Time for 3-4-3 Mikel?


The last 4 goals conceded by us were all from set pieces which are defended by the whole team. Apart from our 2 central defenders in Luis and Mustafi, the rest of our outfield players, including our full backs (Saka and Bellerin) are all not good at defending balls in the air. A third central defender (Sokratis, Pablo or Holding) would instantly improve our aerial defending and as well make us more dangerous attacking set-pieces in the opposition box.
Currently Arteta uses the 4:2:3:1 but at the same time uses Saka as a wingback. It has a down side in that it hinders the forward movement of our double pivot as Xhaka is forced to cover Saka’s rear leaving his pivot partner with greater grounds to hold defensively. In a 3:4:3, wingbacks (Saka and Bellerin) have more leeway participating in attacking opponent’s territory without the coach having to be forced to inhibit the vertical roles of his central midfieders.
A back-3 with wingbacks providing width would also free Aubamayant from his wing role (where he is absolutely average if his goals are discounted) to concentrate more on what he does best, score goals.
A 3:4:3 therefore is a formation that is better suited to the skillsets of Bellerin, Saka (attacking) and Aubamayang (scoring goals). Also a change to a back-3 would give more allowance for the forward movement of our central midfielders as opposed to the modified 4:2:3:1 that has been in use. Finally it would improve our set-piece plays, defending and attacking.
There are 11matches to go in the PL, ie 33 pts to play for. We can dare to keep dreaming of a CL spot because many of the teams above us are haemorrhaging points profously but first we have to discover and be at our ruthless best.
Obviously our current modified 4:2:3:1 has not seen us anywhere close to our best. It has particularly failed in producing enough chances for the team. Arteta’s PL average of 9.4 shots per game would have sat us BOTTOM of the table. City at 19.8 shots per game (2.1 times ours) leads the Premiership. No wonder they’ve scored 1.7 times more goals than us (68 to our 39 goals).
It is said that nothing ventured is nothing gained. We desperately need to gain.The good news is that Arteta changed to a 3:4:3 late against Olympiacos. He probably has concluded that the time to venture is come.
By PE.

16 thoughts on “Time for 3-4-3 Mikel?

  • Nice one PE, in general play our back four, to me, has done ok since Arteta took charge, we aren’t closed down when we play out from the back as much because our players now don’t look the nervous wrecks they did when playing under Emery and seem more confident and competent, all this in a few weeks under the guidance of Mikel.

    I’m not sure that I’d lay all the blame on our centre backs PE, although you make a great argument, to me the blame lays equally with other players who are t doing their jobs at corners and free kicks. It could come down to in game management and the team not acting on their feet – do they really need to be told everything – should Ozil be picking up a 7 foot centre half or Torrieira, who I saw just moved out of the way during one of the goals, size does matter!

    I saw some brief highlights on TV last night and we really should have won that game comfortably, some of our finishing was very very poor, but we’ve been here before, especially in europe where our record is simply terrible, last euro trophy in in 1994, 25 years ago, for a club of our size that is just not good enough, although 4 finals in those 25 years, all lost, you’d have thought that we might have won at least one of that four?

  • Kev … on the contrary the post was, more or less, putting the blame on the team less the central defenders. To be more exact the post was blaming the team formation that is not making the maximum use of the individual skill sets of the players.

    That sounds like it’s more of the coach’s fault but I’d say no to that as Arteta is still going through the process. 9 PL games though is about long enough to move into yet another gear in the process.

  • Happy Invincibles Day!!! Respect to all that Liverpool has achieved over the last few seasons…. but there are only one Invincibles team. COYGs!!

  • Thanks PE for a good post for discussion. You have liked 3-4-3 for quite a while, I think, and now that we have lost feel perhaps a bit braver to reintroduce it. You make some good arguments for it but my main argument against it is that Arteta has been working on 4.-2-3-1 with the team and losing a (few) game should not make him change his mind.

    Against Olympiacos we had a good plan. We could not afford to concede on the counter, as we did so often under Emery, so we sat a bit deeper and tried to crack the Greek walls with patient attacking football. We were too slow and our passing – even Ozil’s – was well below par. But we had to be careful and try not to concede. We did concede because of bad defending of set-pieces, which is clearly still a work in progress for us. However, I don’t think this is to do with changing the formation. We need more height where it matters and manage the space in the box much better.

    I like the way Xhaka plays a bit deeper allowing Saka to attack the flanks with Auba. Xhaka had a great game a pinged the ball round well. His partner, Ceballos, did not have a bad game but the whole right flank of Bellerin-Ceballos- Pepe is disjointed and too inexperienced to really hurt opponents. But Areta is working on this and it all takes time.

    Ozil is still isolated and we were not present enough in and around the opponent’s D. That is where Ceballos needs to help out and to be fair, he tried his best. But the real problem is that we don’t get enough attacking in-field play from our attackers, especially Laca and Auba. There were very few combinations in and around the box of Olympiacos and Ozil had so few options to make things happen. We miss a Giroud or van Persie type with whom other attackers and midfielders can work to create space and opportunities. This is also a work in progress and rather than change the system I feel we need to stick with what we have and learn from games like this. So 4-2-1-3 or 4-2-3-1 it is for me this season.

    I feel we need to look at those three attackers, though. Should Laca be sacrificed… his time is certainly running out now.

    ——— Ceballos ———— Xhaka

    Laca and Eddie the Super Subs…

  • TA … yes always fine margins chosing between this and that. My call for a change in formation is not in anyway based on our loss to Oly. It is based on 9.4 shots at goal per game (under Arteta) which is the lowest in the league!

    There is no way we can climb the table with such a number. Actually I don’t have any preference for the 3:4:3 per se, but I feel it suits the skill sets of our current 1st string players the most.

    I suspect it’s been in Arteta’s mind considering he went 3:4:3 while chasing the game against Oly (at Willock’s sub). He went:


  • That 3-4-3 at the end is quite normal, PE. Just a change to deal with Mustafi’s substitution, me thinks. We have seen an increase in goals per game but I agree we are not having enough shots on goal as yet. It is a work in progress and I am open to change but also like Arteta’s belief in how things are set up currently and him just wanting to further fine-tune it. An unlucky loss should not change it, neither unfavourable stats at this stage.

  • Get well soon GN5, then do us one of your excellent in depth posts, say on the Invincible’s, I never get tired of reading about them… 👍🏼

  • Morning All,

    I have returned from a delightful tour of Asia.

    We have lacked security at set pieces ever since Giroud and Sagna left. As you rightly say PE, it is the job of the entire team to defend in an organised manner.

    Size matters and only Xhaka and Auba have the stature to compete for the first ball in, though we often concede to the second ball and that is down to poor reaction time and organisation. The second Everton goal was a case in point.

    Essentialy we need to buy a bigger Ceballos.

    Is GN5 ill?

  • Erik, agreed that height matters and I might add to it, athleticism. Some people don’t know how to leap (one of the tall ones you mentioned). At the same time there are some, not tell, who leap very well e.g. Alexis Sanchez. The best though is height and leap together.

  • The victors write the histories GN5!
    Looking forward to your next piece. Be well!


  • Posted this over at 7amKickoff. Thought some here might also enjoy.

    “Came aboard as an Arsenal fan (as a ‘soccer’ fan truth-be-told) right at the end of the Invincibles season. There was so little available on the web then– to express the histories of any of the teams. Certainly little-to-nothing on rivalries and bragging rights. What drew me to the club? At first, thanks to Thierry Henry’s pace and grace– which proved just the appetizer. The real deal was– Arsene Wenger. I was smitten. A man, a manager- whose perspectives on life and sport were unlike every other coach I’d known. Except one.

    The other? Don Shula. Head Coach of the NFL Miami Dolphins for 26 years. As a boy I grew up in the ’60s and early 70s Miami. The ‘Fins were an expansion team. New to the league (in 1966) created from scraps– of unwanted or barely respectable players plucked from other teams’ rosters. For 4 seasons under George Wilson they stumbled along as expected. In 1970, Miami owner Jo Robbie lured Don Shula to Miami from perennial contender– the Baltimore Colts.

    The first season under Shula, he took his team from Wilson’s record of W3-L10-D1 — to 10-4 and a playoff spot. In 1971, the team finished the campaign 10-3-1 and beat two other powerhouses of the era, the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs– only to lose to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.

    The following season, 1972, Shula and the Dolphins did what no other team in the modern era had accomplished. Miami won every game. 17-0. Unbeaten. Beating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. In ’73 they won their opening regular season game– before losing to the Oakland Raiders in week 2. Ending Miami’s 19-game unbeaten streak.

    Shula and Miami went on to a 12-2 record that year– and once again were NFL champions . Beating the Minnesota Vikings in SB VIII– capping a 3-year run of appearances in the title game.

    Much of the above has been covered up by nearly-50 years of records and histories.
    All except the still-to-be matched or broken record.

    The Undefeated. Don Shula’s 17-0 Miami Dolphins of 1972.

    Every season, when the inevitable occurs– when the last NFL team of the current season loses their first game. The old men of that unique team gather and pop a few corks and sip champagne. Toasting an achievement that can only be matched– but never broken. Standing for 49 seasons– the show is still running. I find time to revel in it– every year.

    Arsene Wenger and the 2003-04 Gunners accomplished the same type of feat 17 seasons back.
    No one. No writer. No rival. No other team– can diminish that achievement.

    Live it and love it. It’s ours to enjoy. Only us.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s