Martin O’Neill has confirmed that Ireland could deploy three centre-backs for the upcoming friendly against Mexico.
O’Neill explained to RTE Sport that with no natural left-back in the squad, Ireland could revert to the defensive three system that has grown in popularity. On Monday we explored the idea of James McClean being an alternative left-back or wing back option for Ireland and O’Neill has suggested that this could become a reality against the Mexicans.
“There is no recognised left-back, but it gives us the opportunity to experiment. We could possibly play three centre-halves and two wing-backs. James has done that before.
“It gives us the chance for a bit of experimentation.”
Playing three centre-backs has become a popular system in recent seasons having been a worldwide favourite in the mid 1990s. Chelsea and Juventus are two prime examples of European clubs who use the system with Wales using the formation to great effect in Euro 2016.
England experimented with at 3-4-3 system earlier this year against Germany and Ireland’s upcoming opponents Austria have trialled it in their last two matches. Serbia also used a a similar variation when Ireland travelled to Belgrade making it a system worth considering for O’Neill.
The Derryman has a history of playing with a back three with Leicester and Celtic with a three-man midfield and two up front. Considering Ireland have the pacy wide options of Cyrus Christie, Robbie Brady and, as suggested by O’Neill, McClean, it could be an option worth exploring in friendly matches.
The eventual return of Seamus Coleman would also represent the ideal player for such a system that would also allow for the selection of two strikers, which O’Neill has favoured for Ireland in the past. The tactician has also shown preference to a three-man midfield during his Ireland tenure, which would also make the system ideal down the line, especially considering he has alternated between a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 and a diamond 4-4-2 in the past two years or so.
Although this is unlikely to be the exact team, a hypothetical selection with three at the back against Mexico could look something like this.
An alternative would be two midfielders with Daryl Horgan and Callum O’Dowda in the two advanced roles.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena