It’s 3421 to beat Chelsea with Saka and Maitland Niles as Wing-backs


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Since the opening day defeat, given the quality of the opposition, in the next 2 matches for Arsenal, I have been pondering whether Arteta might opt for the comfort of three at the back for the Chelsea match. Of course, he has done so before, matched up his West London rivals and with some degree of success. Tuchel has transformed Chelsea in to a formidable, well drilled outfit and recent form over Lampard’s team can be discounted. A key element in the improving fortunes under the German has been a fairly consistent, 3 at the back set up, which worked exceedingly will for Conte a few years back.

Give the fact that Aubameyang and Lacazette, are recovering from COVID and will not have proper match fitness, I think Arteta is unlikely to risk both on Sunday. This may also encourage him to consider a change in formation. It would certainly suit Ben White’s attributes and he played in a back 3 all of last season. I am not suggesting that this would be a permanent switch, as we now know that we have Odegaard back and available for the ensuing fixtures.

What did surprise me, was that when I asked on Gunnerstown Twitter yesterday, whether other fans were thinking the same way, a staggering 88% were also in favour of a 3421 formation for Sunday.

Perhaps after the shock of the defeat at Brentford, we are seeking the comfort blanket of 3 at the back but does matching Chelsea’s system make sense with players available? My answer, on this occasion is actually in the affirmative. Until we have the first choice more mobile, athletic partnership of White and Gabriel I think the 3421 is very appealing. I would like to see Mari, drop out, with Tierney deployed a LCB, alongside Holding and White, with the latter on the right.


Stay and play or away?

Not for the long-term but on Sunday I suggest Saka as the left wing-back and Maitland-Niles on the right. The latter is still with us, and he is the most mobile of the options, with Bellerin’s head clearly elsewhere. The advantages of playing AMN are twofold. If he plays well, it might encourage him to rethink the right back/right wingback option going forward and equally puts the player in the shop window at the end of the window.  Bukayo Saka can afford to be very aggressive at left wing back, overlapping and getting well forward, knowing he will have both Tierney and Xhaka as his safety net.

I think Xhaka and Lokonga is a self-selecting central partnership in Partey’s continued absence and ahead of them I would like to see Smith Rowe and Pepe, flexible and interchangeable behind Aubameyang if he is fit enough or Martinelli is not. I see no sense, despite his superior attributes for the sole striker role, in playing Lacazette is he is so obviously available for sale.  The Saka/Smith Rowe partnership and chemistry can have a vital role to pay and will test Chelsea on the right.


ESR and Saka key but Pepe under threat. (Thanks to Stu Macfarlane/AFC Getty)

After Brentford, it is more of the same please from ESR, who was one of the few who performed at the correct level, but it is a crucial game for the inconsistent Ivorian. Pepe finished 20/21 in fine form and needs to swiftly find that performance level again on Sunday because once Arteta reverts to 4231, I am sure that his go to 3 will be ESR, left, Odegaard at 10 and Saka on the right. The onus is on Pepe to convince his manager that he deserves to start in one of the wide berths.

So, here is my 11 for Sunday at home to Chelsea:

football formations


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4 Responses to It’s 3421 to beat Chelsea with Saka and Maitland Niles as Wing-backs

  1. Evin Brown August 20, 2021 at 12:21 pm #

    Would swap chambers for holding and play him on the right with ben white in the centre

    • Dave Seager August 20, 2021 at 1:27 pm #

      Maybe but White and Tieney can step out and Holding can sit. Arteta seldom selected CC over RH at centre back.

  2. Andrew B (Dallas) August 20, 2021 at 4:13 pm #

    Your wing backs vs. My wing backs !
    Can Saka/AMN push James/Alonso back and stop them getting forward ?
    Is Xhaka able to cover Mount/Pulisic who like that inside right position and to run at speed ?
    Can White man mark Lukaku and Tierney stifle Havertz ?
    ESR sitting on and stifling Jorginho could be key.

  3. blave August 20, 2021 at 7:01 pm #

    Agree about AMN. I don’t understand why we haven’t plugged him in at right back already. He seems like such a better option than the rest of our guys at this point and especially if we go with a back 3 (which I also expect) should be the obvious choice as wingback.

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