Against Napoli and West Bromwich Albion, Arsene Wenger played similar starting XIs with the rather novel characteristic of playing five players in midfield who like to operate centrally. While this formation worked successfully against the second place team in Serie A, Arsenal had less success at The Hawthorns. The nature of the midfield base pair, the lack of width in attack, and the opponent’s set up all played important roles in two different outcomes. Same Midfield Base Pair, Different Roles In the Napoli match, Arsene Wenger played two holding midfielders, with Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta as the 2 in Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1, operating primarily as a midfield duo that sat in front of the back four. This type of formation gave Arsenal a solid defensive presence in the center of the pitch. It allowed the full-backs to bomb forward, and it let the front 4 stay high and play with remarkable fluidity, as they did not have to concern themselves […]