In his 21 years at Arsenal Football Club, ##Arsene wenger has become synonymous with an entertaining and, at times, beautiful style of football, which fans have since dubbed "Wengerball." During his early days with the Gunners, the Frenchman preferred to play in a 4-4-2 formation but has now moved on to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Tactically, Wenger is not the type of manager who's known to experiment with new formations and usually sticks to his game plan.
As a result of his unwillingness to adapt, the 67-year-old has been criticised by fans and the media alike, and many have called his tactical approach too predictable. In a surprising twist, Arsenal lined up in a 3-4-3 formation against Middlesbrough on Monday night. Wenger has now explained his decision to switch things up at the Riverside Stadium.
Arsenal needed to work on their defence, says Wenger
In the post-match interview following the Gunners' win, Wenger explained that the formation switch was meant to address the Gunner's poor defensive record in recent games. Last Monday, Arsenal were surprisingly beaten by Crystal Palace, and Wilfried Zaha, the Eagles' standout player that night, effortlessly tore the Gunner's defence to shreds. Subsequently, Wenger felt the need to revitalise his team's vulnerable defence and believed that a formation switch could do the trick.
"I felt that we were recently a bit vulnerable defensively and to give a bit more reassurance to the team. Recently, we faced many direct games, I thought before the game maybe they'd play with Gestede and Negredo and go for a very direct game," said Wenger.
The 3-4-3 formation is, of course, most famously associated with Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who decided to switch things up after his team succumbed to the Gunners back in September. Other #Premier League teams, such as Manchester City and Tottenham, have since experimented with the 3-4-3 formation. However, Arsenal's 3-4-3 formation was a little different from the rest. During yesterday's match, their formation turned out to be more of a 3-5-2, with Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud spearheading the attack..
Formation switch is proof that I can change, says Wenger
The Gunners have been struggling for form since Christmas, and Wenger, whose contract expires at the end of this season, has been put under immense pressure by an increasing portion of disgruntled Arsenal fans, who want the Frenchman out of the club. As previously mentioned, Wenger has been criticised for his lack of tactical adaptability on numerous occasions. After Arsenal's 2:1 win against Middlesbrough, however, Wenger has claimed that the formation switch is proof that he can still adapt.
Speaking about the formation change, Wenger jokingly said: "That shows you that even in my age you can change." Regardless, Wenger remains unsure whether he'd use this formation again. "Overall I felt that it worked quite well today because we won the game. We had practised on it before at some stage, [but] we like offensive football so this was a bit more defensive-minded for us," said the 67-year-old. It remains to be seen how the Gunners will line up against Manchester City in the semi-final of the FA Cup - their only chance at silverware this season.