Why Arsenal need to change formation to save our season

Ever since this summer’s pre-season, we have seen some pretty strange combinations played, but no one was prepared for the insane team selection announced one hour before the Liverpool debacle While nothing can explain, let alone justify, leaving our only two summer signings on the bench for such an important match, and giving starts to our two most fervent want away stars, the maddest decision of all was playing key defenders out of position against a fast, attacking team like Pool.

Ceding eight goals in only three matches is more than enough evidence that ‘three at the back’ is no longer working and that there needs to be a radical re-boot if we are ever to get this season back on track. And the only way to do that is by abandoning, at least for the moment, the 3-4-3 formation of the end of last season and going back to our classic 4-2-3-1 set-up, or variations thereof: 4-2-1-3 and 4-3-3.

The reason is simple: only these formations play to the strengths of our existing squad, and now that the transfer window has slammed shut, this squad is all we’ve got. Injuries and suspensions aside, the defensive pairing of two international defenders, Koscielny and Mustafi, should become our bedrock. After all, if they are good enough for France and Germany, they have got to be good enough for Arsenal, especially with the additional defensive cover of Bellerin (who is definitely not a wingback) and Kolasinac, both of whom can also explode forward in attack when required. Our goal is well covered by Cech and Ospina.

Until we find our defensive stability, Coquelin should be brought back in the starting X1, in the hope that he finds his form of 2015-2016. If not, we need to consider if Chambers could work in this position. On current form, I would chose Elneny to partner either one of them, and Wilshere could be a real option as well – if he stays fit. Xhaka needs to be dropped in the short term until he can sort out both his head and his play. His recent performances suggest an underlying panic that causes reckless mistakes. Maybe he can get his confidence back after some cup games, but at the moment, he is one of our major disappointments.

Ozil and Ramsey should compete for the CAM position, and we should avoid having them both start. The competition will be good for both of them, and they both need to sharpen up. Our attacking options are the strongest they’ve been in a long time, with lots of competition. Personally, I would consider starting Sanchez on the bench until his head and heart are sorted, and that won’t happen until we start going back to playing smart, dynamic football, scoring from our chances and keeping clean sheets. We need a dynamic push now to rescue a season that’s only just begun, and the way to do it is to acknowledge our strengths and play to them.

What do you think?

Joey Mack

Updated: September 8, 2017 — 9:58 am


  1. 4-4-1-1

    lacazette behind giroud
    elneny/ xhaka with coquelin in centre
    start iwobi
    drop ozil and ramsey

  2. I disagree. Yes we’ve had a very poor start, but it’s not down to the 3-4-3 formation. It’s because Wenger has used players in completely the wrong positions in every game, and also on all three occasions, he has decided to pick a weaker starting XI than he needed too. At Stoke he had four CB’s available, but only picked one! Lacazette, and Kolasinac, on the bench against Liverpool, etc!

    It doesn’t really matter what formation you play if you’re not picking your best team, especially for really tough away games, and not using players in the correct positions. Not to mention the lack of any tactics whatsoever!

    I won’t deny that maybe four at the back is easier for the players to understand, but fans seem to have forgotten just how bad we were with a back four. Because Wenger loves his wing-backs to bomb forward at the same time, our back four quickly becomes a back two. This is also the case with a lot of other top clubs, but the difference between other managers, and Wenger, is that they protect those back two with a DM. Which means the back two can transition into a back three with the DM. Now Wenger rarely uses a DM, and even if he started our only DM (Coquelin), he would still ask him to venture forward. So that’s why our two CB’s were always so exposed on the counter attack. At least with a back three, the wing-backs can still bomb forward, but now you still have three at the back.

    I don’t mind Wenger switching the formation if it suits a certain opponent, and he does need to start doing this, but sadly he never will. He only focuses on what his team can do, and rarely pays any attention to what strengths/weaknesses the opponent has. If he did apply some tactics for once, you would have seen our players doubling up on Mane, but as we all know, that never happened!

    1. I agree with everything you have said.
      The only thing I would like to see is a kick up the arse to some of the players who clearly stopped even trying against Liverpool by dropping them for the likes of Iwobi and Nelson.

  3. and reiss nelson scored versus Manchester united again…6 goals in 4 matches

    1. The boy seems to be good offensively….will wingback be the best position for him?

  4. No, Arsenal had been using the 4-2-3-1 for more than ten years and it failed to give Arsenal any prestigious title. 4-2-1-3 is similar to it and 4-3-3 did not work previously because Arsenal did not pacey skillful wingers like Mane, Hazard or Pedro.

    The 3-4-2-1 has mitigated the defensive problems and brought consecutive wins at the end of last season. Arsenal has not even used it for one full season, yet most fans want to change it back to 4-2-3-1 that is proven to be a failure for more than ten years?

    Arsenal could use any formation, but it will not improve them, as long as the system, the board and the management do not change. They cannot dominate in the field if they cannot dictate the tempo and dominate the possession.

    If Arsenal cannot achieve that level, because of their players’ skills and the manager’s lack of knowledge, they had better use a more pragmatic approach. Wenger’s system needs more skillful players, like what France have, but Arsenal do not have many players like that.

    Mourinho, Ranieri and Simeone know that they cannot manage a team like Vicente Del Bosque, Luis Aragones and Guardiola. But they can get the prestigious titles by using pragmatic systems.

  5. I’d like to see Lacazette up front with Alexis (left), Theo (right), Ozil (CAM) behind him.

    Theo earns nearly as much as Alexis in salary (not my fault. Blame our glorious and wise manager) so give him a chance to prove himself. I would have preferred us getting Lemar, Draxler or Mahrez which would have given us an awesome attack but now we need to make do with what we got.

    We could go back to 4 at the back with Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi and Kolsanic

    Our biggest problem is central midfield
    Wish we had Cazorla. We have Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey, Coquelin and Eleny. Non of whom are of Cazorla’s quality. I really don’t know which two are our best CM. I guess Xhaka and Ramsey or Wilshere. Again we should have gone for Seri or Goretzka but we need to make do with what we have

    1. strictly speaking, an “arsenal midfield” is not meant to encounter problems from Bournemouth, its ours that are meant to comprise seasoned internationals. l just hope we show-up, without excuses.

    2. I would be telling Theo to never stop moving, to burn out the oppositions def and tell him straight that he will be subbed for Nelson at around 60 mins and if he wants to start in the next game ahead of Nelson then he has to have an positive impact on the game and to tire the def out.

      Bring Nelson on at 60 mins for the right and let him dance through tired defenders and let him fight for the right AM spot. Theo will have to perform or lose out to Nelson and Nelson looks a real talent who will push when given the opportunity… could work out.

      If CM not stable enough then we could drop the ACM and go 3 CM.


  6. Arsenal fans should stop this lifestyle of mourning and support the team leceister should it possible with the right mentality.I have just read Wenger has won more premier league games than all premier league managers combined ,he also won more games than Ferguson but according to armchair managers here Wenger is idiot, since Highbury days with we became ribels

    1. Wenger is the longest serving manager in the epl right now so which manager do u expect to hv won many games…anyway you are very dumb!

      1. He’s daft too

      2. Before you start calling people dumb, maybe you should read the post properly.

        He said Wenger had won more games than the other managers combined.

        Now who looks dumb eh kamikazi!

    2. I think most fans would prefer not to be critical of their team. They want to get behind them, enjoy what they do, and back them 100%. But fans are not cheerleaders, if they see a team that can’t be arsed – like we did at Anfield – they’ll react accordingly, and that’s what sparked the criticism.
      It wasn’t the reporting, the analysis, the commentary or the punditry: it was the performance and result. Of course that then allowed certain sections of the media to make hay, because that’s what they do, but let’s not try shift any of the blame here.
      If the team give their best and work hard, people will be a lot more understanding of bad results. It’s not to say they’ll enjoy them, but they’re easier to process in those circumstances. Wenger is right, the season is just beginning, but Anfield is hard to take in isolation because we’ve seen that kind of performance before. It’s up to him and his players to put things right, and if they do they’ll find life a lot more comfortable.
      Now I did not write this as it was in another blog but it so encapsulates what I feel when people expect fans to ignore the lack of effort and organisation of the team.

  7. @ kamikaze ..I also don’t think wing back I good for him but if Wenger can give him a chance up front he will surely flourish he have the talent,the passion,the pace everything and also skillful..to me he is an attacking mildfieder nd he also av a great shooting ability compared to iwobi nd knows where the post is….Wenger shud just give him a chance pls…..

    1. yea i am also worried maybe the wingback position might limit his goal scoring potential

  8. Play him where he plays for the under 23s.

  9. guys, why is Reiss Nelson still playing for the under 23 when we need him with the senior players? Whats going on with Wenger?

    1. suppose very soon we’ll hear reiss has an improved contract that will reflect his promotion to 1st team. after he comes on nscores agains Bate whatsitface

      1. They have to sign the kid to a five year contract or longer if possible. I have not seen enough of him so far, but judging by what is said of him and some of the stats he has compiled, he looks useful compared to Ox.

        1. i agree he’s an improvement.

  10. For me I would like to see a 442 but diamond middle.


    If Coquelin and Elneny can form a CM like they did when Elneny first joined then that will offer Xhaka massive protection to pull the strings from deep, capable of receiving the ‘safe backwards pass’ and play a nice pass with his passing range. Added benefit to Coquelin and Elneny is they both want to fight for the club, Elneny refusing the foxes to fight for his spot and he fights for our badge. We need that passion. Coquelin is the same, he is a fighter and has a dogged determination. They may not be Pogba and Kante but they can be just as important in this formation for us.

    Alexis would have protection behind him and as he is a high risk player, I feel this can cover the times when the risks do not pay off and help Alexis get right back into driving the ball forward. Elneny and Coquelin are also the type of players who would happily feed Alexis the ball all day long, yet another reason for them to partner in this formation…

    Bellerin and Sead can get forward and offer width, having Giroud as a CF gives our fullbacks a target man to cross the ball towards and we all know Giroud can lay the ball off nicely for others to finish and who better than Lacazette?

  11. This is fun and games, so here is my two cents…

    We need goals to have any hope of being competitive. We also need to shut down teams where possible.

    The team needs to toughness of Sead in the middle. He is wasted on the back line or one side. It is that no-nonsense impact that is missing in the middle right now. Control the middle, and this team will explode with goals and stop attacks. Sead can be used in combo with range of very defensive (Elneny) or very offensive (Welbeck) help depending on the situation, with Xhaka the mid-range option.

    The first formation is a 3-4-3 variety with balance for possession focused on speed, and the second a version of 3-2-3-2 to control the spine totally while controlling the ball. In both Sead is essential in protecting the back three, and Ozil free to roam.


    A 3-4-3 system, but with Ozil give the proper 10 role and no defensive role. This is crucial to let him focus on feeding Alexis, Lacazette and either Iwobi or the brittle Ramsay.

    I think the days of Xhaka could come to an end if he does not stop being weak his passes, which has led to at least two goals. Sead on the other hand is the wall and should be converted to shield the back three by forcing attackers to deal with him physically.

    It is important to go for the kill in the second half with Giroud.

    ——–Sead—Elneny/Xhaka——- [Welbeck could be left on too.]
    —————-Lacazette————— [Lacazette will play just behind Giroud]

    Sead on for the whole game to control the game from the middle. Use Elneny for shutting down a team, or Xhaka for extra passing. Ozil can vary his location to start the attack. Sanchez, Lacazette and Ramsey/Iwobi can try some exchanges of position to give more unpredictability to attack.

  12. Your all talking rubbish it’s all about giving hundred percent no matter what system you play ,. If we don’t play as a team ‘defend and attack 100 percent not 90 or 98 we will not succeed

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