Arsenal tactics – How to break down ‘Bus Parking’ teams with the Extra Man

Can a New Pattern Re-establish Arsenal’s Threat to Bus Parkers? by NO

Arsenal is facing a crisis of thinness upfront. We seem not to have enough players to rely on to get the goals. We have two players in Walcott and Giroud who can put in the shift upfront, but currently they are shooting without producing enough goals. Although there is reason to believe Walcott will surpass his goals tally this season if he continues improving. Arsenal as a team has created the most chances this season but they seem to go unconverted. On the other side our defenses are being breached far too easily. So far we have kept only 3 clean sheets. One of those three was a nil-nil to Liverpool. But this is the season Arsenal are succumbing to shock defeats. Of the defeats Arsenal have so far succumbed to, 2 were in the champions league, to sides that Arsenal would easily win in previous engagements. Of course the other was West Ham and Chelsea. Arguably the Chelsea of this season is a very beatable Chelsea that everyone else seems to find ways to beat and Arsenal are just the only other side this Chelsea has won over.

Can Wenger improve Arsenal’s chances by adopting a new pattern this season? Playing with three defenders and packing the rest of the pitch with players who can hurt teams. We have not been feared for a long time and it’s getting scary. I’m suggesting a new pattern of

There is an argument that three centre backs at the back are more responsible. They become more solid because they work their hearts out and become leaders in their own right. If well executed, a three man defense can prove a great asset. Plus we have arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the division who shall provide leadership to marshall the defense. If we were to pick three players today I would go with Monreal, Koscielny and Bellerin. Gabriel can play for injured Koscielny. Then two-tier midfield will start with Coquelin, Cazorla and Ramsey as the defending tier. (Perhaps Ox can play here). Ramsey would be the extra man in the side that brings all the difference. He will be in his favoured box to box role. Here he becomes the extra defender when we are under attack, he becomes the extra midfielder when we need to subdue a team that puts in a fight and he becomes the extra man running in to flick the ball past the goalkeeper when we are attacking. The second tier of midfield is attacking tier will have two wingers and an attacking midfielder. Here Ox will have his chance to shine but tactically we could have Ramsey on the right wing and OX goes Box to Box. Left wing will have Sanchez and Ozil in the centre. The striker inevitably is Walcott going by form at the moment.

The side here
Bellerin – Koscielny – Monreal
—Ramsey – Coquelin – Cazorla–

Advantages of the system
1) The ever present Extra Man could help tip the balance Arsenals way. The ‘extra man’ would force errors when we are attacking by the opposing team confusion over who to mark, he would close down the enemy in the midfield and he would help out steal the initiative off the opponent attackers by his mobility to position himself at the less served areas.

2) The utilization of the pitch would be the most effectively deployed yet. In cases the opposing side has closed down some sections in the pitch Arsenal could quickly relocate to other sections where the opposition is less organized. If the opposition dares to match us in deployment, they would quickly tire themselves out and expose themselves to breakaway attacks from our players.

3) Arguably best usage of the strength that our squad boasts – midfield. With six midfielders who can transition to either becoming attackers or becoming defenders where and when the occasion demands, the side will be playing at its best possible advantage.

4) Wing support – Arsenal has traditionally been the wing masters and we have in the past terrified teams with our wing capabilities. This system would enable wings to be fully utilized for deployment of deadly attacks and repulse deadly raids on our side as there will be a two tier deployment awaiting the opposition’s moves.

5) Functional Potency – This system is a bit of in between of many systems that Arsenal can deploy. By removing the ‘Extra Man’ one can introduce a defender and the system will immediately revert to By removing the extra man and introducing an attacker it would go into With a second substitution you can move to it a flexible system.

Is the system the best possible pattern to bring Arsenal to full alertness and sharpness through this season?

*Article was written before the Arsenal – Manchester United game was played



  1. Agreed! i couldn’t have said it better myself. At the end of the day wenger needs to keep yelling at these players because last time it resulted in 3-0 and the best 30 mins of football i’ve ever seen from this team.

    1. The writer says 3 CBs and then uses only 1 CB in defence. That’s disastrous!! Suicidal even. If this form would ever work, it’ll need pacey players who’ve got the experience of CBs not small WBs or FBs and, obviously, Arsenal do not have the man power to play 3CBs all at once (in case two get injured, we’re short of comfortable replacements). And I’ll also add that the problem with Arsenal finding it difficult to beat “BUS PARKING TEAMS” is our over play, the ball hardly moves in dangerous areas of the opponents final 3rd. Also, our players over crowd areas of the pitch(areas where there should be only one midfielder, you find 3/2) and Ramsey’s inability to stick to the lines. I hope you see my POV

      1. Also, playing 3 defenders means a team would have one player capable of playing in CB…with a flowing interchangeable position. For example Karen Gibbs playing at LWF would slot in at LB while Monreal move’s to LCB or something similar and a similar process on th right side as well. So, here’s my problem…how does Bellerin move to RCB? Le Coq is a bit too short to play CB IMO

      2. I was about to say similar myself. Bellerin being basically a CB when defending and then Ox the fullback. No qualms with Monreal am sure he’d do fine but don’t like look of Bell in his role. It’s a little like the manu formation, I prefer our own 4 1 4 1 or 4 2 3 1.

        I think either bringing in a dead ball specialist or giving the onus to one player in particular to practice would go some way, opponents less likely to break up every play. Shooting from distance would also help, they know we aren’t going to shoot instead we are trying to set someone up for a tap in ..hence we make their minds up about blocking all the spaces for passes around the box ..need to shoot more.

        Attacking set pieces, we really need to step up our game. Maybe work a short one where Alexis gets to have a pop with his right foot and ball curling to far corner of goal. Mert needs to be starting his movement from outside of box as well do one or two others, standing position is giving the keeper and defenders the initiative.

  2. There are “paper tactics” and then there is reality.

    The key to 3 at the back is the ability of wing players to get forward and back quickly and consistently. The transition often changes from 1 at the back to 3 at the back and then 5 at the back depending on game circumstances.

    Don’t you imagine there is a reason most teams end up scrapping the 3 defender system after they try it. Yes, there is an actual reason. Because it is difficult to accomplish for even the best teams who are built for it. Many managers play with it then scrap it when it does not work.

    Nice try but……. reality trumps theory. More importantly…… Wenger trumps everyone else when it comes to tactics and he will never do it.

  3. Just unlease alexis on them, he knows how to get himself “around” park buses! usually when he finishes getting around the buses, they are always in need of repairs! Coyg!

  4. 5-3-2 will work with the top4 team
    Monreal, Per,Gab,,Kos ,,monreal

    Ozil ,,Coq, Cazorla

    Walcot. ,, Sanchez
    our full backs are very attacking minded and very fast.
    will deffnetly will Work in attack and defence

  5. 5-3-2 will work with the top4 team
    bellerin, Per,Gab,,Kos ,,monreal

    Ozil ,,Coq, Cazorla

    Walcot. ,, Sanchez
    our full backs are very attacking minded and very fast.
    will deffnetly will Work in attack and defence and extra cover and freedom for our attacking midfilders

    1. Agreed – probably the most ridiculous teamsheet I’ve heard being suggested. Prettty sure that when teams are looking to play on the counter against you it’s not that wise to have one CB on the pitch..

  6. The probability of this happening is less than the probability of Wenger taking over at Liverpool next week. Just spare yourself the headache.

  7. How about we keep just keep blitzing teams with fast movement and passing? You could play an entire team of attackers and it wouldn’t make a difference if the pass and move is faulty. Just ask Van Gaal.

  8. This begs the question…why not play Giroud and Theo together. I’m not asking for anyones opinion of either player, just playing them together and Olivier would start collecting assists and they both would start banging in goals… I guarantee it.

    1. They combined pretty well prior to his injury. But Sanchez has taken over that role of the supporting forward. When we played two in Podolski and Theo we were a lot more vulnerable on the flanks…
      Wenger obviously prioritizes dominating the midfield so I doubt we’ll see much of those three together. When Sanchez needs a rest it would be interesting to see Theo on the left playing off Giroud’s shoulder.

  9. Prior to the game against MUFCkers, I was very sad and depressed and I was not sure we’d beat them. Then, BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!! OMG!!! It was like watching a rocket take off. I swear, if Arsene can stay on his feet, demand nothing less than that from the lads, and they regularly put up such show, I WILL be his greatest fan, just like those good old days. But the sad thing is that why wait until you are down before giving your best??? Everyone of them was unreal, too good to be the same guys we’ve always watched. I’m grateful!!!

    And now, as I salute my hero____
    He is strong,
    He is powerful,
    He is aggressive,
    He is fearless,
    He is the FURIOUS COCK, the one and only Le Cock.


  10. Ox cannot play good for more than 30 minutes in a game. He has to do with a place on the bench for the time being. 3-3-3-1? Never seen that formation in play anywhere. 3-5-2 will more likely be better with Monreal and Bellerin as wing backs.

  11. Can’t just stop watching the highlights of the man U game. This arsenal in their BEAST-MODE is what we need vs bayernM. Going to be entertaining, I just hope our players get rested enough through the international break especially alexis, an injured alexis aint what we need now that he and the team are finding their feet again.

  12. Has to be a return to the Christmas tree for me.
    Bellerin mertesacker koscielny Monreal
    Ramsey coquelin cazorla
    Ozil Alexis

    Ospina gibbs Gabriel Wilshire Chamberlain Welbeck giroud

    That’s my first choice 18 with the only doubts mertesacker/Gabriel and who starts. Next best bench
    Macey Debuchy chambers flamini arteta rosicky campbell

    1. That’s pretty much how we play… Just with Bellerin and Monreal ahead of Ramsey and Cazorla in wide positions.

  13. If you’re going to play 3 at the back then you need 3 defenders capable of playing CB, Bellerin is a RB converted from RW, moving him into the right side of a back 3 would he removing a lot of his potential.

    Then there is the midfield, everyone of them likes to get into the middle… Are ques gonna win us games? You need players who will spread the opposition a bit more.

    1. My thoughts exactly. Removing a CB just hinders the fullbacks from advancing. Monreal and Bellerin have been outstanding in an attacking sense. No point shackling them.

  14. Well i have a better idea.

    Aim, Shoot the ball, goal, go mental. Sanchez knows hot to do it, others must do it too.

  15. Nicholas, your theoretical option of 3-3-3-1 is commendable. Because you must have put a lot of thoughts into it. However, I doubt if the Boss will buy into this your option. Because apart of the risk involved in such a playing formation, Arsenal don’t have the operators of 3 CBs to adopt this option. I think LvG tried it and abandoned it summarily. The Current playing option of 4-2-3-1 the Boss has adopted for the Gunners, is best suit them because most of our starting 1st XI team are of the average size. Have you peradventure looked at my preferred playing option of 4-5-1? I once tailored it to the to adopt it for Arsenal games as the Gunners were having some sort of problems with their results on the field of play early in the season. But The Boss would have non of my option as I haven’t seen him used it.

  16. OT: Everybody on this forum keeps on coming back to discuss Sundays game – 3 days have gone by. Would love to hear from fellow gooners what was their brightest spot in the game. Just mention one event which you found great, funny, rewarding, memorable. Any one event. For me this happened in second half: The moment I will always cherish. When Ozil took on SHREK and turned him inside out like a small school kid. The yellow card and the tomato red faced look on SHREK, I will never forget! The other one was the look of extreme FEAR on Darmians face everytime Sanchez touched the ball!

    1. The smile Ozil gave Sanchez when he was inches away from keeping the ball in play with an open flank in front of him…
      It was pure confidence that they were about to slice them open and score again.
      The Arsenal Counter is back baby!!!

  17. But our system changes a lot when we’re seeing a lot of the ball…
    Ramsey drops back as an additional midfielder and our fullbacks advance to, pretty much wingers.
    Then we have interchanging playmakers pulling the strings outside in Ozil, Cazorla and Ramsey, who try to break the lines or create overloads if they see an opportunity, with our striker and Sanchez making runs as well.
    It’s the unpredictable and marking nightmare nature of this system that makes it work so well IMO. And with Cazorla and Coquelin at the base of midfield our defensive record has actually improved dramatically as their responsibility in positioning and not being caught in transition has been really good.
    In theory removing a defender may seem a good idea in an attacking sense, though with City as perhaps the only exception, we commit more numbers to our attacks than any other PL team…

  18. Against Manchester City we should play 6-4-0


  19. I think your team line-up needs a little change.
    Debuchy(Chambers) – Koscielny – Monreal(Gabriel)
    Ramsey Coquelin Cazorla
    Bellerin Ozil Sanchez

    Team Balance With Bellerin on right wing and Debuchy(Chambers) on RCB and Ramsey in midfield, our right wing can have same balance as Sanchez-Cazorla-Monreal on left… Plus the benefits you mentioned

    If we want a 3-CB team, then Chambers(Debuchy) – Koscielny(Per as a sweeper) – Gabriel
    is the best choice.

    If we want crosses to be bombarded in the centre, then a front lineup of
    Bellerin(Walcott) – Giroud – Sanchez(Gibbs) would be an ideal option too.

  20. 3-3-3-1 is the basic formation used to train young players to be “total footballers”. Bielsa used this extensively and was the mentor to Pep and many others. But the basic premise is that all players are inter-changeable, ball playing players…there’s no specialisation. A common thread is the back 3 are ball playing CBs. the next 3 are 2 wing-bacls and a holding mid. The wing-backs are your width and have to do enormous work. They need to be equally as good as wingers as there FBs. Inverted wing-backs I guess. Bielsa did this with Chile 2010. We have the personnel to implement this, but like any formation…it takes time to master.
    our formation would be
    gab per kos
    hector coq monreal

    carzola ozil sanchez


    frankly i wouldn’t sacrifice a ramsey for another CB.Unless Coq is out and then I would have Carzola sit in the holding role and ramsey on the right…now that could be interesting.

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