Martin Keown delivers verdict on new-look Arsenal in Middlesbrough clash, points out key flaws
By Matt Bullin
Former Arsenal star Martin Keown has had his say on Arsenal’s 3-4-3 formation which Arsene Wenger put in place during their 2-1 win over Middlesbrough on Monday night.
After a run of poor results which saw the Gunners lose five of eight Premier League games, and after a devastating 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace, manager Arsene Wenger switched it up and employed a 3-4-3 formation for their clash at the Riverside.
The switch seemed to work as Arsenal came away with three points after Alexis Sanchez scored a fine free kick, before Mesut Ozil netted the winner with 20 minutes to go.
But they were exposed for Middlesbrough’s equaliser as Stewart Downing broke into space left vacant by Nacho Monreal and crossed in for Alvaro Negredo to finish.
According to Keown, Arsenal have not employed a three-at-the-back formation since 1997, and he was able to point out several flaws in the Gunners set-up.
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Writing in his Daily Mail column, Keown said: “If you want to play with a back three, you have to know the system inside out. It is not something you can simply adapt to overnight.
“Arsenal may have won on Monday night but they had a few teething problems — particularly when it came to Alvaro Negredo’s equaliser.
“When Downing came in on his left foot, the central defenders should have held their line to catch the forwards offside. Instead, they dropped deep too early and their marking was too loose.
“There were other issues. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka did not offer enough protection in front of the back three.
“If Arsenal play this formation against stronger sides than Middlesbrough then their central midfielders must provide the defensive screen Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante give Chelsea.”
Arsenal now sit in sixth, moving ahead of Everton on goal difference after last night’s win.
The Gunners are three points behind Man United, who occupy fifth, and seven behind Man City in fourth – though they do have a game in hand on City.
Next up for Arsene Wenger’s side is a huge FA Cup semi-final clash with City.
In other Arsenal news, Wenger has issued a warning to this Arsenal 22-year-old over fears of a European summer.