There are some positives we can already point at from our use of the 3:4:3 formation in our match against Middlesbrough.
The first is psychological. The Arsenal world, the fans, the players, the management have all been in the doldrums in the last three or so months and there was nothing that could raise excitement anywhere to check the downward spiral of our morale. The 3:4:3 seems to have suddenly gotten everybody buzzing like a besieged camp that have just sighted help galloping furiously to join battle. Though our 3:4:3 performance against Middlesbrough was nothing to write home about, our excitement persists as the match gave us our first away points in five games. Our situation needed to be fixed and 3:4:3 fixed it. Isn’t football all about now, now, now and dreams?
Our 3:4:3 performance is a long way from the finished article. I don’t see us using it this weekend in our semi final FA cup clash against Mancheater City. But come Leicester next midweek tie, I can see the 3:4:3 back, better and guiding us to another victory. Have we Gooners now gotten the Plan B that we have been clamouring for? Wenger indicated that a 3 man central defence gives extra security to the quick getaways, the long balls for example. If so, it is suited to games against teams that we dominate territorially who invariably hit us on the quick brake.
Holding was my best in our 3-man defence. Awareness and intelligence are natural by-products of his calm disposition. Just the very qualities that Gabriel, who was my worst of the three lacked. Gabriel is a safety first player, a last ditch tackler, a first time clearance man. He lacks the confidence to make any but very safe passes and ever so often in our game against Middlesbrough he resorted to passing the ball back to Cech to hoof out. Cech’s 46% pass success rate meant gifting the ball in excess of 54% of the time to the opposition when hoofed and exposing us to the weaker side of our game. Koscienly was not at his best, but that must have been due to his being given the center role for organizing the other two. Ideally the flank 3-man defenders should be the front footed players (Koshienly and Mustafi) and in between them should be the reader of the game, who sees the runners, the passing lanes, the empty spaces. He should be the man who organizes the defence and as it were, takes care of the left overs from his battling mates. Fitting such a bill is without doubt a fit BFG. Otherwise, can the young Holden, naturally talented in those directions, be able to shoulder such a sensitive responsibility? Wenger 20 years ago would have braved it. Now, am not so sure but that does not mean a negative against him. Dicey should be the word of choice here.
For the wing backs, Oxlade came off with very good marks. Going forward, I’d say he edges Bellerin, but one remains sceptical about his ability to keep a 90 minute defensive focus. Monreal has a better savvy of football than Gibbs, But wingback demands a lot of linear play and that’s not Monreal’s forte. This fact might tilt it in favour of Gibbs.
In the central midfield, Xhaka and Ramsey performed creditably well. But in what system would we not miss Santi? The 3:4:3 encourages the opposition to venture upfield a little bit more, leaving a little bit more spaces behind them and inviting a little bit more quick transitional response. Quick vertical passing, quick running with the ball. Our central midfielders should tune in more to this fact.
For the front thee in a 3:4:3, the two flank player are tucked in away from the flanks, more like the inside forwards. They are relatively freer from specific defensive duties. For Ozil or Iwobi and even for Sanchez that’s what the doctor ordered. Interchanging positions between the two “inside forwards” becomes even more seamless. They have the license to roam, not least, dropping back to help the central midfielders. Talking speed, directness and decisiveness, the striker that jumps out for me is Lukas Perez.
This initial stage of our 3:4:3 looks like our Plan B. With time, who knows, it could evolve into Plan A. In a way it is a journey of discovery. At the moment it gives us the thrill of a pre-season – what’s in store. Am already imagining Kolasinac or Mendy as our left wingback! No doubting it, the thought of another 3:4:3 when Leicester come visiting next week is like revving the buzz.
By Pony Eye