3 Positive Changes The New 3-Back Formation Has Brought Within Arsenal
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has frequently set his team out in a 4-2-3-1 system that would allow his team to dominate in midfield, where the Gunners usually like to run their games. But in his quest to attain defensive solidarity, the French master has switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation for the past 2 games. The tactical alteration has certainly had the desired effect, with Arsenal beating Middlesbrough in the Premier League before prevailing against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.
Prior to the 2 successes, Arsenal had quite a few setbacks and found themselves in a very dark period that threatened to derail their campaign, which had already seen quite a few setbacks. With his contract running out in the summer, it was high time Wenger churned out some tough results and has done so by showing that he can change a few things here and there. Wenger is well renowned for his stern and stubborn approach to football but that seems to have taken a back seat owing to the results-oriented business that football has become today.
That isn’t to say that the 2 displays were defensive though. They were pragmatic, solid and industrious in nature. Wenger will surely be buoyed by the performances, especially against City, and will be expecting his wards to do more of the same when the Gunners return to league action at home to Leicester on Wednesday. The Champions of England rely on their pace and ability to hit teams on the counter and Wenger’s new system will surely be put to test again.
What was familiarized to the Premier League by Antonio Conte at Chelsea has now been implemented; if not mimicked at Arsenal. It’s definitely a system that gives you results and there’s plenty of proof to back that statement up. If done right, they would massively benefit by this formation. Here’s how Arsene Wenger’s side have already benefitted from the change of setup.
Prior to the change in formation, Arsenal were beginning to leak goals left, right and centre and there was simply no stopping it, as the team lost embarrassingly to West Brom and Crystal Palace in what seemed like tooth-less performances from Wenger’s side. That has been put to rest, at least temporarily, as Wenger has stemmed the flow of poor defending by introducing Gabriel and Holding into the starting line up in the place of Shkodran Mustafi.
Both Gabriel and Holding occupy the wider center back berths with Frenchman Koscielny playing the defensive anchor role. All three defenders have looked reasonably comfortable in their new roles and will only get better as they continue to play together. Having 3 at the back means there’s always more cover available, in the case of slip-ups. This is something that has been observed at Chelsea too, with David Luiz playing a similar role to Koscielny and bossing it on his way to being one of the premier center backs in the world again.
Wing-backs provide much-required natural width
You’d bet your house on Kieran Gibbs being preferred to Nacho Monreal in a left wing-back role, but it’s the latter who gets the nod quite surprisingly. It’s surprising given that Monreal is much more of a defensive left-back, but it was his goal that got Arsenal back into the game on Sunday and it wasn’t surprising to see that it was Arsenal’s right wingback Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who provided the cross for Monreal to force in.
Chamberlain has been one of Arsenal’s most improved players in recent times as he first impressed in central midfield in the absence of others but upon changing the formation, he was asked by Wenger to play his new role and he has taken the chance to continue to impress. Chamberlain is an absolute workhorse as he can run all day and engineer chances for his teammates. It’s similar to a role that Victor Moses has taken up at Chelsea. What’s been more impressive is Chambo’s willingness to track back, as he did a fine job of covering the threat that Leroy Sane and Gael Clichy posed on Sunday.
Much more space afforded to the attackers
At Chelsea, it’s the front three of Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, and Pedro that grab the headlines. Arsene Wenger has attempted to integrate Sanchez, Ozil and Giroud/ Welbeck into a similar kind of system, where they are afforded more space to run into. What also makes a front three like this special is that the players are in each other’s vicinity and can choose to inter-link accordingly.
This was there for all to be seen in the game against Middlesbrough when Alexis Sanchez did splendidly to get a cross in, which was chested down by Ramsey for Ozil to strike home. It gives the likes of Alexis and Ozil the freedom to roam around and dictate the game in the way they’d like to. In addition, Alexis has been crying out to play as the team’s lone centre-forward but time has shown that he is better off in a slightly reserved role and hence his current role probably fits him the best.
Although there might not be much emphasis on the 2 midfielders in the formation, it’s highly important that they get their act right as well. The levels of performances and energy of Matic and Kante this season should act as a blueprint for any team that wants to follow this system. So far, Ramsey and Xhaka have been deployed there. It’s awaited to be seen as to how Elneny, Coquelin or Cazorla take to this formation.