What has got the Gunners and Gooners buzzing again?

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

11 thoughts on “What has got the Gunners and Gooners buzzing again?

  • PE, nice preview of (not just the game vs City but also) the rest of the season, speaking game-plans. Your enthusiasm is infectious too and one can only hope things pan out as such.

    Every gooner would want nothing more than for the lads to beat City on Sunday to set them up for the run-in to the season’s end. If the boys found the 3-4-3 system comfortable and can adapt better to it, then we can pick and choose the games to deploy the team in that formation. Indeed, a fit Mertesacker would have fitted the bill for central CB, perfectly. Unfortunately, we can’t risk it now; neither can (should ?) we risk Rob Holding in that role, for now.

    Forward, the Arsenal!

  • Hey PE, Just a quick comment here… I have plans to write a match preview at some point, maybe tomorrow morning during the 1st semi…

    I agree with ‘Eris that your enthusiasm is admirable. I’m a good deal more skeptical and I agree with you that the 3-4-3 at Boro was nothing to write home about. We really rode our luck, I thought, and were very fortunate that the two point blank shots Boro had went right to Cech. That he grabbed them is the good part. Like you say, his route one game was way, way off…

    I don’t want to give away my hand, but I see us using the same formation (and line-up, more or less) at Wembley. I’m also not quite sure about your player assessments, but they’re not too off my own. No time to get into those right now…

    Anyhow, cheers for the post…

  • Hey Retsub, if you’re out there, a great Arsecast today on Arseblog with Ian Wright.
    Some great stories and general chat mate.

    17tino, I’m with you re: Sunday, same as the Riverside, just a shame that BFG isn’t fit, he’d be great in that system alongside Holding and Koz.

  • PE,

    Why not give the 3:4:3 a chance against Citeh?

    Yes, it is raw, but at the back it means tighter defense. Maybe leave out Gabby, and bring in BFG.

    It will give the height and positioning stability that we lacked.

    As for the maurading wingers, I would love Gibbs and Bells. With Nacho becoming chips himself at the Monday night game, I do not think he will do better against Citeh.

  • Great comments all. Obviously we are all treading cautiously and rightly so. Maybe the simplest way to see the 3:4:3 as opposed to our usual playing pattern is ….. one man less in the forward areas and one man more in the back line. Considering that our problem lies in the goals we concede and not in our scoring record the adjustment in formation makes sense.

    I particularly like that the system allows Sanchez to play more as an inside left. That position is suited for creating goal chances and at the same time for scoring goals. It allows us to make the most of his talent.

    @ njk “Why not give 3:4:3 a chance against Citeh?” One reason is my faint heart – no margin for error in a FA semi and 3:4:3 is still work in progress. Two is that Citeh is a team that largely dominates possession thereby forcing the opposition to go reactive. The personnel to be used becomes more important and determines the formation. Citeh high press for example should make us exclude players who cannot pass the ball quickly and instinctively so Gabriel, Ox and Gibbs are out for me. I see plenty of MFders as the best reactive selection and my mind goes to a 4:3:3.

  • Sorry ” …..so Gabriel, Coq, and Gibbs are out for me.” Coq not Ox who should be a must in the CM.

  • Lovely, positive post, eye of the as 🙂
    I agree it was good to see something different and it somehow got us the three points. I could not help but think how un-oiled we looked in our passing and telepathic understanding, and how poor we were in using the wings. I could see Xhaka looking for a pass constantly but the movement up-front was so poor that he had to play it wide time and again. If we want to continue with 3 at the back, the players will have to practice a lot to make it work. As it is, I hope we will not play it against Leicester as I could see us getting a hiding. The goals we conceded also showed that the defence needs to get used with playing three CBs at the back…. a work in progress, but can we afford to experiment giving the luck we had to get all three points against Middlesbrough?? I don’t think so.

  • That’s an interesting article, Kev, but I don’t see our boy (Kroenke) getting too worried. He may need to pay a little bit to make it “go away,” but in the end, the team is in LA and it won’t be headed back to St. Louis. A few million dollars (or even a few 10s of millions) is hardly a blip for Stan and the bigger money that having a team in a (much) bigger market (Los Angeles) represents. His earlier statements, indicating that he cared about the fans, blah, blah, blah, are nothing but hot air…

    (Cheers also for the other article about the traveling support, as well as other items in the Goonersphere you’ve enjoyed… Keep ’em coming…)

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