Back in the mists of time, when Arsenal used to win things, the Arsenal back four was the stuff of legend. 1-0 to the Arsenal, the offside trap that was referenced in the Full Monty, Adams, Keown and all that. Arsene Wenger is so concerned with the defence this season that he is considering scrapping the old system.
Wenger has been seriously thinking about trying a similar system to the one that has been causing controversy at Manchester City with Roberto Mancini, a back three, or five depending on defence or attack. The Daily Mail reports that Wenger almost went for this system against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen, after being dismayed by the defensive frailty shown against Manchester United.
The system would use three centre backs, Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny, with two wing backs. There are three main problems with doing this for the visit of Tottenham on Saturday. Firstly, it is a new and untested system. Defenders who are already feeling a little vulnerable may struggle to adapt to a new system. Unless Wenger has had the team practising the formation regularly in training, it could make us even worse.
Secondly, it would mean one less player in midfield or attack. Who would lose out? Wenger could go for a traditional strike partnership, Giroud and Podolski, or rotating between those two and Walcott. Or he could leave Giroud up front and play four in midfield and try to get balls in to Giroud and support him from midfield. Then, who would play on the left wing? Podolski, Arshavin or Oxlade-Chamberlain? None of them are really wingers, so we would be playing good players out of their best positions and losing something from them into the bargain.
Thirdly, whatever system you play does not eradicate individual errors, and that has been the main problem recently, as far as I can see. Up to and including the Wets Ham game, Arsenal conceded eight goals in 10 games. Since then, we have conceded 15 goals in seven games. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Kieran Gibbs has been out injured since the West Ham match. The problem was not the system after that, it was Santos. Now Vermaelen has taken over at left back, but his confidence was already slipping and it is not his best position.
What Arsenal need, is for Vermaelen to get over his blip, or for Gibbs to come back into the side. If we go to a back five this weekend, will Santos be left wing back? You might as well forfeit the game.