Arsenal’s Transition Into 4-3-3 Finally Materialising

Arsenal, Mikel Arteta (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Mikel Arteta (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) /

There’s good reason why Mikel Arteta has played a back five.

Actually, there are three reasons. Firstly, having centre-backs who aren’t steadfast enough to play in a back four comes into the equation. As known, Arsenal have a few of these.

Secondly, when you have full-backs who can contribute in an attacking sense, like Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney, then against lesser opposition their starting points can be much higher, therefore accentuating their creative prowess.

Finally, not having a recognised, senior No. 10 (who is good enough) means you’re hamstrung in the middle of the park and forced to rely on wide areas as the starting point for goals.

However, against Manchester City – despite what the broadcasters may have suggested before kick off – this was a 4-3-3. It’s appeared fleetingly in stages since 3-4-3 became the primary setup, but this was it in its most purest, and noticeable form.

Bukayo Saka flourished on the left of the midfield trio, while Tierney and Bellerin assumed their slots as natural full-backs. There was less bombardment down the flanks from them as a result, but in the defensive shape they took on the roles they’ve grown up fine-tuning.

It never stayed set in that shape, as has been a common feature throughout Arteta’s tenure, but this was the indicator that Arsenal are transitioning into the team the Spaniard wants to build. Many expected Thomas Partey to be the instigator, but while he didn’t start against City, his addition helped trigger it.

Operating in a three-man midfield is how most of this season and beyond will now pan out. The addition of progression with Partey certainly helped, but so too has the emergence of Gabriel Magalhaes, who has exceeded expectations since coming into the team. He’d be comfortable in a one-man defence if he had to.

With the team growing into the formation and re-learning, if you like, the roles bestowed upon them, we’re starting to see the inner workings of what Arteta wants Arsenal to be. Was it a mistake to do so against City? I wouldn’t say so. Not since it has been implemented in some capacity over recent weeks.

Next. Things Learned. dark

Watching the team develop within this strategy is further reason for optimism after what was another defeat on the road. With Partey to come in and Saka blossoming in his free-roaming LCM slot, bring on Leicester on matchday six.