There is an increasing trend it seems in the Premier League to play variations of systems that deploy three central defenders. Indeed, so far this season, it is only Wenger and Arsenal from the current top six that have not experimented with three at the back. Conte and Chelsea have stormed the league with a flexible 343 that they switched to at half time after losing three swift goals at the Emirates in September. Tottenham now seemed to have settled on the system as well that allows their coach to fit Dier, Dembele and Wanyama into his team at the same time. This flexibility saw him nominally move his 10, Eriksen, out wide to allow Alli to play central and closer to Kane. Even Man United and Mourinho are now playing some games away from home with the three. Man City seem to play a three with no wing-backs, which is intriguing.
In around 2008, Wenger was at the vanguard of the movement that saw most clubs switch from 442 to 4231. In fact I distinctly recall the pundits and commentators at the time when we played only one striker, away in Europe calling it 451. Many mistakenly saw it as negative and defensive but within a few years, most of the top teams in Europe and in England were set up that way. So much so that many described 442 as dead. Now in 2017 Arsenal and Arsene are still primarily wedded to a system designed for Cesc Fabregas to thrive in, that does not always work for us now.
This season, as in 2014/15 Wenger has dabbled with the 433/4141 and a flatter midfield but in truth has this just been in games where he has not had Ozil available, rather than a conscious decision to seriously experiment. I do wonder if one of the varieties of three at the back might work for him if he were willing to try it. Given the current trend and the squad selection, I am thinking that Gareth Southgate is considering this option for this Wednesday’s friendly with Germany and of course our own Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in in the squad. The Germany v England Odds are not stacked in England’s favour but I sense Southgate will be his own man and a brave coach for the Three Lions. He has Cahill, Smalling and Stones all currently playing in three regularly for their club and of course, he has Eric Dier as well. In Rose and Walker two players operating as wing-backs. Rose is out injured but Bertrand would comfortably play that role on the left. The question then is does he play the 352 version or the 343 version and where might Chamberlain be deployed?
This might depend on whether Southgate wants Dier in midfield or in defence but I suspect the Chelsea set up could suit England and Ox and in turn perhaps it might suit Arsenal. The 343 could see Chamberlain in one of the two central midfield berths. With the exception of Dier and Livermore, the other midfielders are very attack minded and the Arsenal player has shown of late that he has the discipline to sit in the central area. This would see two of Sterling, Alli and Lallana supporting Vardy or Defoe. Wenger has always said he saw Chamberlain long term as a central player and he may just have the chance to seize the opportunity now for club and country. Wenger has argued about Chamberlain and others during his tenure that time spent playing out wide ultimately improved a player long term in the central role. Ray Parlour might concur but I suspect Aaron Ramsey might not! Although sadly I suspect Ox may see his future away from North London, just when he is finally coming good and another competitor may benefit from his long apprenticeship.
However just for the fun of it I thought I would imagine that our manager is still able and willing to experiment and be radical. Actually, following modern thinking coaches may not be radical but it might be good practice if he was not so proud. Allowing for injuries and form an Arsenal 343 right now could look something like this.
Bellerin and Gibbs would take to the wide roles with ease as both enjoy the attacking side of the game, although both would need to work on their crossing. This system allows us to bring Holding into the team, as he is undoubtedly our future and good enough now. We do not have a Kante of course but I would like to see Xhaka and Chamberlain in the centre. The Costa role goes to Welbeck with Alexis and Ozil our Hazard and Pedro. Seeing those two with a free role behind a mobile striker has to get your juices flowing. There are many variations to this theme to be sure and many of you will have Ramsey in there or perhaps Theo Walcott but suffice to say we certainly have the players to experiment. I fear we have a coach who will simply not do so but who knows what is around the corner.
Give us your 343 11’s in the comments of on Twitter @gunnerstown.