The three-at-the-back formation has been a liability at Arsenal over the years, but one thing is keeping the faith in the newest rendition.
Take any rendition of the back three at Arsenal over the past few years and there have been problems. Simply put, we’re never built for a back three. It requires very specific centerbacks with very specific skillsets and yet again now, we don’t have that.
Shkodran Mustafi may be the guy best equipped to a back three, but that’s hardly a rousing endorsement of the set-up. David Luiz and Sead Kolasinac only make things worse because neither of them is equipped for this kind of formation.
After the Tottenham loss, more fans than ever are crying out to ditch the three-back formation—again. Because it just doesn’t work. Not unless we want to build for it, which I don’t think we do. That’s a commitment.
But there is one rousing endorsement of this back three set, and it’s not the back three at all, but what happens outside of it—the wingbacks.
Between Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney, we have two dynamic players, both entering the prime of their career, who do their due diligence of defending and attacking, and then some.
It’s pretty unanimous that Kieran Tierney has been one of our best players since returning to health. He’s playing every single match and proving to be one of our best and most reliable source of chances from the left-hand side. His delivery is pristine, he’s not one-dimensional, he is so versatile and yet so simple and straightforward.
And Bellerin has been keeping pace. He had his struggles earlier in the restart, but since settling in, he’s been mirroring Tierney, but in his own unique way. He’s been blazing in chances, just like Tierney is, and with his athleticism, very little gets by him—again, just like Tierney.
At fullback, the defensive duties become much more important than the attacking duties and that may end up taking away from their attacking abilities. Which means that keeping the back three, if for no other reason than to keep the wingbacks in place, may well be the answer to unlocking what they provide. Since they won’t provide as fullbacks.
But again, committing to the back three requires the right kind of defenders, which we just don’t have. So unless some work is done this summer to build for a back three, then there’s nothing we can do.