Gabriele Marcotti believes Arsene Wenger must change Arsenal’s formation after the international break.
The ESPN pundit was unimpressed with Wenger’s decision to stick with the formation despite not having enough defenders at his disposal to make it work. It reached the point of farcical during the 3-1 defeat to Manchester City, when Francis Coquelin was used as a centre-back.
Marcotti acknowledged that the system worked last season, but feels it’s run its course.
“I feel like I’ve stuck up for Wenger enough times, now it’s time to put the boot in,” he said, as reported by the Daily Star. “I don’t want to see this back three anymore. Instead of worrying about (Alexandre) Lacazette or whatever, well obviously yes Lacazette should start.
“Hey, try the novel idea of actually playing your better players. Play Lacazette, with (Alexis) Sanchez, with (Mesut) Ozil, and if you want to stick (Alex) Iwobi or (Aaron) Ramsey in a line of three, go ahead and do that.
“But what is it with the back three? (Antonio) Conte does it last year and all of a sudden ‘oh, I’ll go ahead and do it as well’. I know it yielded some results in the early going, but that was when you were playing centre-backs who are actual central defenders. Francis Coquelin in the back three! Enough!”
This season, Arsenal have used Nacho Monreal, who’s normally a left-back, as part of the back three. While the Spaniard has performed very well there, it highlights Arsenal’s lack of depth in that area of the squad.
It’s especially noticeable during cup matches, where Mohamed Elneny and Mathieu Debuchy have had to fill in there due to injuries. An injury to Rob Holding and Per Mertesacker falling ill left Wenger short of options against Manchester City.
With Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers both out injured, the Arsenal manager decided to field Coquelin at the back when it might have been easier to switch to a back four.
At this point, the formation seems to be limiting the Gunners and forcing players to play out of position to nobody’s benefit.