One of the surest things in life is the concept that correlation does not equal causation. Just because a motorcycle rode by on the street at the same when you found a $20 bill on the sidewalk does not mean that you’ll always find $20 when a motorcycle rides by. Arsenal’s switch to a back three last year coincided with the Gunners winning nine of their last 10 games, but it’s not certain exactly how much of the latter is down to the former. Did it help? Certainly. But it probably wasn’t the only factor.
That said, Arsene Wenger was, rightly, lauded for his willingness to switch things up, which is not something he’s known for doing. And it looks like, at least at the start of the upcoming season, he’ll be sticking with his shiny new formation. When asked about his plans for the Australia friendlies and for the season, he had this to say:
"We'll test many systems," Wenger said in Sydney. At the moment, in preseason, we are in the continuity of the end of last season. In some games we will play with four at the back and some with three, but at the start of the season we will certainly play with three."
While I’m not sure that “we are in the continuity of the end of last season” is accurate - just because Wenger never takes a break doesn’t mean his players or the league don’t - I love the fact that he’s willing to stick with what worked last season, and that he’s seemingly willing to change it up depending on opponent. This is a pretty big step forward for one of the least tactically flexible managers around.
The shift to three at the back was too little too late for things like making the Champions League, but the shakeup did make things interesting at a point where we all thought everything was lost, and I’m glad to see that Wenger didn’t reflexively reset to his usual baseline for the new season.