James McNicholas has penned an article on how Arsene Wenger has managed to mess up the tried and tested 3-4-3 system.

Wenger debuted using just three at the back against Middlesbrough last season. Arsenal had just lost 3-0 away to Crystal Palace, Gooners were once again baying for blood and the Gunners had been booed off the pitch at Selhust Park. Something had to give and Wenger had to provide something for the fans in order for them to trust him again. He had to show that he was capable of change.

The boss then put out a back three of Laurent Koscielny, Rob Holding and Gabriel against Boro. It worked. Although they were far from convincing, Arsenal won 2-1 and Wenger stuck with three at the back, beating Manchester City and Chelsea in the FA Cup.

The key here, as McNicholas points out in his somewhat satirical piece for Paddy Power, is that Kos, Gab and Rob were all genuine centre-backs. When teams play three at the back, the idea is they use three central defenders to anchor the defence and provide cover while the wing-backs scale the flanks.

This season, we’ve seen Arsenal concede four goals in just two games and play just one or two out-and-out centre-backs at a time. For example, against Stoke on Saturday, Wenger started Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac. This is something McNicholas has gotten stuck into… as if Wenger had a choice.

mustafi stoke
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND – AUGUST 19: Jese of Stoke City and Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal battle for possession during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at Bet365 Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Per Mertesacker, who was fantastic in the FA Cup final, should have started, McNicholas claims. However, the German has already pointed out more than once that he’s no longer fit enough to play game after game. After getting Gary Cahill’s elbow to the face during the Community Shield, perhaps the BFG still isn’t quite feeling up to starting or, as Mustafi was a regular starter last season, Wenger gave him the nod instead.

McNicholas also slams the boss for not even including Rob Holding and Calum Chambers in the squad.

Holding was terrible against Leicester last week and since the poor bloke is only about five years old (or 21), the centre-back is probably still licking his wounds and would have fared just as badly against the Potters.

Yes, Kolasinac is a great wing-back and currently being played out of position at centre-back, as is Monreal, but with Kos suspended and Gabriel signing for Valencia, Wenger doesn’t have a great deal of choice.

Either play the robust Kolasinac and experienced Monreal out of position for a few games, or stick a 21-year-old who’s only made 10 appearances in the Premiership against a team known for their physicality.

Similarly, Chambers hasn’t played for Arsenal in the Premier League for over an entire year. Is Stoke away really the best fixture to introduce him?

This is also why other players, such as Hector Bellerin, who’s been poor for a while, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been forced out of position. Lack of options.

ox rambo stoke
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND – AUGUST 19: Jese of Stoke City and Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal battle for possession during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at Bet365 Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, McNicholas is also confused by Arsene Wenger’s choice of central midfielders, with Aaron Ramsey being granted too much freedom, meaning that the back three, which is already pretty threadbare, haven’t got adequate cover. However, the Gunners’ other defensive midfield option, Francis Coquelin, was absolutely terrible last season and has only just returned from an injury he suffered in the Emirates Cup. If he was played over Arsenal Gooners’ golden boy, Rambo, fans would be up in arms. As would most of Wenger’s critics.

While I agree that Arsenal are looking pretty shoddy right now and pointing out how he should strengthen certain areas is valid, I do feel as if people are taking certain aspects of Wenger’s tactics out of context in order to fulfill their own agenda. Although what else is new?

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A twenty-something writer living in North London. Likes caffeine, food that’s bad for her and Arsenal. Dislikes avocados, rudeness and Arsenal.