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Analysis: Could This 3-4-3 Lineup Propel Arsenal Back Into The Thick Of The Title Race?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger deep in thought prior to the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on December 13, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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.

 

Goalkeeper:

Petr Cech

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Petr Cech of Arsenal shows appreciation to the fans after the final whistle during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 19, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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.

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Defenders:

Centre-Back: Per Mertesacker

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Per Mertesacker of Arsenal and Jack Colback of Newcastle United compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on January 2, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Centre-Back: Laurent Koscielny

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal (L) and Adama Traore of Middlesbrough (R) battle for possession during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Middlesbrough at Emirates Stadium on October 22, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Centre-Back: Shkodran Mustafi

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 06: Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur tackles Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on November 6, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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.

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Midfielders:

Right Wing-Back: Héctor Bellerín

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Hector Bellerin of Arsenal in action during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Middlesbrough at Emirates Stadium on October 22, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Left Wing-Back: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal tackles Idrissa Gueye of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on December 13, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: (L-R) Granit Xhaka of Arsenal and Ross Barkley of Everton compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on December 13, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Centre-Midfield: Aaron Ramsey

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 30: Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal holds off pressure from Harrison Reed of Southampton during the EFL Cup quarter final match between Arsenal and Southampton at the Emirates Stadium on November 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

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.

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Forwards:

Right Wing: Theo Walcott

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Theo Walcott of Arsenal celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Left Wing: Mesut Özil

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 18: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal (R) shoots during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Striker: Alexis Sánchez

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal is pursued by Seamus Coleman of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on December 13, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.


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