Arsenal Commentary: Switching To 3-5-2 Is The Dramatic Move Arsene Wenger Needs To Save Arsenal's Season


Arsenal's faltering season demands dramatic action. That action should take the form of a tactical shift, involving switching the formation to a 3-5-2.

It would represent a major change for Arsene Wenger. The Gunners have always operated a four-man defence throughout the Frenchman's lengthy tenure in charge. However, the under-pressure boss needs to make a decisive alteration to reverse the struggles of this season's squad.

Wenger has never been closer to the brink than he is at this moment. Knocked out of both domestic cup competitions by lower-league opponents and four points off the top four. That's the embarrassing reality Wenger must confront.

He has already shown a willingness to respond to the challenges of this season. He has promoted an increased commitment to securing and building a core of home-grown, British talent.

Wenger has also already contemplated switching formations, with a move to a three-man defence mooted earlier in the season. There are certainly advantages to making the switch for this beleaguered Arsenal squad.

Issues in defence have continued to be the bane of Wenger's team this season. That's despite the promotion of Steve Bould to assistant manager, dropping more numbers behind the ball in midfield and a new zonal-marking scheme.

Adding one more player to the heart of the defence could solve many of these problems. It would also remove the task of trying to find the right pairing between Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen.

As individuals, each of this trio have issues. Mertesacker lacks quickness and agility. Vermaelen is enthusiastic, but unskilled and reckless. Koscielny, is smart and technically sound, but timid.

Yet as a combined force these three stoppers could complement one another perfectly. Flanking Mertesacker with Koscielny and Vermaelen would limit his exposure against pacey attackers.

It would allow the Germany international to still provide Arsenal with a calm, intelligent presence across the back line. Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of the 3-5-2 would be Arsenal's full-backs.

The Gunners rely on speed and attacking verve at full-back. Their players at the position are often tasked with being attackers first, defenders second. In a four-man defence, that often leaves the team exposed.

Yet in a 3-5-2 it is precisely the idea. Playing as wing-backs would allow Bacary Sagna, Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs to flourish. They would operate more often in areas where they can do the most damage.

Their presence in midfield, would create a five-man wall in the middle. This number would also remove the need for a robust defensive midfielder. This means Arsenal can stick with their existing trio of Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere in the middle.

Consider the current masters of the formation, Juventus. Their midfield is the best in Europe, yet operates without a physical destroyer. Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal combine to win the possession battle, thanks to the defensive support from wing-backs Stephan Lichtsteiner and Andrea Barzagli.

More importantly, in a 3-5-2 the midfield's dominance is assured thanks to interchanging and combination play. Wenger loves his players to interchange, based on intelligence and fluidity.

The 3-5-2 is the perfect formation for a midfield featuring Arsenal's creative, flair players. A lack of movement has been a problem this season, in Arsenal's more static 4-3-3, 4-5-1 hybrid.

The obvious point against Arsenal adopting the formation is the need to drop one of the front three. After all, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott have combined for 44 goals so far this season.

However, the three have scored in clutches, rather than consistently. Finding a capable pairing instead, could produce more consistent results. Giroud and Walcott have shown signs of being a prolific, complementary tandem.

Playing just two up front would also answer the issue of depth. The odd man out would instantly upgrade Arsenal's reserves at striker, with only Gervinho currently available as a direct replacement.

Adopting the 3-5-2 is Arsenal's best way to introduce more flexibility in their tactics and more fluidity to their play. With the ball they will have a five-man midfield, that will allow the likes of Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott more space.

With three central defenders and a deep midfielder, Arsenal will also have an extra man at the back. This will fix their long-standing issues against quick counter-attacks.

Out of possession, the Gunners will have an eight-man defensive wall. They will also have the strength of Giroud and the pace of Walcott, as targets for counter-attacks of their own.

Implementing the 3-5-2 is the bold move Wenger must make to salvage his toughest ever season.

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