistent since the days of Robert Pires.
I guess there were two possibilities that Wenger may have considered in the Summer. One would have been to play Arshavin behind a centre forward, thus giving us added creativity ahead of Fabregas. It's something he tried a fair bit with the inconsistent Hleb in the 07/08 season, and obviously a position that Arsenal fans will forever attach a certain mystique to because of a man with the initials D.B. And no, it's not David Bentley.
But enough about that, because he took the alternative option, that is, a 4-3-3. Firstly, this adds a body in the central area we often find ourselves overrun in. But there's the added bonus that, when fit, one of Nasri or Rosicky can step in beside Fabregas with Song sweeping up behind. This is something that we'll hopefully see in home games in which we face ultra-defensive sides.
Nasri had a mixed season on the left last time out, but one that was fairly impressive for a new signing. He has a good work-rate and isn't scared of a tackle, and he probably looked most comfortable in those fleeting instances during which he was given a central prompting role while Fabregas was out injured. All of this, and Arshavin's role on the left of the front three, suggests that Nasri will be fighting it out with Denilson when he returns from injury.
We've already seen, in the last two games, a half-fit Rosicky play a prominent role in the same position. This for me is the great positive from a difficult period. As mentioned before, Denilson seems to come up short often in his attempts to lessen the captain's burden while we're in possession. We've seen how the Xavi-Iniesta axis has been so thrillingly effective in Barcelona's 4-3-3, and in Rosicky and Nasri we have two players who could in a sense play Iniesta to Fabregas' Xavi.
Indeed, Arshavin could be added to that list, but Wenger seems keen to play him as high up the pitch as possible. I still worry a bit that having him out on the left may negate some of his potentially huge influence, but I guess the reasoning is that he's already proven himself a potent goal threat for us and Wenger wants to make the most of that. Marc Overmars came to Arsenal in 97 with a big reputation as a provider from the flank, and was transformed into a free-scoring wide striker, almost. I think that's the blueprint for Arshavin (albeit that he has a different positional origin and playing style). Both small in stature, both good dribblers (Overmars faster, Arshavin trickier, but with an ability to be equally direct), both two-footed... you can see the parrallels, and if Arshavin proves himself as adept a finisher as Overmars, we might be onto a winner.
IF, and with Arsenal, it's a huuuuuuge if, we got everyone fit, this could be the line-up:
It admittedly looks like it could be got at, and there are question marks over a couple of the players- Almunia's a clown, Van Persie looks isolated at times in the centre forward position, and Walcott is yet to convince me- but even in the latter two areas we have potential alternatives (Eduardo, Bendtner, Wilshere, Vela, etc). Why I'd have Theo in the ideal first XI is that his amazing pace is something we otherwise lack- it would allow us to stretch the opposition, and whatever my criticisms of the guy, he does provide something different in the front three.
Now, it should again be pointed out that talking of Arsenal line-ups as a matter of such ample choice is really a total flight of fantasy, and will remain so until our horrible run of injuries ends, whatever the reasons for it (one suspects it could not simply be bad luck).
Anyway, I'll be brought back down to reality, in all likelihood, by a long ninety minutes trying to break Wigan down tomorrow. Enjoy.