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Arsenal could be switching to yet another formation

Eight months ago, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made a big change to his team’s formation in an effort to finish the remainder of the 2016/17 season on a strong note. The move from a back four to a three-man central defense paid off. With the new defense, the Gunners won nine of the final 10 games of the campaign, including an upset victory FA Cup final against Chelsea.

The results from the switch gave many Gooners hope that the 2017/18 season would begin with the same success. This, however, has not necessarily been the case. Arsenal are sitting seventh in the standings (just one point out of a Champions League place though), and have suffered from inconsistency issues during the first few months of the current campaign.

Arsenal’s struggles have been a mixture of bad luck (against Stoke, Watford, and Manchester United) and poor performances (against Liverpool, Southampton, and West Ham). Along with these difficulties, the Gunners have yet again dealt with injuries to a multiple key players. Quite a few first team players have missed matches due to injuries and illnesses, but probably the two most significant issues have been with Shkodran Mustafi and Aaron Ramsey.

Mustafi, a center back, has missed eight Premier League matches this season, with Arsenal only picking up wins in three of these games. The Gunners have, however, collected six victories in the eight matches in which the German has completed a full 90 minutes. Arsenal have also kept seven clean sheets in Mustafi’s nine league starts this season. Ramsey has only missed two matches due to a hamstring injury (so far), both in which the Gunners failed to win. The Welshman was in the midst of a standout season prior to picking up his injury against Southampton.

Though these injuries to key players are not thought to be long term, Wenger could make a switch back to a four-man defense. While this could very well happen, reverting back to a 4-2-3-1 probably wouldn’t be the team’s best option. They could, however, chose a 4-3-3 formation though. The five-man defense has been successful at times since April, and can still work when Arsenal is at full strength. An area of concern using a back three though is the team’s susceptibility to counter attacks through the middle of the pitch. Midfielder Granit Xhaka is a superb distributor from the middle, but is not exactly quick on his feet.

While Xhaka is a solid passer and also a tough-tackling player, the Swiss international has had issues with being isolated at times on counters. Wenger could ease this pressure by adding an additional central midfielder to the usual partnership of Ramsey and Xhaka. The ideal candidate could very well be Jack Wilshere. Wilshere and Ramsey have not exactly had a whole lot of success playing together in midfield over the years, but having Xhaka in between the two midfielders could possibly play to their strengths, while also giving Xhaka some help in the middle of the pitch.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Arsenal games on US TV and streaming

Wilshere completed 90 minutes of Premier League action with Arsenal on Wednesday for the first time in three years, and was probably the club’s best player on the pitch. Although the match against West Ham ended in a 0-0 draw, Wilshere completed 92% of his passes (56 of 61), while also collecting three tackles and three interceptions as well. This, however, was without Ramsey, who is still currently recovering from the aforementioned hamstring injury.

Wenger will have a big decision to make once both Mustafi and Ramsey are fit again. If he chooses to go with the 4-3-3, Nacho Monreal could be the odd man out. The occasional Spain international has performed quite well in a back three, but is not tall/strong enough to be one of the two starting center backs in a 4-3-3. Any decision on a possible formation change from Wenger could very well come down to which player he would rather have on the pitch: Monreal or Wilshere.

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