Arsenal Vs Sheffield United: 5 things we learned – Dani Ceballos rescues Gunners
4. Arteta turns to back three
Before lockdown, Mikel Arteta exclusively used a 4-2-3-1 shape. This allowed him to craft the team around Mesut Ozil, who can feature in the number 10 position and nowhere else. But with Ozil now banished from the team, Arteta has rotated through different systems. And on this occasion, he introduced a back three for the first time.
Arteta certainly hinted at it in the midweek win over Southampton. Officially a 4-3-3, Bukayo Saka played the left central midfield role almost like a wing-back at times. On this occasion, it was a more orthodox 3-4-3 with Saka pushed into the front three, Kieran Tierney and Ainsley Maitland-Niles manning the wing-back roles, and Sead Kolasinac sliding into the back three.
Bar a shaky first 10 minutes, the formation worked well. Nicolas Pepe was more influential as he drifted into central spaces, both Maitland-Niles and Tierney were superb, while three centre-backs provided Arsenal with the opportunity to play out against just two Sheffield United attackers. Whether Arteta continues with the back three remains to be seen, but it is encouraging to see the team adapt tactically.