Arsenal: Should new signings call for an end to the 3-4-3?

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Arsene Wenger of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Arsene Wenger of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) /

With new players coming to the club in the summer, Arsenal may need to consider abandoning the 3-4-2-1 formation that has served the team so well late in the season.

After such a tumultuous season Arsenal certainly has a pivotal summer ahead of it. With Arsene Wenger putting pen to paper on a new  2-year extension, many supporters are rightfully skeptical about the ambitions of the board and owner.

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However, statements from the higher powers at Arsenal, including Ivan Gazidis and Arsene Wenger, give the impression that Arsenal is serious about bringing in players who will make a real impact on the team’s title campaign next season.

Arsenal found an upturn in form towards the end of the season after the manager implemented the three at the back formation. The change in shape gave Arsenal greater defensive solidity and brought the best out of some of the club’s underutilized players. Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin, Nacho Monreal, Rob Holding and Shkrodan Mustafi all looked more effective in the new tactical scheme.

Furthermore, the squad proved that it could put forth impressive displays against the very best teams in England. Despite a very disappointing performance against Tottenham, Arsenal actually strung together a slew of impressive results against top sides including Manchester United, Manchester City and league champions Chelsea.

Arsene Wenger completely out-dueled Antonio Conte in the FA Cup final. The Italian manager is possibly the best tactician in the Premier League, but for one game Wenger was the able to tip the scales in his favor.

There is no doubt that the 3-4-2-1 system has served the team well but it is unclear if the manager will persist with it. As the old adage goes you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That is especially true for a man as proud and notoriously stubborn as Arsene Wenger. The change in formation was a good way to refocus the players and get the team through a difficult period, but there is no guarantee that the Frenchman will stick with a formation he is not completely married to.

For years Arsene Wenger has utilized the 4-2-3-1 formation. Although he has been toying with the idea of playing with three at the back, it is hard to believe that he is fully convinced to change his tactics after just nine games. It is completely plausible that Wenger will return to the system that he is more comfortable with.

Ditching the system that has brought the team some semblance of confidence and form would probably be very unpopular among the club’s fan base. However, if the manager is able to bring in some major talent then that could go a long way to assuage the fans.

Arsenal is linked with a host of players including Riyad Mahrez, Thomas Lemar, Alexandre Lacazette and Arda Turan. The Gunners have already had a bid for Kylian Mbappe turned down by Monaco. While the massive bid may have failed and the intervention of Champions League winning Real Madrid will make acquiring Mbappe even more difficult, the statement of intent is encouraging.

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If Arsenal were to add a prolific goal scorer like Mbappe or Lacazette it is most likely that they will be the starting striker above Danny Welbeck or Olivier Giroud.

The addition of Mahrez or Lemar is an interesting one, however. In the three center back system, there are only two spots for attacking midfielders. Arsene Wenger has already stated that Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will not be sold this summer. So that means that a player like Mahrez or Lemar would have to come off the bench over leapfrog one of those two players to get into the starting XI. But if Arsenal reverts back to a 4-2-3-1 that would free up one more slot for a wide forward.

The possibility of an attacking quartet of Mbappe/Lacazette, Alexis, Ozil and Mharez/Lemar is an enticing proposition. That being said Arsenal must be careful about throwing the entire squad out of sync. The progression of players like Rob Holding and Granit Xhaka along with the resurgence of Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin is also very important as well.

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Whatever happens, the manager will need to find a balance between getting the best out of his players and bringing in big players in useful positions.