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Martin Keown believes that Arsenal’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation has helped minimise the opposition’s ability to counter-attack, which the Gunners have had a problem with for ‘six or seven’ years.
Arsenal legend Keown was encouraged by the tail end of the Gunners 2016/17 season when Arsene Wenger chose to switch the formation to 3-4-3 for the first time during his two decades in charge.
As a result, the former centre-back explains, Granit Xhaka was able to play just in front of the three-man defence while Aaron Ramsey could roam a little more freely.
“Well I think with the group, football is essentially a numbers game,” Keown told Arsenal Player.
“By playing three at the back and having one midfielder just sitting in front, which Xhaka was very good at, it allowed Ramsey to get forward and we weren’t in any danger with the counter-attack any more.
“That’s really been a problem over the past six or seven years. I can think of many occasions when the counter-attack has really undone Arsenal and that balance wasn’t there.
“The system is now in vogue. We’ve seen a Premier League team win with a back three, an FA Cup team, of course Arsenal, winning with a three, and I can see no reason why you’d change that next season.
“It’s been a real success story. We’ve won nine of the last 10 matches.”
A prime example of when the new formation worked particularly well was the FA Cup final against Chelsea when the defensive trio of Nacho Monreal, Rob Holding and Per Mertesacker were solid while Xhaka offered further security and Rambo got forward and scored the winner.
It also allows the midfield to snuff out the opposition’s counter-attacks a little bit better, which, as Keown says, has been an issue for some time.