The Omnipresent 3-Man Defence
Which Premier League teams have used a 3-man defence this season?
When Antonio Conte arrived at Chelsea, his preference for a 3-man defence was common knowledge, however, nobody could have envisaged how successful it would turn out to be. While a back three is generally made up of centre-backs, it is the full-backs playing in an advanced role, commonly referred to as wing-backs, that have collected their fair share of headlines.
The Blues picked up another precious 3 points on Saturday, thanks partly to 2 goals from wing-back Marcos Alonso and the fixture also marked the first occasion this season in which current champions’ Leicester City have opted to use a 3-man defence. According to WhoScored, the Foxes were one of 8 sides that set up with three at the back in GW21, choosing to go with a system that has been much maligned in the past.
Alonso wasn’t the only wing-back to be directly involved in goals either. West Ham United’s Michail Antonio created all 3 goals for his side, while Hull City’s Andrew Robertson, Everton’s Seamus Coleman and Kyle Walker of Spurs all chipped in with an assist as well.
Since the start of the season 13 of the 20 English Premier League clubs have opted to set up their formations, utilising a 3-man defence on at least one occasion, with the exceptions being Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Burnley.
Middlesbrough, who have scored just 17 goals all season, the lowest total in the division, also deployed three at the back for the first time last weekend. It will be interesting to see whether Aitor Karanka sticks with the tactic going forward, as he looks to address their slide towards the drop zone and if he does, whether Fabio and George Friend will continue to occupy the wing-back berths.
Full-backs operating in a flat-back 4 also got in on the act over the weekend, with Antonio Valencia setting up Zlatan Ibrahimović for Manchester United’s equaliser, after Liverpool full-back James Milner had put the Reds ahead from the penalty spot.
Former Manchester United youngster Donald Love also registered an assist after teeing up Jermain Defoe with a consolation goal for Sunderland in their 3-1 home defeat to Stoke City.
If the popularity of the 3-man defence continues to rise unabated, it is likely to change the dynamics of fantasy football team selection, with the position a player is categorised in becoming even more important. Antonio, for instance, is classified as a midfielder in most game formats, whereas Walker and Alonso are very much defenders. This is an important factor to take into consideration, since midfielders and defenders will be subject to different scoring criteria on most sites.
Keep a close eye on any transfer dealings before the window closes, especially if full-backs are on the move to any of the teams that have deployed a 3-man defence in their starting formations this season!