Why Arsenal must NOT play 3-at-the-back against Man City

Arsene Wenger shocked everyone by trying out a new formation (for the first time in 20 years!) last week against Middlesbrough. Arsenal may beaten Boro, but they were hardly impressive against a team that hadn’t won since December. But a win is a win and hopefully this will have given the Gunners a bit of their confidence back, but the question is whether Wenger will continue with the experiment against Man City on Sunday.

With Mustafi still out injured, it is possible Le Prof may stick with Koscielny, Holding and Gabriel at the back, but according to the Arsenal legend Martin Keown, this formation will have no chance against Pep Guardiola’s side. ‘Arsenal could easily become outnumbered in midfield if they play with a three,’ Keown said.

‘City’s wingers – Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling – will pin Nacho Monreal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all the way back.

‘It would leave Arsenal’s two central midfielders up against Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho. Arsenal would need Mesut Ozil to drop back into midfield to help out but I do not know if he is equipped to do that.

‘It would be safer for Arsenal to play with a four. They can push their defensive line higher to reduce the space between the midfield and the defence.’

So what do you think would be the best set-up against City? It certainly makes sense what Keown said, and with both teams being very attack minded I would think 4-4-2 would be the way forward, with Giroud and Alexis up front. Then again, with the form that Arsenal have been in, I think we should go with 6-2-2!



  1. DukeNaija says:

    This is not the first time in 20 years, Wenger has tried something new, he has changed from a 4-4-2 to 4-1-2-3(Gilberto Silva) to 4-2-3-1. However it’s been a long time we tried something new considering the fact what we’ve been trying has not won us a title in 13 years

  2. gotanidea says:

    Anything but the predictable 4-2-3-1, because Arsenal has been using that for twelve years and most opponents are already very familiar with it. Instead of 4-4-2, I prefer 4-4-1-1, because Sanchez can be the playmaker upfront:






    But I think Arsenal can dominate City with 3-4-3. It will not leave Arsenal’s two central midfielders against three City midfielders. Instead there are six Arsenal midifelders against City midfielders. Didn’t you see Barcelona dominated PSG with 3-3-1-3? Or Chelsea’s and Tottenham’s games with the three center back formations? The three central defender formation will bring Arsenal players closer, hence we will get more accurate passes and more creativity from the midfielders:






    1. Break-on-through says:

      Surprised that got thumbed down, very thought out. I agree it can gain the advantage in CM numbers wise, if used right, but like Keown said you know Ozil is gonna play.

      The two behind Welbeck, they are key, they can be extra CM’s like you say, they can also be extra protection out wide when needed. They need to be clever at reading the game/danger, they need to be willing too, Iwobi does not fit this description, neither Ozil.

      If Bellerin wasn’t suffering a crisis of confidence, I’d put him were Ox is and have Ox in there with Alexis, for his box to box nature. Also a better reason to have Ox there would be because Alexis needs to be a second striker more often than not, this is why Ozil worries Keown, and rightly so. Also this is why Wenger went with Ramsey, for his box to box nature.

  3. ArseOverTit says:


    Only hope!

  4. SoOpa AeoN says:

    Hahahahaha…….. I thought many of em said the back 3 experiment with our softcore worked against a Top class middlesborough team?????? LoL

    Why are we now scared to try that again against an Arch rival?

  5. Janssen says:

    One way or another we need to clog up the midfield. That’s where we have been beaten especially by better teams, giving the ball away too easily, leaving too much space and not helping out the defenders. 4-4-2 would do that to some extent more than the 4-3-3

    Bellerin-Holding-Kos-Gibbs or Monreal (hard choice)

    or a 3-5-2 where Ozil functions as a cross between Santi and himself 😉
    Walcott-Welbeck(or Iwobi)

    In the final analysis, I am not sure if formation is going to save us. We have to hope for City having one of their relatively frequent off-days.

  6. Red Dawn says:

    Doesnt matter what formation they use.
    Wenger will find a way to fail as he always does..

  7. The troll formerly known as robin vanpayslip says:

    This argument over formation is illogical.

    If you say that Ox and Monreal will be pinned backed then surely having the extra defender makes sense to deal with what comes into the middle when they cross or cut in.

    If you say that you lose possession then what that is also illogical because your premise is that the additional midfielder can do enough to justify not having the additional defender – which no midfielder, including Ozil, can justify given this season’s performances.

    Anyhow, the issue is Wenger. Rigid formations and preferences for favorites mean that there is no fluid play in the team and we look like 10 outfield players who don’t have a clue as to what to do. I doubt a formation is going to fix that.

  8. SoOpa AeoN says:

    Wenger has never used 3-4-3 before until now
    Wenger has never missed out on 4th/UCL place before until now
    Wenger has never been voted out of Arsenal by somany as much as he is now

    Don’t you see how the factors correlate?….. End of the road for Mr.Potato Head is on the Horizon

  9. John0711 says:

    TBH I fear for the future of Arsenal
    We have a weak minded manager who cannot see the obvious and hasn’t done for years e.g Diaby/no DM / Suarez I could go on or his lies I will only but players who are better then he can’t find them
    Weak minded players who don’t want to play for the manager
    And a board that only care about money,

    This could be the start of the demise

    They have lied to us for years, e.g the money is tight because of the stadium, once that’s done we will be able to buy messi/Ronaldo
    Then we have money to spend and buy a GK wtf

    The only hope is if someone buys the club even wenger leaving won’t change the way the clubs run
    And I do want wenger out

  10. Fatboy Gooney says:

    The best (in) formation for this game is:
    Don’t get your hopes up ? and Don’t even bother watching it, if he’s going for 3 at the back.?
    My advice to all our players.. stick corks up your asses, surely you’re all fed up with it by now?

  11. ThirdManJW says:

    If Wenger plays his normal 4-2-3-1 formation then he just plays straight into Pep’s hands, because he, and everyone else, knows exactly how to set up against it. We’ve been diabolical in big games down the years, especially this season, and one of the contributing factors has been using the same system EVERY SINGLE GAME!

    Arsenal haven’t always been the easiest to beat because we’ve always had quality players, but we’re certainly the easiest to set up against in the whole of Europe. So why not try a different formation on Sunday? At the very least, it’ll get Pep thinking. And although Middlesbrough are terrible, we did win the game with three at the back.

    At the end of day, Wenger loves to attack as much as possible which always leaves us so open at the back. With three at the back, at least we’ll have an extra player to deal with counter-attacks. It’ll also give us an extra tall player on set-pieces. Surely that can’t be a bad thing?

  12. Ronny says:

    442 but our dm players actually need to run their socks of this game, you listening xhaka?
    1 on 1 with the likes of sane and sterling up against our fragile rb and lbs at the moment is a battle well lose hence the dms being on it and everywhere.
    We can only hope xhaka becomes kante during this game.
    To a man we need to do a barca and press hard and fast in numbers when we’ve not got the ball.
    Something we occasionally see but not habitually from arsenal.

  13. Ronny says:

    Oh and best way to counter that pace of sane and he like is employ some of your own up front.
    Giroud to start on the bench for me and we try to utilise pace of welbeck, sanchez, ox and walcott. Obviously not all at the same time 🙂

  14. fancy says:

    As with a confused manager as Wenger, he will still go for the usual 4 2 3 1 formation and delightfully played into Gadiola’s hand. Check the coaches in top six, Arsene is the weakest link of them all. u can’t win crucial match with a confused coach.

  15. fishface says:

    Bollocks gotta tighten up at the back and go 4411.
    Bellerin-kos holding,gibbs
    ox rambo coq welbz

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