It’s probably fair to say that Arsenal aren’t exactly flourishing in the 3-4-2-1 formation this season.
When Arsene Wenger first debuted his version of the 3-4-2-1 system against Middlesbough last season after losing 3-0 away to Crystal Palace, Arsenal won 2-1, which gave the boss reason enough to stick with it.
It didn’t look all that convincing and while Hector Bellerin still didn’t appear fit, his form noticeably went down hill.
Despite this, the Gunners were winning and went on to beat Manchester City and Chelsea using the 3-4-2-1 system at Wembley.
However, this season, without the desperation instilled in the team after a succession of poor results, Arsenal look flat, confused and leaky. Which is never something anyone aspires to be.
Without Laurent Koscielny or, as shown in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, Per Mertesacker keeping that back three anchored, the players don’t seem to know whether they’re coming or going.
This is partly to do with people being played out of position, since Kos has been suspended, Gabriel’s been sold to Valencia, Rob Holding is mentally scarred from the Leicester game and Calum Chambers hasn’t featured for Arsenal in over a year. Although it’s also partly down to the fact that, while the boss hasn’t had much of a choice in who he fields so far this season, his style of play just isn’t suited to 3-4-2-1.
It could be, since players like Ozil have taken to it like a duck to water, if we weren’t lacking fit/confident/stable centre-backs and therefore playing Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal out of position. In both those players, we have hard working men who know when to get forward and would actually be suited to player at wing-back, but at centre-back, they tend to look a bit lost.
Therefore, until Arsenal have all centre-backs present and correct, as well as an actual game plan for what happens what Aaron Ramsey wants freedom to roam around, Wenger should just scrap the system and go back to old faithful 4-2-3-1.
It’ll be more secure for less experienced defenders (Holding, I’m looking at you, mate), since, you know, there will be four of them and they’ll be in their preferred position, and will also mean that Rambo can go skipping around without it having too much of a defensive impact.
Bellerin could learn how to play football again, since he seems to actually know what he’s doing when at right-back. At wing-back, he’s not so good, since he doesn’t seem quite sure whether he’s coming or going and without someone like Per or Kos there barking orders, he’s not exactly the most useful player.
We want our Bellerin back… etc etc.
It can also give the team a boost when it comes to their attack and allows one full-back, usually Bellerin, to once again get forward and help out while still having security at the back (not that Arsenal are ever that ‘secure’ at the back), although this hasn’t been the main issue. Not during these first opening two games anyway.
Having three at the back and therefore another person in the attack is supposed to already boost the attack, which is why it was used in the first place. However, with so many players out of position, it’s not working as it should.
On the other hand, not having that extra body in midfield last season meant that gaping holes would open and the Gunners were incredibly vulnerable to counter-attacks and… well just about everything to be fair. Although that was more to do with not having Santi Cazorla in the middle of the park to keep things ticking over. Again, highlighting the need for a replacement.
It would be interesting – and by interesting I mean potentially worrying – to see how Mesut Ozil reacts considering he tends to thrive with the extra freedom 3-4-2-1 gives him.
What’s more, Arsenal were already vulnerable to crosses against Leicester during the opening game of the season. If they revert to 4-3-2-1, they’ll become even more narrow, which is something we had serious issues with last term. Combine this with our apparent inability to defend set-pieces and we could be in for a world of trouble.
Wow I’m so glad football is back…