Arteta to opt for a back 3 v PSV to rest jaded stars?


Spinning plates

Arsenal are in the middle of a bruising playing schedule and like most fans I was concerned to see the energy and urgency in the team’s performance drop off at St Mary’s on Sunday. Fortunately, Arteta’s team, despite their first dropped Premier League points since the defeat at Old Trafford, still sit 2 points clear at the top of the table.

However, in his desire to win last Thursday against PSV, to push on for early qualification for the Europa League knockout phase, Arteta has perhaps asked certain key individuals to push their bodies more than others. Because those players are so critical, particularly Saka, Jesus, Martinelli and Xhaka, when these are below their usual levels the whole team suffers. I believe this is what we witnessed in the second period on Sunday against Southampton, and it cost the team 2 points, as the first half display was so dominant.

Granit Xhaka has barely been rested this campaign and has played over 1200 minutes and Saka similarly has played over 1100. Jesus and Martinelli have also played over 1000 minutes. These players are all major contributors to our Premier League position, but we all want them to continue to be that and a good rest before Sunday’s clash with Nottingham Forest is essential in my view.


Jaded Stars in need of rest

It is for this reason that I have been pondering how Arteta might reshuffle his pack when the team travels to Holland on Thursday. Obviously, despite being all but there, a point would see Arsenal secure top spot and mean he could play an entire second string in the final match at home to Zurich. So, how could the team set up against a PSV side who have been free scoring at home, stay competitive and still manage to rest the stars who have played more minutes than their peers?

Perhaps Arteta might consider a one game reversion to the system that won him and Arsenal the FA Cup in 2020 and opt for a back 3? We have seen the team shift to this during matches and we know he experimented in pre-season so it should not be difficult for the squad to adapt. Rob Holding is a regular in the Europa League and experienced playing in a back 3, where his lack of pace is less exposed. Because Gabriel has also had to play most of the Europa matches, being our only left footed central defender, I propose he be rested and would play Saliba and White either side of Holding. Both have played less than the Brazilian and the young Frenchman played a whole season at left centre back in Ligue Un.


Will do a job on Gakpo

The four across the middle would be Tierney and Tomiyasu as the wingbacks and Partey and Lokonga in the middle. Despite having started the last few, the Japanese International has only played 600 plus minutes and Tierney the same. Admittedly, Tomiyasu is less attacking, but the imbalance is not unusual in Arteta’s teams, and it offers the double benefit of allowing a specialist defender nullify Cody Gakpo, as he did Mo Salah a few weeks ago. The Scot will therefore obviously have far more licence to attack on the flank, which is his strength.

Partey has played far les than Xhaka and will offer the senior head in the centre alongside the young Belgian. Sambi Lokonga, who has looked superb when called upon and having the Ghanaian alongside him will allow to express himself more going forward.

This leaves a relatively inexperienced but talented and fresh front three of Reiss Nelson on the left and Fabio Vieira on the right (effectively as dual 10s,) supporting Eddie Nketiah. I have no concerns about Nketiah deputising for Jesus on Thursday and both Nelson and Vieira will relish the chance to show their manager they deserve Premier League minutes, or to impress potential loan suitors in the case of the Englishman. In addition, Nelson having played over 20 matches in the Dutch top-flight last season should know the opposition well enough.


Dual 10

Obviously, we can have some of the rested stars on the bench if this plan B is not successful but in reality, this solid shape, which will present an experienced back 5 without the ball, with Partey just in front of them, should be quite capable of limiting PSV. We may, on paper look less exciting or threatening going forward, but the young guns might surprise a few.

Either way, having seen our tired and flat Premier League second half showings post Europa Thursdays, not only at St Mary’s but also the week previously at Elland Rd, I feel this drastic action is merited. We have four league matches before the World Cup and to be top at the break we need our best players rested and fresh for those fixtures.

This represents the full and edited version of yesterday’s Sun Football Fan’s View Column.

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One Response to Arteta to opt for a back 3 v PSV to rest jaded stars?

  1. bathgooner October 27, 2022 at 3:18 pm #

    That’s a very good shout on the formation tonight but I suspect we are more likely to see the far more robust, if overworked, GX34 play than the hitherto disappointingly fragile, but utterly essential to good performances, TP5 whom MA8 rightly has a tendency to wrap in cotton wool. TP5’s dramatic drop off in energy and technique in the second half against Southampton suggests to me that TP5 may be more likely to be saved for Sunday. However it could be argued that his presence for an hour this evening could be more important to our season than it would be on Sunday. Whoever gets to be our experienced midfielder your proposed formation would be a sensible approach to this match.

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