Last season Chelsea got off to a wobbly start in Antonio Conte’s first season at the Bridge, but after Arsenal hammered them 3-0 at the Emirates, the Italian boss decided to change tactics and go with three at the back. It turned out to be incredibly successful and the Blues pulled away to build an unassailable lead at the top of the Premiership.
Arsene Wenger took a bit longer to realise the strengths of the system, and it was only after a disastrous run of results, including a 3-1 embarrassment at Stamford Bridge, that Wenger finally lined up with a 3-4-3 formation for the first time in 20 years, and that also signalled a massive upturn in form. The Gunners legend Martin Keown thinks that this set up will now be the norm next season. “Well I think with the group, football is essentially a numbers game,” Keown said on Arsenal.com.
“By playing three at the back and having one midfielder just sitting in front, which Xhaka was very good at, it allowed Ramsey to get forward and we weren’t in any danger with the counter-attack any more.
“That’s really been a problem over the past six or seven years. I can think of many occasions when the counter-attack has really undone Arsenal and that balance wasn’t there.
“The system is now in vogue. We’ve seen a Premier League team win with a back three, an FA Cup team, of course Arsenal, winning with a three, and I can see no reason why you’d change that next season.
“It’s been a real success story. We’ve won nine of the last 10 matches.”
And of course we also beat Chelsea in the Cup Final, which was the first time in the season when both teams were using that system against each other. We will be able to yet again assess our team against Chelsea in the Community Shield just before the season opens again.
We could ask why Wenger didn’t catch on sooner, and maybe we would have kept our place in the Top Four, but to look on the positive side Arsenal can now go into next season with a much more confident and positive outlook and try and extend their winning run.
Wenger now has the formation and the team to make it work, so having beaten Chelsea at their own game once, perhaps we can believe that we are now better than the Champions and go all out for the League title next season?