Does Arsenal’s current squad mean we should consider alternate formations? (Opinion)

I believe Arsenal should look at the use of three centre-backs this season, with the additions of Saliba and Zinchenko giving us reason to tinker with the side.
Guest post by Jon Vines

As one of those ‘older’ Arsenal supporters (I am now in my 60th year of regularly attending matches, with my season ticket already burning a hole in my pocket with the excitement of a new season), I look forward to discussion on possible formations for our new squad.

With the return of a newly matured Saliba, the ever improved polishing of Gabriel and White, I would like to propose a move “back” to three centre backs. Fitness not withstanding, and of course it probably was the chief reason for our “downfall” at the end of last year, we now have three talented (both defensively AND attacking) fullbacks in Tierney, Tomi and Zinchenko. The Arteta way is solidity at the back and a fast break counter attack going forward. With those three (or Holding) at CB, and, depending on opposition, any one from Partey, Lokonga, Zinchenko or even White, in front, I believe we have a sound base for that tactic. That base will be enhanced if those three “creative holders” – Partey, Lokonga and Zinchenko – can be encouraged/feel confident enough to both use the forward “dynamic” passes that Thomas always had in him, for instance, AND to sometimes push forward to add weight to attack.

The use of those three could certainly be tailored to the opposition. We were faced regularly with teams sitting back in recent years, which we found hard to break down. In my experience, there are two main methods to break down such defences. Wide attacking, preferably to the goal line and a cut back cross to oncoming attackers. And, those very dynamic passes that by-pass lines of defence with their accuracy.

On some occasions, and against more open teams, the back four option will still be appropriate, showing off the attacking and crossing potential of specialists Kieran and Zinchenko, and even less-so for Tomi and Soares, with the opposite wing holding back when action is down the other end in that instance.

The creative and attacking options are many and varied, and I believe the extra 20-30 goals required for success are now attainable.
I would be interested in your, and other readers views on this tactical suggestion.

Would you be happy for a return to a back five in certain matches next season?

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30 Comments

  1. If we are behind or can’t score in the first half when playing against smaller team, we could use the 3-5-2 formation again. We did it to win in Nuremberg

    We have enough players to play with wingback formations. We could’ve been more unpredictable if we had an inverted LB like Spinazzola and Cancelo

  2. A 3-5- 2 is most sweetablre for when we lose the ball the fullbacks switch to defensive mode and when we have the ball they choke the opponent’s wingbacks thus retaining possession with some ease and lounging attacks very quickly

  3. Please lokonga needs to mature. A loan out will do him a lot of good. Dude still play immaturity and it can affect our game this season if he is played

  4. Whether Arteta chooses to go five at the back there is no doubt he now has the personnel to do so. The attacking focus of the back five tends to accentuate the wingbacks advancing and overlapping the midfield. The absence of a midfielder required to implement this system can create predictability. Stymie the wingbacks and you can blunt it’s effectiveness. However, this overlooks the potency of a marauding central defender attacking the centre. For this to be effective it requires a central defender who is comfortable with the ball and can produce a telling pass. In White and Saliba we have two. Therefore the option is a viable one for the coming season and it would be nice to see it explored.

  5. I get the sense Arteta will play both Eddie and Jesus from the start. There causing a lot of havoc in the box when played together so far. I have no idea which player will loose out in this case but Saka, Martnelli and Obe seem to be un-droppable at this time.

    Should we employ 2 strikers I believe it would be wise to bring in another ST with different attributes from the 2.

    Will learn more by the time we play our 3rd game or so of the season.

    1. If he does play with Jesus and Nketiah then we definitely need another striker. A plan B aerial threat would be perfect for our current tactics, or pairing aerial threat with a more mobile Jesus to wreck havoc.

      Basically we NEED a CDM and plan B striker, everything else is a lower priority.

  6. Real Madrid,Barca, Bayern, Man City and Liverpool.Teams which have been successful over the past decade or thereby playing similar 4-3-3 systems which Arteta favours having served his apprenticeship under Pep.We are not yet at the level of the sides mentioned and until we are able to control possession by imposing ourselves on the opposition, particularly in midfield, there are times when we should revert to a back three set up when we have the calibre of CB’s to do so.There are times when we ought to match up with opposition teams like Spurs and even Brighton who are basically counter attacking sides who are content to retain possession in their own half and hit you on the break.Spurs are more adept than Brighton due to their high quality front three but in other areas I believe we are superior.Whether Arteta would condescend to play a 3-5-2 system remains to be seen, but if Tomi and KT , were unfit , such a set up would be appropriate as our remaining full backs are vulnerable in a flat back four.Personally, I do fear for us in the absence of Tomi and KT who are as good a pair of full backs as any in the League.

  7. We can have two teams …one for premier league and one for europa league

    Jesus
    Martinelli Vieira Saka
    Xhaka Partey
    Tierney Gabriel Saliba Tomiyasu
    Ramsdale

    Nketiah
    Vieira Ødegaard Pepe
    Zincheko Torriera
    Tierney White Saliba Bellerin
    Ramsdale

    Just my opinion,…go easy on me for Pepe Torriera and Bellerin,..I still think they have got it if we can fit them with right players around,…since we got a lot of squad depth now…we can experiment and try to get the best of them

    1. I mean it used to far better for the trio under emery,…when all three played on the right side of the pitch together..so maybe

  8. It’s a gamble either way. A manager like Conte or Guardiola has a particular way of playing and is very reluctant to change it. This means the players are very well drilled in the way they play. But if the opposition manager comes up with an effective counter then they may struggle. Alternatively you may have a manager who is happy changing formations to counter the opposition. It gives you flexibility but means you not only need the players to do it but the manager must have the tactical nous to outthink the opposition. So I suppose the question is how good is Arteta tactically ?

  9. It would be better if in general we don’t have to play 3 at the back, but there will surely be a few games we may have to revert to a 3. This will be Arteta’s tactical ‘nous’ or when 4-4-2ish is simply not working. With more subs allowed changes can be made quickly and efficiently. Never say never, but lets get our own style sorted first. I’m sure there will be games 3 at the back may be necessary.

  10. You can accommodate Odegaard in 3 at Back formation…
    Because Odegaard cannot play as box to box CM like Partey and winger also…
    So we can’t go 3 at Back unless we are dropping Odegaard and Fabio Viera

  11. Jesus.

    Martinelli. Odegaard. Saka.

    Zinchenko. Partey.

    Tierney. Gabriel. Saliba. Tomiyasu.

    Ramsdale.

  12. 4-3-3
    4-3-1-2
    I want to see some exciting football this season ,let’s see what he’s got up his sleeve ,been waiting long enough .

  13. Nketiah.

    Smith. Fabio. Marquinhos.

    Lokonga. Elneny.

    Zinchenko. Holding. White. Cedric.

    Turner.

  14. The biggest challenge facing our offensive game is lack of width and speed going forward. All our wingers are inverted and always try to cut in to shoot. Our game, as a result, is very predictable and slow. We seem to value possession over penetration.

    Whenever Tierney is in the game, we look much better because of his pace and ability to beat defenders on the outside. With this is mind, my preferred formation is 3:5:2, featuring overlapping fullbacks. We are blessed with very good centre backs, so we should use them – Gabriel, White and Saliba. In other words, we need to forget about our opposition and other sexy formations and just play to our strengths. Period. This is the essence of modern coaching and team management.

  15. Kinda on topic but a little bit off.

    I’m actually quite excited about Eddie this season, especially if MA plays with a 2 up front. What I have seen of Jesus so far is that he is a live wire and although he predominantly from the left I think he has been given licence to roam which causes chaos and leaves gaps for Eddie to fill unmarked. If this happens I can see Eddie scoring a lot of goals next season if he comes from deep.

    I do agree though that we need a different kind of striker if plan A goes pear shaped so we can change mid match and am still concerned that we haven’t looked at or considered that alternative position.

    With 3 at the back, we do have the players to do that with Saliba, Gabriel, White, Holding and Tomiasu on paper. But for it to work you need a fully adept DM that is willing to do the hard yards to cover the wing backs and all we have is Elneny. Partey, Xhaka, Lokonga, AMN and Zinchenko are not DMs. So unless MA decides that he is going to convert Saliba, White or Tommi into a DM, who I believe are more than capable to fulfill, or he has a card up his sleeve in this window. I just can’t see it working.

    1. I actually like the idea of Tommi as a DM. He has the engine and intelligence when he can remain fit.

      1. With respect, with a back three system you do not require a dedicated DM but two hard working central midfielders who are flanked by the wing backs.A DM is required in a 4-3-3 set up and under Arteta, Partey is used in this role, despite being more effective in a more advanced position.

        1. Grandad, that is my point. You don’t need a dedicated dm, but ideally you do. We don’t have the 2 hardworking midfielders that can sustain that role and we have a very small pool of players to choose from that could play those positions. If we did have that capacity we also would have to lose a player further up the field.

          Who would you drop?

          Hence why I am saying a back 3 would not suit Artetaball as we don’t have the players to do it in midfield and the players up front are practically undropable.

          But if we had a dedicated DM I could see it as a possibility as 3 can become 4.

          1. Quick question to you NB
            What is Arteta ball though ?
            He’s constantly talked about playing 4-3-3 I would imagine copying peps false nine system which next season he and Klopp look to be doing away with .
            How as it took him so long to get this so called Arteta ball into place ,and now he has is it not out of date ?

          2. NB
            Please dont take this the wrong way
            But analysis on what we need is as good as your footballing career
            Rubbish
            Players who understand there jobs
            Pick up the loose players. Track back back, Press as a team, don’t ball watch and go with the man or women for wsl
            We have been fixated for ages on a DM
            Defend as a team, attack as a team
            Emphasise on team
            Some are better at certain roles then others but don’t push up when there is no cover
            Blah blah blah
            Honestly very frustrating

    1. Basically all it said was that I’ve been saying for some time that the number of CBs and people who can play WB suggest a 3CB / 2WB structure.

      No dedicated FB cover being brought in (even Zinchenko is apparently here to play in midfield).

      We’ll see when we know what the squad looks like nearer the end of the window.

      Also – MA been quoted recently as saying that he wants to play different formations and be unpredictable.

  16. Absolutely agree, the way Jesus and Nketiah are hitting off may just mean we need to look at 352. At the moment I am worried that ESR could be pushed out and even Martinelli. However fear of competition, the fight for starting places and even places on the bench are not our concern. We have been asking the Kroenkes to spend for years and they are doing that. We have been asking for players that are winners we are getting them, players that their current clubs don’t want to lose, we are getting them. We have been asking to bring in players that will not only improve our starting x1 but also our bench. Of the 5 players we have brought in so far, I think 2 will improve our starting x1 Jesus/Zinchenko over Lacazette/Xhaka. Vieira/Turner/Marquinhos and Xhaka will be better than last year’s bench. Even bringing back Saliba, Bellerin, Mari, AMN, Nelson, Balogun will strengthen the squad. Sure some of those may leave. Personally I would sell Leno and Runarrsson plus loan out Okonkwo and bring in an old experienced keeper like Ben Foster for 1 year.
    I would sell Bellerin and Cedric and bring in a better right back to challenge Tomi. I would sell Holding and Mari and bring in a quicker centre back. I would sell Torreira and Elneny and bring in a proper DM. I would sell AMN to Leicester in p/ex for Tielemans and I would sell Nelson and Pepe for a new winger.

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