Arsenal Tactics – Our options with THREE centre-backs?

Should Wenger Unleash a 3 Man Defense Set-Up? by NO

As the season begins, what would be a dream set up? Suppose AW was to take a gamble and try the three man defensive set up? With the riches Arsenal now possesses in the centre of the pitch, it could be option to look at. Should Wenger go for another striker, the three man defensive setup would make even more sense to deploy just in case such an asset is secured. And with the thinning defensive side, perhaps, just perhaps a 3 man defense would be a welcome introduction.

This is the system that is now on resurgence in modern football. During Euro 2012, Cesare Prandelli lost Andrea Barzagli to injury and faced with Spain, a switch to the system was a bold option. The Azzurri nullified the world champions and ground out a 0-0 draw. Napoli, under Walter Mazzarri, have run a three-centre-back system for several seasons. Juventus has done an Arsenal invincible using the same set up in Serie A last season, though in Europe, the system brought in the ghosts.

In the EPL, Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic and Manchester City have used it previously. In the first game of the season Manchester United Luis Van Gaal employed the three man defense with disastrous results. He could not see the match through and had to make a tactical change to return to 4 man defensive setup. However, Man United of today is not the Arsenal of today. After the troubles we had to defeat Crystal Palace, you would expect teams to bring similar mentality against Arsenal and the outcome could be worse than what we had on the first match, an extra man in the centre where we looked jaded could be very effective. However as the Man United game elaborated, the system needs maturity and can backfire badly. There is need to note that Arsenal against Crystal Place had over 70% possession but lacked the cutting edge. The three Man defense could provide the cutting edge.

The system when used with three central defenders, a back line will have a spare man even against a 4-4-2. With usage of wingbacks – True wing-backs are really just deep-seated attackers. Modern football is seeing the increased importance of attacking values in left- and right-backs.

Having three centre-halves releases the wing-backs from most of their defensive duties, allowing them to maraud the touchline and contribute heavily to offensive duties. Having a player constantly positioned in the wide area stretches the pitch to its limit, creating plenty of room for passing in the middle of the park, where Arsenal could really hurt teams. Another upside is that the manager doesn’t have to sacrifice any of the good center backs as the three will all play. We saw Sagna contribution when used as a centre back as well as chambers and perhaps other defenders in the side can get to adjust to the system. I suspect that Gibbs and Debuchy can also take the roles in the three centre backs and Arsenal will have 4 dependable defenders for 3 roles at any one time, creating the capacity to convincingly rotate and keep more players fresher and free from injury. Arsenal still has Monreal and Miguel to pick from. The system may allow the likes of Héctor Bellerín to begin having games in the senior squad and help the wingers come in as wingbacks. That allows Sanchez, Gnabry, and Walcott to be able to play more games, even as wingbacks.

But the strength of the system, lies in its potential to compliment a squad like Arsenal’s to be at the very top of their game, getting all dependable players into the first eleven, easing the younger players into the side and allow super attack mindedness to be implemented without interfering with the defensive setup. The use of Full back to attack often exposes the team but when there are three centre backs, the wingbacks can attack with flourish and panache – The Arsenal way. At times the set up can be varied to 3.5.2, 3.4.3 or 3.6.1 depending on the circumstances. And the variations can be many.

My best side would be_________________________________________________________Option 1

This is a side that brings the two best playmakers in the team Carzola and Ozil to share the CAM role. And it is a fast side with Sanchez and Walcott (Campbell until Walcott returns) in the wings – mouth watering.


Debuchy, Martesacker, Konsielny

Ramsey, Arteta,

Ozil, Carzola,

Walcott, Giroud, Sanchez

Or as with the this side below you could have________________________________________Option 2


Debuchy, Martesacker, Gibbs

Ramsey, Arteta,

Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez

Giroud, Sanogo

And you could have a rear triple pivot side _________________________________________Option 3


Debuchy, Martesacker, Gibbs

Arteta, Ramsey,Wilshere

Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez


And how about this experimental line up_______________________________________ Option 4


Debuchy, Martesacker, Gibbs

Walcott, Ramsey, Arteta, Sanchez

Ozil, Giroud, Carzola

Still you could put together another formidable side ______________________________Option 5


Debuchy, Martesacker, Gibbs

Walcott, Ramsey, Arteta, Sanchez


Giroud, Sanogo

How about this one _______________________________________________________Option 6


Debuchy, Martesacker, Gibbs

Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere

Walcott, Ozil, Carzola, Sanchez

And about this side ________________________________________________________Option 7


Debuchy, Martesacker, Gibbs

Ramsey, Arteta,

Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez, Carzola


How about trying this side __________________________________________________ Option 8


Debuchy, Martesacker, Gibbs

Ramsey, Arteta,

Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez

Giroud, Campbell

And still you could try _____________________________________________________Option 9


Debuchy, Martesacker, Gibbs

Ramsey, Arteta,

Walcott, Ozil, Carzola, Sanchez


And what about _________________________________________________________Option 10


Debuchy, Martesacker, Gibbs

Walcott, Ramsey, Arteta, Campbell

Sanchez, Giroud, Ozil

Imagine you have Wilshere, Ox, Podolski, Chambers, Diaby, Flamini, Bellerin, Gnabry, Rosicky, Konsielny, Monreal, all who have not been mentioned twice in this lineups for the bench power. Many of these will come as substitutes and through rotations. I believe this are not all, try other options too. And it is a team that can deploy MOST of the assets we have in the sector.



        1. Sorry to say, a bit of a dumb article…

          I like a 3 or 5 at the back in principle (not in FIFA). Juventus use it very effectively in Serie A, but it failed in the Champions league. You need very special players for this system with ridiculously high work rates, hence Lichtensteiner and Asamoah. Remember Vidal, Pogba and Marchisio are also very hard working. We don’t have those kind of players.

          It might work in theory, not using Sanchez or Walcott as wing backs though… You crazy! I could see Ox, Gibbs, debuchy almost pulling it off and Bellerin actually. But no, just no.

          1. If wenger had any intention of playing 3 at the back he would have kept our skipper, vermaelen. He didn’t, so he hasn’t, so pointless article.

            More important is who is coming in and who will be left out of the champions league squad should we progress.

            We are on.our limit now, yet Walcott, ryo and ospina are not included

        2. Great article well thought out! Did you play rugby at school??? Why play with a goalie defenders and midfielders? None of them score goals!!!!! Maybe we need 10 more forwards!!! Can’t believe you have actually come up with that many options that are crap! Be like watching 5 year olds all chase the ball in a group

  1. As good as it would be offensively we would fall apart devensively. We dont have the players to play with such a line up and I think 3-men-defense is just not made for the prem. Manure are going to suffer this season if they keep playing with 3 at the back…

  2. 3 man defence requires 6 CBs for full cover. Really? Debuchy and Gibbs? CB ?

    and the wing backs – finding a true wingback is a rare scenario, we will have to replace both the wingbacks at half time in every match because they will too tired.

    1. @Handsome_Gooner
      You would need players with off the charts work rates.
      Must say, MU did look damn impressive when they deployed it during their preseason matches. Even a”parked bus” folds under the weight of such attack.

  3. Not a fan with 3 defenders lineup. Too risky. You need to be very strong offensive and have very good wing back who can both attack and defence. Watched MU – Swansea game, both goals MU conceded start from their flank, 3 cb leave too much space at the back for opposition winger to exploit

  4. and for those line ups without any player on the flanks, teams like chelsea will suffocate you

  5. i seriously think that koscielny should be converted into a striker that guy so sharp he always scores when hes upfront 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  6. 3 at the back if fine if you boss the midfield but I would not even attempt it away Besiktas. We are not short of personnel to play a full back 4: BFG, Chambers, Miquel, Hayden and Flamini can all do a job there while Monreal covers for Gibbs.

    Looking honestly and abruptly at our deficiencies I would say 1 specialist DM also able to cover CB and a pure CF…Sanogo needs a loan.

  7. and i seriously think that ignasi miquel and emanuel frimpong should be given chances too those guys are terrific arsene has to have more faith in them 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

    1. Miquel will get appearances here and there this season, Frimpong is free agent. The boy is not Arsenal material, he is 22 and in serious need to rebuild his career. He should look for employment in a newly promoted club at a salary cut or start afresh in the championship.

      1. @No10
        In all honesty, Frimpong never got a serious chance to break into the 1st team. Dude is a natural raw talent made for the DM spot. He never had sufficient development.
        As soon as he said that “truth” about Jack, his days were numbered…
        Yet, Ryo is still on the books.
        Go f**kn figure…

        1. To much muscle, no brain, and dont get me started with his attitude. Ryo is a talented kid, but Arsenal has not the time to train and develop him.

          1. @Ks-Gunner
            Dude was a raw underdeveloped talent. He came up through the Academy from age 9. His attitude was no more or less worse than any other young gun. We should have kept him and put more into him.
            “He is a bit less of a dribbler, but he is a fighter and he is a winner” Arsene Wenger
            But, like i said. “Once he said what he said about Jack, his days at AFC were numbered” As right as he was though…

            *Ryo may be talented, but he’s like a deer caught in the headlights.

  8. and i also think that we should buy yaya toure look at his pass for manc city goal vs newcastle oh oh ive never seen any arsenal player make such pass only from cesc from youtube 🙁 🙁 🙁

  9. and i think arsenal have to be more direct in makin passes cuz i got the impression that arsenal are wasting too much time passin the ball around without any urgency to score and only theo walcott has that killer instinct 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  10. Look what Arsenal did to LFC at the emirates last season to see why 3 man defence is not really an option.

    In fact just look at what Swansea did to manure. The system is easy to get around. Keep possession and the other team struggles due to lack of central midfield options. Then stretch them out and use wide pace to kill them off. Swansea bossed manure by keeping possession and the midfield 3 exposed them with two of them actually the goal scorers.

    If you actually look at what Wigan did with Martinez it wasn’t actually successful. It was just that they were so shit everyone thought ‘wow’ when they did their usual end of season run of form.

  11. and i also think that arsene has to make more psywar to motivate our players and intimidate our rivals arsene is too polite hes french i know but hes not as scary as he used to when he formulated the invincibles 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  12. You need to have 3 extremely good defenders to pull off 3 at the back.

    My favourite 3 defenders in 3 defender formation were:
    Cannavaro, Nesta and Maldini. For Italy

  13. Ridiculous article. We have 2 of the best attacking wing backs in Gibbs and Debuchy at the moment and the best Centre back pairing we’ve had a ages. Why would you ever compromise this now!?

    All the chatter about 352 being the dog’s bollocks is because of the Van Gaal hype. But he had to switch to 442 when they got beat by Swansea.

    We have 4411, 442 4231 451 and 433 available to us, that’s enough.

  14. and i always think that arsene has to socialize more with the referees not to bribe them but to understand their psychology so arsene can tell when to play hard when to play soft to prevent from red cards and yello cards accumulation 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  15. and dont forget that i think we should rotate our goalie scezny should only play for the premiere league and ospina should play for the champions league dont forget real did that last year with casillas and lopez and they won la decima 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  16. It would help if we had a top CDM
    (I wonder how many times CDM has been mentioned this summer on this forum)

  17. and if we manage to get to the semi final of the championsl league i seriously think that we have to play our second tier players for the premiere league and sacrifice the premiere league like ancelotti did with real last season so we can win the champions league and my chelsea mate will stop askin where is your champions league trophy to me arsenal die hard fan 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  18. and oh oh dont forget that i think we should name a stand in the emirates the arsene wenger stand like the sir alex ferguson stand in old trafford so arsene will get more motivated to coach and win us silverwares 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  19. sometimes i feel like i have more vision than arsene i should take a coach trainin program and send my application to sir chips keswick hopefully he knows bout this website i dont have any reputation yet but i have determination 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  20. Not being funny, but we only have 3 decent CBs. If one of them gets injured, we’re f**ked, so why on earth would you play all 3 at the same time, knowing you don’t have the depth to rotate?

  21. and i want us to also win the fifa club world cup weve never won one unitedve won once i envy 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  22. Franz Beckenbauer said today
    “I can imagine him at Bayern very well,” he told German newspaper Bild. “If you can get a player of his class, you need to try it.“I am sure: if he doesn’t go to Bayern in 2015, he will probably go to another big international club such as Real Madrid or Manchester United. Dortmund are unlikely to be able to hold on to him.”

    How much more do I hate Munich now? Can’t they stop tapping up players. Mudafackers. Wenger has said it right, money has spoilt the game.

  23. I wonder why Psg are after Di Maria? They have a genius in Lucas Moura and they still want to spend all that junk on an another winger. God damn Arabian B#stards.

  24. Have you guys also notices that our team is full of players who kinda short in stature. Compared to our rival teams we are Arsenal midgets Fc. We need to buy some tall players. And damn, to bad we didnt try bring Schneiderlin at Arsenal.

    1. agreed 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁
      u have visions too u can be my assistant manager 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

      1. 😉 😉 😀 😉 😉 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙁 😀 😀 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 😉 😉 😉
        Ha ha ha ha. Haywill. Man you should post more often.

  25. 3-5-2 assumes you have the right personnel to work with. Have at least 4 CB’s with a balance of 2 left footed and 2 right footed and at least 1 who is comfortable on either. Then 2 wing backs on each side with equal meaiure of defense and attack in their DNA.
    The mids and attack are fine. Then figure out how you gonna have a player who can cover as a CB and a WB at the same time for bench purposes.

    If this is the squad I had and you wanted a different tactic.. I would use BFG as a sweeper behind the front 2 CB’s…it is a 1 (sw)-2(cb)-5(2 wb, 2 cm, 1 cam)-2(2fw).

  26. gary monk before swansea and united clash: “dont trust the media for us uniteds manager today is david moyes” lol 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  27. WHY, if Wenger has even considered this system, did he not keep Verm and try it out pre-season.
    The system CAN work, in certain scenarios, against certain opposition, but, the players HAVE to be comfortable playing it, otherwise it is a recipe for disaster.
    Can always play a 4.3.3 and IF the situation demands, bring on an extra CB, or move someone over, and give the FBs more freedom to fly, but, as said, the players need to practice it and become comfortable playing the system.

  28. I’ve already posted an article along these lines, based on Van Galls Man u and Dutch formation.
    Most people agreed it wouldn’t work for us and could be suicidal!

    More to the point why at this stage do we only have 3 CB’s!
    One is a newly purchased youngster, (in fairness he’s doing great), one is playing with a niggling injury and the other is not yet fit to play. How did we let this happen, we should have secured Vermalen’s replacement before selling to Barca. Another concern is our LB scenario, Gobbs seems to struggle with injury continually and Monreal is just an okay replacement.
    Let’s hope the DM and or CB we buy can also play LB.

    Off topic what’s going on with the Reus Puma marketing campaign?
    He signed a card ‘Arsenal couldnt of done it without you’, huh???

    1. Wenger plays it silly these days. rather than having the 5 CBs which he himself said we need for a full season, he now prefers having just 3 and saying that other player can fill in when required.

  29. Who else up with me to bore themselves and watch Chavs play?
    I want to see for myself what else Costa and Fabregas brings to the boredom.

  30. My favorite now would be:

    ————————— Szczcesny
    Debuchy ——————————————Kibbs
    —————————- Flamini
    Alexis ——————— Ramsey—————— Campbell

    Maybe try the 3-2-1-3-1 version against the bigger teams could be helpfull. But AW will never go for this sort of setup. He wouldn’t believe in an defensive system like this. He will leave that for the LVG’s & Mourinho’s of this world, as he should. We would waste al our attacking talent. Holland was successful with this system at the World Cup. They played it mainly because they lacked attacking options with only Robben, R$P, Sneijder and 1 or 2 youngsters. They failed to win the cup because they became too predictable and couldn’t score anymore. Just like Juve in europe, just like LVG on saturday.

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