How to 4-3-3

In all our preseason matches, we’ve played in a 4-3-3 formation. Most journalists have suggested that this change has been inspired by Barcelona’s conquering team from one year ago. In order to see if this formation could work out, I’ve decided to compare the players from the 08-09 Barcelona starting XI to one we could trot out to emulate their team.

Goalkeeper – Victor Valdes/Manuel Almunia

They are of equal calibre. Neither are extremely consistent. Both are capable of playing above their level and pulling out a string of spectacular saves. Both are also capable of conceding goals that world class goalkeepers just don’t allow. This position is the least pivotal element of copying their side.

Left Back – Eric Abidal/Gael Clichy

Abidal is taller and stronger than Clichy. He is also probably a better attacker than Clichy as well. However, Clichy can defend better, has better recovery pace, and is a better individual defender. Gael had a terrible season last year, but he’s capable of being a better player than Abidal.

Right Back – Dani Alves/Bacary Sagna

Sagna is a better defender than Alves, but Dani is an extremely dangerous attacking player. The right side is deadly for Barcelona as Alves and Messi can overlap runs to cause multiple threats to any team. Sagna is actually a better passer and crosser than people give him credit for, but he’s nowhere near the threat that Alves is.

Centreback – William Gallas/Carles Puyol

William Gallas is better than Puyol in every respect.

Centreback – Thomas Vermaelen/Gerard Pique

I don’t know enough about Vermaelen to comment, but Pique is a solid defender with a high upside. He could end up being a great defender, and he held his own during the CL final. But there are no guarantees. Frankly, defensively, Barcelona are vulnerable. And they know it too.

Defensive Midfielder – Alex Song/Yaya Toure

Toure is a big, muscular presence. Alex Song’s reading of the game has greatly improved though, and his positional sense is similar to Toure’s. Yaya has proven to be an effective attacking force, when it comes to shooting, but Song has a better passing range. Yaya is a better player, but Song is both younger and almost as reliable. He’s coming on strong.

Central Midfielder – Samir Nasri or Denilson/Xavi

Xavi is a disciplined anchor man who can make passes that destroy defenses. I believe that Wenger was training Nasri to be a Xavi-type at the end of the year. Most interpreted it as Wenger trying him out as a holding midfielder, but it seems as though he was really trying to see how Nasri could play mopping up balls and making sharp passes. Denilson could do a similar job. Xavi is a current titan though, and he’s played in a 4-3-3 all his life. It’s a difficult ask for either Nasri or Denilson to become a Xavi overnight.

Central Midfielder – Cesc Fabregas/Andres Iniesta

Iniesta is a nimble player capable of winning matches on his own. He was arguably the most important player in the side apart from Messi. Cesc isn’t as nimble nor does he score goals as frequently as Iniesta seems to. However, Cesc is as strong a passer as Iniesta is. Cesc has never played the same role as Iniesta does for Barca, but that’s why Wenger played him up front for the latter half of last year.

Right Wing – Theo Walcott or Robin van Persie/Thierry Henry

This is the one alteration to the formation. They have Messi on the right wing, and we have Arshavin on the left wing. So, we flipped positions basically. Theo is capable of playing like Henry the winger (Henry the striker, forget about it). So can van Persie. But both lack something that Henry possess as one player. Theo has pace but not enough guile. Van Persie has enough trickery but not enough pace. Either way, both players can cut in and support the way Henry does for Barca.

Support Striker – Andrey Arshavin/Lionel Messi

These two are two of the top five players in the world. Messi though is in the top two bracket and it’s hard to say where Andrey is on the list. Both players are deadly, and I believe the gap isn’t as wide as people think it is. If you watch Messi as frequently as one watches Arsenal, nobody is that brilliant all of the time. Andrey can amaze, just look at his numbers from last year.

Striker – Eduardo or Nicklas Bendtner/Samuel Eto’o

Eto’o is one of the best strikers in the last 25 years. They will miss him dearly. It would be pretentious to say that either Eduardo or Bendtner is as good as Eto’o, but both can be effective men in the box if need be.


I don’t know if we’ll play 4-3-3 all year. It’s a valid way to accommodate such a huge array of attacking talent on our side, but it’s not a system you just pick up off hand. Barcelona produces players to play in their formation. Wenger has never fielded a 4-3-3 in this form before. It could be brilliant, it could fail.

All I know is, in Andrey Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas, we have two of the best players in the world. That’s crucial to our title hopes this year.


1 Comment

  1. Very partial commentaries… for instance said that “William Gallas is better than Puyol in every respect.” is ridiculous.

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