Arsene Wenger signed a new two-year contract at Arsenal at the end of last season, firmly ending speculation of his retirement.
Overall, Arsenal endured a dismal 2016/17 campaign, which saw them fail to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in 17 years. Sounds disastrous, right? Well, there were promising signs emerging from the Emirates Stadium in the closing stages of the season.
Arsene Wenger opted for a back-three, which remarkably improved Arsenal’s form and formed a late push for Champions League qualification. Despite beating Everton on the final day of the season, it was too little too late for the gunners.
Liverpool clinched fourth spot and Arsenal were demoted to the less prestigious UEFA Europa League. Arsenal ended the 2016/17 campaign on a high note, by winning a record 13th FA Cup against Premier League champions Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
Arsenal have made two key signings during the summer transfer window. Sead Kolasinac, heralded as one of the best left-backs in the Bundesliga, joined from FC Schalke on a free transfer. Alexandre Lacazette followed from Lyon for a club record fee of £46.5 million including potential add-ons.
One of the most important tasks this summer is to keep hold of Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil. The Arsenal duo are yet to sign new contracts, with their current contracts set to expire next summer.
Sanchez, Ozil and Lacazette could form an unstoppable attacking trio next season, which means it’s of huge importance to prevent them moving elsewhere. The future looks bright for Arsenal, especially considering Wenger is keen on revolutionising his outdated and predictable brand of centralised possession football.
Arsenal’s Defensive Formation
Petr Cech is a commanding goalkeeper, who’ll be key in ensuring the three-man defence remains efficient, equipped and organized. He’s an experienced winner due to his glory days with Chelsea and is the perfect fit to help Arsenal rightfully return to the pinnacle.
Rob Holding enjoyed various strong performances towards the end of the 2016/17 season. He was used sparingly by Arsene Wenger in the opening two thirds of the season but played a vital role in Arsenal’s back-three in the closing stages.
He featured in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, performing impeccably for the gunners at Wembley Stadium. He remains a promising and potential future star but learning from Arsenal’s experienced Frenchman Laurent Koscielny will further enhance his knowledge of the beautiful game.
The 21-year-old featured in England’s under-21 European Championships campaign in Poland. The three lions reached the semi-finals, where they were subsequently and ironically knocked out on penalties by Germany.
Laurent Koscielny will be the leader at the back, his qualities and experience are essential to solidifying the back-three. He will aid the development of Rob Holding and help Nacho Monreal continue to adapt to playing in central defence.
Monreal is one of the most underrated defenders in the Premier League and is even more valuable due to his versatility. Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta surprisingly made a smooth transition from full-back to centre-back.
The two central defenders on either side have the role of providing defensive width, which will be expected of Rob Holding and Nacho Monreal. Laurent Koscielny will be expected to play a sweeping role by dominating the central area and creating defensive cohesion.
The wing-backs will be essential in both defence and attack, as seen by other teams employing the same system. Chelsea and Juventus enjoyed success with their wing backs last season and Arsenal have similar players to bring similar success.
Hector Bellerin, who has persistently been linked with Barcelona this summer, looks set to stay at the Emirates Stadium. He’s extremely quick and will have more opportunities to utilize his sprint speed in offensive scenarios due to Arsenal’s back-three adding extra security.
Sead Kolasinac could prove to be the bargain buy of the season. I’m truly in disbelief that Arsenal have acquired the services of such a talented player on a free transfer. He’s played in central defence, left-back and left-wing back during his spell at FC Schalke.
Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey could form a complimentary partnership in the middle of the park. Xhaka would take defensive responsibilities, whereas Ramsey will be given the licence to attack.
It’s imperative that the duo perform their roles correctly because they could leave a gaping hole in front of the defence by committing themselves forward unnecessarily. They will also have to be creative with their visionary to spot the runs of the wing-backs.
Arsenal’s Attacking Formation
The mouth-watering prospect of Arsenal’s attacking trio is enough to have any Premier League defender shaking anxiously in their boots. It’s unarguable that Alexis Sanchez, Mezut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette will simply tear defences into shreds next season.
Originally, Ozil and Sanchez will be set-up to play on the flanks but opportunities will regularly arise in central positions. Chelsea wingers Pedro and Hazard regularly drifted inside to offer the opportunity for the wing-backs to make overlapping runs.
Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez also have similar abilities to cause problems from central areas. Ozil is creative, magical and imaginative, which will be perfect for Alexandre Lacazette to feed off. Alexis Sanchez will also be given the licence to cause problems from long range and combine with Ozil in the final third.
Alexandre Lacazette, a proven goal scorer in the French Ligue 1, will ideally be able to feed of Arsenal’s most precious duo. He’s the icing on the cake, as long as Arsenal keep hold of Sanchez and Ozil this summer.
Why Arsenal should play with a back-three?
It’s become incredibly tedious for Arsenal supporters over the past 13 years both domestically and in Europe. The days of the “invincibles” are nothing but a distant memory and supporters became divided regarding Arsene Wenger’s future.
The Frenchman will remain at the club for the next two seasons but looks committed to innovating and revolutionising his outdated and predictable brand of football. They’ve persistently attempted to pass their way through the middle in recent years but have been unable to enjoy consistent success from this philosophical approach.
Therefore, change is required at the Emirates Stadium and it’s more needed now than ever before during Wenger’s reign. The back-three should complement each other nicely due to the youthful energy of Rob Holding, experience of Laurent Koscielny and providence of defensive width from Nacho Monreal.
Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac will be instrumental both defensively and offensively. It’s imperative that they don’t neglect their defensive duties but they’ll also be given more licence to bomb forward and create attacking opportunities in the final third.
Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will ignite the fire in the midfield, by triggering attacking opportunities from central areas. They can also provide width by finding the wing-backs or advancing the ball forward into central areas to any of the three forwards.
Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil will be the catalysts but will have to be well-balanced next term. The pair will be able to roam freely in central areas to either invite overlapping runs from Bellerin and Kolasinac or find Alexandre Lacazette.
Arsenal have been craving a goal machine since the departure of Robin Van Persie to Manchester United in August 2012. The Frenchman is the icing on top of the cake and will be the target man, who must be prolific and clinical in front of goal.