4 step explanation of how Arsenal's 3-4-3 formation under Unai Emery works
After the end of a 22-year reign under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal has had a fresh breath of hope under new manager Unai Emery. The Spaniard has slowly been able to build his tactics using the personnel required, and stamped his identity on the North London football club.
Along with his spontaneous changes and his mentality to win every game, his risk-taking abilities haven't gone unnoticed. He is not afraid to drop players he feels will not suit a particular system he wants to play.
This was evident when Arsenal's highest paid player, Mesut Özil, was dropped during their visit to the Vitality Stadium. Emery responded to the questions over his starting line-up by saying it was a highly intense and physical game, and he had to drop Mesut for the best chances of winning.
A notable change which has been employed by Arsenal in recent weeks is the use of a three-man defence. With a highly criticised defence, Arsenal has often been on the receiving end of many goals.
Playing a three-man defence has allowed the defenders to play with more freedom whilst performing their defensive duties. However, unlike Arsene Wenger's 3-4-3 formation which was mostly due to the pressure of having some change at the club, Emery's 3-4-3 is much more dynamic and has a stronger tactical skeleton around which the team can build.
In this article, I will point out the characteristics of the 3-4-3 formation being used, and highlight the impact it has had on the pitch. But first, let us have a look at the formation.
#1 A much more energetic press
As seen in the first twenty minutes of the game against Tottenham, Arsenal seem to have a much more energetic and hungry approach to games.
Unlike games under Arsene Wenger where Alexis Sanchez would bolt up and down to press, only to raise his hand in dismay when he realises that the rest of the team have not joined him, the press under Emery is much more efficient and aggressive.
The press is a mix of the traditional press on the back-line when the opposition has possession in their own half, and the German gegenpress or counter-press. This style of pressing was very hard for Tottenham to deal with, as they were set up in a more compact fashion, and didn't have any real outlay to play the ball over the press.
Pochettino heavily relies on his fullbacks for width, but as Arsenal played a 3-4-3, the fullbacks couldn't commit forward as it would leave ounces of space for potentially three players to attack.
This space was exploited by Arsenal as they would often switch sides whenever they recognised an overload on a particular side from Tottenham. The only real chances Tottenham got were when they played the ball over Arsenal's high defence line, which brings me to my next point.