After losing four away games in a row, Arsenal finally returned to winning ways on the road with a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough. Prior to kickoff, Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger surprised everyone by going with a back-three formation, playing Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and young Rob Holding at the centre with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nacho Monreal playing as wing-backs in what seemed like a 3-4-2-1 formation.
Despite an edgy start, the North London side gradually grew into the system and into the game, winning it through goals from Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. It is safe to say that the change in system was successful, at least in regards to the game against Boro. With that being said, there are a number of aspects of Arsenal’s game that were enhanced as a result of Wenger finally tweaking his tactics.
Firstly, while the defence wasn’t exactly rock solid, there was definitely an improvement compared to the game against Crystal Palace and games prior. As a result of the formation, the team had more bodies at the back and were hence better equipped in dealing with edgy situations. Surely, if the defenders get a little more time to get used to the system, the Gunners can build a more compact backline.
Second, playing this formation really got our wide players into the game. While Monreal did not have his best game, Oxlade-Chamberlain really took his chance and was good going forward and at the back for Arsenal, and could have even ended up with a couple assists and a goal. Considering that our squad has players like The Ox, Bellerin, Gibbs and Walcott, this system can really get the best out of them as the ball is more likely to get spread out to the flanks.
Also, this formation allowed the utmost creative freedom to the team’s most creative players, Sanchez and Ozil, with the latter having his best game in a long time. Both men had a big impact on the game and their link-up play was excellent, despite Sanchez being a bit careless with possession. While it remains to be seen whether Le Prof will stick to this system, it surely a sigh of relief that the Frenchman has a Plan B and is willing to change things.