Arsène Wenger doesn’t regret his decision to play Francis Coquelin as the third centre-back against Manchester City.
Arsenal fans were left bemused when they discovered the French midfielder wasn’t operating in the engine room but instead as a centre-back.
After the Gunners lost the match 3-1, Wenger was understandably questioned on the subject, and responded: “I can explain to you that Mertesacker came in sick, Holding had a thigh strain and Mathieu Debuchy has just come back from a long time absent.”
“I don’t see it as a big problem. To play in the middle, if you are a defensive midfielder, it is exactly the same.”
The question that remains, despite Wenger’s explanation here, is why the manager decided to stick with the three-back formation, rather than switching to a back-four.
The Gunners had the players for a back-four, with Sead Kolašinac and Hector Bellerín as full-backs, while Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal would be centre-backs.
Coquelin could have been in front of them. The Arsenal Twitter account even set the formation out like that before the game.
One hour to go – and that means it's time for team news
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 5, 2017
In the end, it didn’t end up costing Arsenal particularly badly. Coquelin didn’t exactly impress anyone, but he also wasn’t at fault for the goals his team conceded.
Koscielny was the player who saw the ball go through his legs for the first, Monreal made the foul for the second and the assistant referee was at fault for the third.
But the trend of defensive midfielders playing as centre-backs isn’t one I’ve heard many Arsenal fans say they want to see continuing.
It seems Wenger’s hand was forced a bit on this occasion, but hopefully the return of Rob Holding, Mer Mertesacker, Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi should stop this happening again in the near future.