The Arsenal Front Three by Joe Allyson
Hey gunners, for the lack of a better title, I’ve referred to it as the front 3, but not the entire article will reference a 3 so maybe it should be our brilliant front line.
Ever since the Spurs game, I noticed one problem that Unai Emery is likely to face with the current front 3. How to use them all in a way that makes them effective. Against 5pud7 we played a 4-3-3 with Auba on the left and Pepe on the right. Contrary to popular opinion, the midfield was ticking and getting the ball forward. The issue I saw was that when Auba gets out onto the wing, the natural typical winger in him comes out. Rather than find ways to cut inwards and shoot, he tends to drive outwards, cut back onto his stronger foot and cross. Not that I have a problem with his crossing, but I don’t want my most prolific player turning into Antonio Valencia.
The one person who seemed to understand how to move in this sort of 3 was Pepe. Repeatedly switching wings to probe for space (see his assist as proof).
In my mind, I would have thought Auba can somehow replicate a Thierry like sort of movement off the left flank, being that he has both the physical structure and the technical requirements to do it. He’s fast, probably faster than Thierry was, he’s a decent dribbler, nowhere near as good as Thierry though, and his finishing is on par with Thierry’s. I just don’t think he’s bold enough to attempt the audacious repeatedly. I wish he actually had Pepe’s self-belief.
Fast forward to yesterday, the manager did something that looked like it would be a solution. We lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with both Pepe and Saka as midfielders and Ceballos playing in “the hole”. Much as I don’t think Unai will permanently play this formation, I think it’s the best possible way to get the best out of all the three of them. Saka and Pepe were given the license to roam inwards off their wings, Ceballos was operating in the gap behind Auba and the midfield had a proper block of 4 at all times when defending. I think Laca could slot in right there where Ceballos was, with his high octane pressing game and tenacious work ethic. The added advantage would be that Pepe would also be closer to goal with his license to roam, and his ball retention would create a whole lot of room for Laca and Auba to be deadly.
I must say though, personally, I’m excited and grateful. I remember a time when it was only a dream for Arsenal to have any of the best players in the world in any position, and if we had any then Barcelona was coming any time for them. Now we have them, they are ours and there’s a multitude of them at the same time.
Good times indeed.