Wenger: Back three ‘an option’ for FA Cup semi-final

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Having switched a back three for the first time in twenty years this week, Arsene Wenger says that sticking with the same formation is an option for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Man City.

The Arsenal manager was understandably enough not being completely forthcoming about his plans, leaving opposite number Pep Guardiola in some doubt as to his intentions, but says he’ll consider using it again after it helped the team to a 2-1 win over Boro on Monday.

Speaking at his press conference ahead of Sunday’s Wembley showdown, Wenger said, “It is an option, yes. But what will I do? You will understand that I won’t tell you now.

“You know, it was more destined to give us a bit more defensive solidity because recently away from home we conceded too many goals.”

Given that both sides are away from home on Sunday, we’ll have to see what happens – but it will certainly have put a small spoke in Guardiola’s wheel.

Famed for his meticulous preparation of the opposition, he will hardly have considered the possibility of Arsenal playing with anything other than a back four until this week.

Whether it proves to be an advantage for us remains to be seen.

Earlier, Wenger provided the latest team news update, ruling Shkodran Mustafi out of the game, and admitting Danny Welbeck is a doubt, while Lucas Perez and David Ospina remain sidelined for the next little while.

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27 Comments on "Wenger: Back three ‘an option’ for FA Cup semi-final"

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Dan Hunter

Don’t see how a back 3 can be any worse than a back 4 at the moment. Anything that gives us some solidity at the back I am all for because City have been almost as bad as us at the back this season

Mikey

Three is the magic number.

HamiltonGunner

I am wondering if anyone thought the back three actually gave us greater defensive stability. I personally didn’t think we looked any better defensively against Middlesbrough with a back three and we still had the same issues as usual. Thoughts anyone?

Anonymarse

When the opponents are attacking it can become a back 5. I think the defence looked more packed at times last week, which seems like a good thing.

Also you can end up 2 vs 1 in some positions on the pitch.

If you chuck everybody forward and get caught out I’m not sure it really helps though. Maybe then you have 3 CBs instead of 2.

Depends how you play I suppose.

Heavenly Chapecoense

“If you chuck everybody forward and get caught”, Ramsey shouldn’t play in this system then.

Anonymarse

He would be better as one of the forwards i think

PeteyB

I know he is flawed but I still like Rambo. Anyone wonder if Ozil could be convinced to do what Santi did and move deeper, play him alongside Xhaka and Rambo slightly higher.

HamiltonGunner

I understand how a back three can be very fluid and when in defense you can pack the back line but when attacking you can have more players up front.

That being said, I don’t think we looked that great doing it (although it was our first try in a competitive game) and I am worried that we are glossing over the shortcomings of how we played in this system because we are excited that we actually tried something new.

I felt at the end of last game that if we had played a better team they would have torn us apart and my concern is that if we try this against Man City and they decide to show up and play we will get pummeled. That being said if we play with a back four the same might happen.

At the end of the day I don’t think we currently have the players necessary to successfully play this formation. If we try this at Man City and get annihilated then the impetus to change will no longer be there and we will be told “See we changed and we did not win. Better to stay with what we know”. I know that sounds very negative, but just my thoughts and feelings.

Anonymarse

Im not sure any formation change can address our current shortcomings, although when we are playing better we are a match for the likes of city.

Anonymarse

I suppose if we do it right it might help but if we continue to get the
balance wrong nothing will help.

PeteyB

still like the concept of back 3 but wonder if something more like 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 might work.
Strikes me that even with the 3 at the back you need at least one midfield enforcer type (Kante at chelski).
Maybe I’m just so fed up with shipping goals that I’m thinking too conservatively.
I’m thinking 3 centre backs, Bellerin on the right, Gibbs or maybe even the Ox from the left. Xhaka and ? In the middle, Ozil slightly behind the two forwards (Sanchez and …)

Anonymarse

Maybe Coq if he stays put.

Cliff Bastin

As A Cultured Left Foot put it today in his blog, we are $25m (one player?) behind Juventus in terms of overall team value but when it comes to tactics and discipline we’re a million miles away.

Anonymarse

You can’t just go out and buy a chiellini or bonucci no matter how much money you have. How much coaching do you think these kind of players need.

They have been at the top in Italy for a long time and have a lot of good players. Got to be an advantage in terms of attracting the best players. Also sometimes you can get them for less (or free). Like Bayern.

Anonymarse

If we had 3 koscielnys we’d be looking a lot more solid too

Heavenly Chapecoense

If three Kos get exposed many times during games, the result will be the same.

Anonymarse

It’s not just the defenders though is it.

If we still had adams, keown, viera, petit, dixon etc we wouldn’t be having these problems.

Anonymarse

Although i’m not sure a back line with an average age of 50 is the best idea

Anthony

Given what we have conceded this season I’d take a 53 year old David Seaman over our current set of goalkeepers.

Bould\'s Eyeliner

Everyone always says that but I do wonder–generally speaking the game is much more advanced now in every way, and there’s greater equality in skill and finances than ever before. Would they really not have any problems?

Dub

De La Soul reference

Nice, Blogs

Goonie

The change in formation will need some work on the training ground but could work well.

Onenil

Agree. Our focus has been overly attacking and easily exposed on the counter. Our wingbacks are more wing than back and we don’t really do DM.
At least this way we have 3 defenders not 2. However we need to work as a team on defending in a structured way. Attacking improvisation can be brilliant. Our reliance on defensive improvisation is just asking for trouble

Bosscielny

We have to be adaptable. Back 3 works better against a team that plays direct football, whereas city plays anything but.

The game against city will be decided in the midfield. And our midfield didn’t look very solid to me in the Boro game. I’d be more inclined to play 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 against city. Maybe we can go to the back 3 in the game against Leicester though.

Mpls

Part of me really suspects the back three in this match was a dry run for Man City. That, and a way of giving Bellerin a rest, maybe.

But what we really have to do is the discipline side:
1. cut out or at least rush the crosses (lookin’ at you Nacho)
2. track their runs in the middle and dangerous areas
3. win some freaking headers on set pieces

Note that these are things we’ve always needed to do regardless of formation. But I do believe the formation solidifies the back line and midfield against counters and getting overloaded. It also gives Alexis and Ozil a huge amount of creative space and responsibility.

Mpls

*back three in the LAST match

WengerOut

The issue on ground is not a matter of the kinda formation we’re trading…. I think it’s down to mentality issue and it’s courtesy of Wenger… Mustafi had 22matches unbeaten on arrival, don’t tell me he’s a bad defender.. Koscielny, whether you like it or not is the premier League best in that position.. Bellerin dropped, it’s obvious, Monreal can’t deliver more than that, he’s playing his best game for Arsenal…. Wengers mentality himself goes a long way and the way he instill discipline in our players.. We have great players but not delivering… They look cheap

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