Opinion: Arsenal doesn’t have the defenders to play a back three, time to suspend that experiment

Arsenal has struggled at the back this season and it is understandable that we have been experimenting with our defending.

Mikel Arteta is still looking for the perfect defensive partnership for the club, and he has also experimented with a number of defensive setups in our recent games.

He has used three at the back for our past few games with David Luiz, Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi partnering each other in the new-look back-three, though he did use Kieran Tierney in that role against Liverpool.

We have enjoyed different success and failures with the setup so far.

I assumed at first that Arteta is employing a back-three so that he can get the best out of David Luiz, who thrived in that setup with Chelsea before now.

However, I think that experiment should stop now because we don’t have the right quality defenders to get it done well.

Kolasinac has looked so out of place in the new system that the defender might become our weak link and a target for the opposing team.

Luiz has thrived in a back-three before, but the Brazilian is well past his best now and he cannot be trusted to put in a consistent performance for us.

Mustafi has gotten better under Arteta, but the German remains a bag of nerves, always looking like he would make a mistake.

When we have a natural left-sided centre-back like Pablo Mari available in the team, then we could look to start with a back-three, for now I think we should end the experiment.

An article from Ime

Tags back three David Luiz Sead Kolasinac Shkodran Mustafi


  1. What is there to hope for? Heavy rainfall? Or a thunderstorm… The former San Francisco 49er coach Steve Mariucci had a name for a win against all odds, when the pitch is a battlefield where no prisoners is allowed, he called it “an ugly win”. But I don’t think we can hope for even that, not even an ugly win. Not with Luiz, Mustafi etc. I guess it will be something like last time, a margin of three goals. 0-3.

    1. Couldn’t the same argument have been made for the Liverpool game?

      Our results against the so called big clubs under Arteta have been decent enough:

      1 – 2 Chelsea Home (Rare Leno howler Chelsea for equalizer late in the game followed by sucker punch counter goal)

      2 – 0 Man Utd Home

      2-2 Chelsea Away (Mustafi howler, Luiz Red card/Pen for Chelsea’s opener early in 1st half)

      0-3 Man City Away (Luiz howler for 1st, Luiz Red card/pen for 2nd)

      1-2 Spurs Away (Kola howler for Spurs equalizer when in total control)

      2-1 Liverpool Home

      It’s not a bad set of results and there are huge caveats to the poorer results. Yes if your player makes an awful mistake, he’s still your player but even by our standard the amount of critical mistakes has been over the top in these games and won’t continue at that rate that much is obvious.

      Our record against the other top half teams has been surperb under Arteta as well with no losses.

      City are still City and a superior team but we’re not no hopers by any stretch. Even in the 3 nil game City had one clear chance that Sterling snatched at prior to Luiz’s horror show and we’d carried a threat on the counter until then. Our shape is better and the work ethic is there. Quality isn’t quite there but on our day we can win. It is that simple, we are not quite as far as away as is made out at times.

      1. Well beating liverpool and Manchester city makes a nonsense out of that opinion doesn’t it ,the arsenal defence played brilliant against city

  2. And what return to a back 4 so the whiners can get the reasons to crawl out of their holes, NO we do not have good enough defenders to play a back 4 and our fullbacks are better suited to play as wingbacks. 3 cb mean there is extra defender to clear the ball when the other 2 mess up which is a regular occurrence.

    When we get two very good dm that can adequately protect our defence then we can switch to a 4-3-3. for example torreira and partey as dm with ceballos as a free role.

  3. I really do not relish going against the herd of many Gooners , as with fans everywhere, who predict us to win tonight,despite all sober analysis pointing to a defeat. But i have a compulsion to write the truth as I see it and I will NOT let fan bias get in the way of predicting the most likely happening. We have had a joke defence in varying degrees for over a decade already and this one is probably our most clown ridden ever. City has probably the most potent attack in world football right now and I will NOT duck that fact when assessing our chances.
    Self fooling only leads to even more frustration and tends to lead to even more unfair criticism of our team by foolish people who were never realistic in the first place. FAR BETTER TO BE HONEST.

    1. We can only work with what we have. Shove the negativity to the garbage bin. We won against all odds tonight.

  4. Some would argue that the main reason for playing a back 3 instead of 4 is simply to acknowledge that the defenders are not strong enough as a unit and therefore needs to be supported by 2 additional wing backs. In essence playing with 3 at the back is really playing 5 defenders. This formation also gives greater tactical flexibility and freedom for the CB to push forward into midfield, whenever needed. I would also call experimenting, as you put it, in-game management. Smart managers constantly change formations during a game to create a numerical advantage in certain parts of the pitch and exploit weaknesses in their opponents.

    to gain tactical advantage over the opponent. In-game changes also occur to create numerical advantages in certain parts of the pitch or exploit specific weaknesses in the opposition. Why do you think managers shout and point so much during the game!!!

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