Arsenal’s form in recent weeks has seen them fall back behind Chelsea in the race for the Premier League title.
Arsène Wenger’s side had been ticking over nicely since a sluggish start to the season – in fact, they even led the table briefly at the beginning of the month. However, two consecutive defeats (in matches they had taken the lead), coupled with Chelsea’s rampant form, have seen a nine point gap open up between themselves and their London rivals.
Throughout the season, indeed for the past few seasons, Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 has been a staple of his tactical set-up, rarely swaying from his adherence to using two in midfield behind a number ten, two wingers and a central striker.
However, in this era of tactical changes from just about all of his rivals, could a shift in the system be in order for the Gunners. It is unlikely to happen of course given Wenger’s dogmatic approach, but would a 3-4-3 (similar to Chelsea’s) make the best of the talent available to the Arsenal boss, or at least give the starting eleven a fresh threat to the opposition.
Regardless of the formation in front of him, Cech is Arsenal’s best goalkeeping option by some distance, and a 3-4-3 switch would do nothing to change that.
Centre-Back: Per Mertesacker
Centre-Back: Laurent Koscielny
Centre-Back: Shkodran Mustafi
In Laurent Koscielny and Shkordran Mustafi, Arsenal possess one of the best defensive partnerships in the league. As such, this might be the biggest casualty in a shake-up. Of course, both would be talented enough to make it work.
The other berth, however, would be a bit of a challenge. The most obvious to fill it would be club captain Per Mertescaker. Indeed, in a formation where his lack of pace and tackling ability at his age would be masked by having two defenders next to him, allowing him to focus on passing.
That being said, Rob Holding and Gabriel would also be candidates – so too would Francis Coquelin, whom Wenger has talked up as a potential central defender in the future.
Right Wing-Back: Héctor Bellerín
Left Wing-Back: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
In Héctor Bellerin, Arsenal already have one of the most attacking full-backs in the Premier League. The Spanish international had ten assists in all competitions last season, and a further two in this campaign, and seems tailor-made for the wing-back role.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, however, would require a bit of work. The England international played as a full-back in the closing stages of the 1-1 draw at Manchester United earlier in the season, drawing praise from Jamie Carragher in the process, but he would have to shift mentality for it to work in the long run.
That said, his dribbling ability and link-up play would be strong assets to have for the role – and with Özil in front of him cutting inside more often than not, he would have free rein of the Arsenal left flank.
Centre-Midfield: Granit Xhaka
Centre-Midfield: Aaron Ramsey
Although Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin are Wenger’s first choice central midfielders, that comes with the caveat of having Mesut Özil directly in front of them. In this formation, although the German international is still involved, he would be in a slightly wider position.
To that end, Ramsey and Xhaka are arguably better suited to a two-man central midfield, given how more well-rounded they are as players. The former’s ball retention, passing ability and vision to spot a counter-attack, combined with the latter’s physicality and ability to break up opposition attacks could mesh well in the centre of the Arsenal midfield.
Right Wing: Theo Walcott
Left Wing: Mesut Özil
Striker: Alexis Sánchez
Walcott has been a player reborn this season and has made the right-wing spot his own. Sánchez too has been phenomenal since moving to a central role at the beginning of the season – as such, there is not much of a reason to move either player.
The use of Özil would be interesting, however. As with Eden Hazard at Chelsea, the German playmaker would ideally be preferring to play in the number ten role, but fewer top clubs these days are actually using a designated player for that role. Like Hazard, a move to the left would see Özil occupy the role but still retain the space in the centre to be at his creative best.