Arsenal have been pretty robust is recent games against Manchester United and Southampton with a back three line of defenders. It’s a new formation that the Gunners have introduced late into the season and it looks to be working well besides the hiccup against Spurs.
Arsenal’s trio, which usually consists of Koscielny, Holding and Monreal has also had the likes of Gabriel and Mustafi introduced when one of the previous players are unavailable. Out on the wing back positions we have Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain, both of which are performing to a very good standard in their new position, especially the Ox.
The Ox has risen to prominence in that right wing back position, offering plenty of drive and determination in both attack and defence. The Englishman however picked up an injury in the match against Southampton, and although Wenger confirmed the Ox’s hamstring was tight, it is likely to have been stressed by fatigue. Therefore it remains unconfirmed as to whether Chamberlain will be fit to start at the weekend, or if Wenger will instead go for Hector Bellerin.
Bellerin has found himself lost in the team as a result of this new formation, having only managed a string of appearances in the final 20 minutes of matches, besides from replacing Chamberlain on Wednesday night. Bellerin is clearly one of our biggest talents and although he hasn’t had his best season with the club, could he be ready to step up to the mark against Stoke?
By introducing Bellerin and keeping Gibbs on the other wing back position, although it would still be a back three by nature, Wenger would have a far more defensively minded formation, almost a back five. Luckily for the Gunners, Bellerin is capable of making those striding runs forward and so I have absolute confidence that he’ll support the team in both defence and attack.
I think giving Bellerin this opportunity to show what he can do in this position is important for both the team’s future and his own personal future. If Arsenal decide to stick to this formation, then is Bellerin going to find himself down the pecking order? Or can he reinstate his position in the starting eleven, just in a slightly different role?
Personally I can’t see Arsenal wanting to let Bellerin go anytime soon and so it’s likely the Gunners will have to try and find space for both the Ox and Bellerin, especially as the Ox is currently proving he’s worth every minute he plays at the moment. Let’s hope Chamberlain isn’t ruled out for the fixture or even for the run in to our season.