How Arsenal’s switch to a 3-man defence transformed Arsene Wenger’s fortunes
Something happened to Arsene Wenger on the 10th April. The Frenchman was on the brink, having just seen his side ripped apart by Crystal Palace in the Monday Night Football. With a 10-2 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich still fresh in the mind there could surely only be one outcome – the axe!
However, it never fell….maybe Big Sam had a quiet word in his ear or the Arsenal manager stumbled across our earlier column in which we clearly pinpointed where he was failing! Whatever it was, it certainly acted as a catalyst as something finally snapped inside Wenger. His stubbornness subsided as he made the switch to a 3-man defence and Arsenal were suddenly a transformed side.
Wenger would be rewarded with, not only a new contract but also by clinching another FA Cup, making Arsenal the standout performers in the history of the competition, with 12 victories to their name
Wenger had chosen to ditch his tried and tested 4-2-3-1, opting instead to go with the in-vogue 3-man defence, in a new 3-4-2-1 formation for the last 10 games of the season. The Gunners saw off Manchester City and Chelsea in the cup as well as notching up 7 wins from 8 Premier League games. Even though they missed out on Champions League qualification, Arsenal scored 16 times in those 8 league games, conceding just 5 goals in the sequence.
With that contract extension signed, one would imagine that the 3-man defence is in for the long haul so what are its implications for the fantasy football manager?
Who will occupy those wing-back positions?
The big question that fantasy football managers need to address ahead of the new season revolves around those wing-back positions and more specifically, who is likely to fill them?
Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso showed just how priceless a full-back deployed in one of those advanced wing-back berths can be, chipping in with 6 goals and 3 assists on top of a plethora of clean sheets during the Blues stroll to the title and it has not gone unnoticed.
This makes Wenger’s recent capture of Sead Kolašinac all the more intriguing. Despite scoring for Bosnia against Argentina at the 2014 World Cup finals, it’s unlikely that too many fantasy football managers, let alone Arsenal fans, will have remembered him, so Oulala have taken a look at how he stands up against Nacho Monreal and Kieren Gibbs, the two players that are likely to be in direct competition for that left-sided wing-back role.
Kolašinac displays some impressive stats and he looks like exactly the sort of player that could accrue his fair share of bonus points. Versatility seems to be one of his strong suits, having played around half of his games for Schalke last season at left back, in a back four and the other half as a left-sided midfielder, which obviously contributed to his eye-catching goals and assists tally.
Nacho Monreal could be utilised as one of the 3 centre-backs, with the Bosnian looking more likely than Kieren Gibbs to nail down that left wing-back role.
Even though Alex Oxlade Chamberlain started at left wing-back in the cup final, question marks remain about his long-term future at the Emirates and assuming he does stay, it would seem more likely that he plays back up to Héctor Bellerín for the right-sided spot.
Wenger faces some big challenges over the summer – he needs to build a squad that can compete for the title, by strengthening his team in key areas and hanging on to his prized assets but a fascinating sub-plot during the pre-season fixtures will be how he sets up his formation, specifically in those wide areas.
Could we unearth another piece of fantasy gold?