It Is Probably Time For Arsene Wenger To Stop Using A 3-back Formation
The English Premier League saw a new trend break through last year when Chelsea manager Antonio Conte fielded his trademark formation which popularised the use of a back three. Since then, several teams have tried their hand at it – Arsenal included. Arsene Wenger utilised that formation for the first time during a match against Middlesbrough last season, and hasn’t looked back since.
Many are of the opinion that Wenger introduced that change to help prevent his side from conceding goals, and they were not wrong. It was a desperate move of sorts, especially considering the growing chants of ‘Wenger Out’.
He adopted playing three men at the back and replaced one attacking player with a defensive one, and their 4-2-3-1 became a 3-4-2-1.
By the time the FA Cup final came around, the back three featured Nacho Monreal at left centre-back, Laurent Koscielny in the middle and Rob Holding at right centre-back. As it was seen in their triumphant victory against the then newly-crowned Chelsea, it did work for Arsenal at that point. However, the question remains – is it still working for them?
Doing so has certainly allowed the wing-backs more freedom to get forward because of the safety net of an extra defender, which means Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez can move inside the pitch to play in positions behind and around the striker.
Unfortunately for Wenger though, Ozil is as good as invisible whenever he steps on the field, while Sanchez is looking increasingly close to an exit in January.
If their recent defeat against Watford is anything to go by, this may not be the solution for the many problems Arsenal are facing. Wenger’s tenure over the last couple of years have been marred with a lot of criticism, and that shows no signs of slowing down since he is still unable to produce results for the Gunners.
Some may argue that the formation is still working for Chelsea, to an extent. That is because in Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3, the two midfielders stay deep, providing cover to the back three. In Wenger’s, Granit Xhaka and a partner often tend to have different instructions, which creates a string of inconsistent performances.
By replacing an attacking player with an extra defender, even when Arsenal have control of the ball higher up the pitch, they are a creative player short and that limits them from doing anything productive.
For far too many seasons now, Arsenal have conceded unnecessary goals on weak counter-attacks and have been caught short when in possession. Wenger has clearly attempted to fix this with a back three – and while it did work for them a couple of times towards the end of last season – it doesn’t seem to be working anymore.