3-5-2. What’s that all about, then?

Quite apart from the fact that it’s all the rage, we go to Chelsea in a few weeks, and we know this is how they will set up.


What is considered the best formation to counter the 3-5-2?

Do managers build a team around a formation, or a formation around the players they have?

Is the classic No10 role redundant?

After all these years, how come there isn’t a definitive formation?

What happened to the Libero, remember him?


What the hell was wrong with 2-3-5?

Ps this would be my Arsenal XI under the new pattern:


………..Sanchez  Welbeck

Gibbs Santi Coq Mesut Bellerin

………Holding Kos Gabriel



Written by mickydidit89

52 Responses to 3-5-2. What’s that all about, then?

  1. chas says:

    Cheers, Micky.

    I thought it was 3-4-3 that everyone was raving about at the moment?

    I’m not sure how these formation changes work. I’d imagine that if lots of successful teams employ it against 4-3-3, then it eventually becomes the norm.

    I never quite understood how 4-4-2 was suddenly overrun in midfield by 4-3-3. Surely the 4 in midfield would hold the numerical advantage?

    I’m not helping here, am I?

  2. mickydidit89 says:

    No, you’re not, so that’s two of us who need help 🙂

    We urgently need some bright spark to get on here and clear things up

  3. mickydidit89 says:

    Just so that you know my take, I’d go for change simply because I like change and we could then have new diagrams to look at

  4. chas says:

    How about some pass maps?

    First Chelsea away at us, getting a thrashing and Conte still to stumble on his winning formula.

    Ivanovic, I ask you, perhaps it is the personnel that is is the most important ingredient. 🙂

  5. chas says:

    Chavs at home to spuds and won 2-1.

    Looks more like 3-5-2 to me because Pedro played so deep.

  6. chas says:

    Chavs away at spuds. Got beat 2-0 thanks to two spawny headers.

  7. chas says:

    Any help? 😆

  8. marcos says:

    Againt chelc welbek or walcot, sanchez n iwobi shud lead arsenal 4231.ramsy or granit,coq n ozil d midfield.arsene shudnt switch to any format but go wit our major strent.we wil cus dem troble

  9. Big Raddy says:

    None whatsoever.

    I would go for the Dutch Total Football style. It produced Dennis and Koeman, so it must be good.

  10. Big Raddy says:

    Marcos. “.we wil cus dem troble”.

    Love it and I really hope we do.

  11. chas says:

    I liked Pritpal’s proposal of 3-4-3 yesterday.

    3-4-3 – and not just because of the hype of this season.

    I’ve been saying it since we had Vermalen Kos and Mertesacker. I think Mertesacker’s positioning and leadership will bring out the best in Kos and Mustafi. Also this gives us more cover as both full backs bomb on all the time which is why team’s break on us all the time (and we have 2 at the back). This also means people like Ozil and Alexis have to do less defending (which Ozil in particular always get’s criticised for, he can have more a free role up front). When Giroud plays it can become a 3 upfront with Ozil moving more right (again it’s still a free role upfront with minimal defending).

    Mustafi Mertesacker Koscielny
    Bellerin Xhaka Ramsey Gibbs
    Walcott Alexis

    I like the current formation but it only works with Santi in the team. Ramsey can’t play in a 2 in midfield (I know he did well in 2013/2014 but that was with midfielders out wide like Jack and Santi, not forwards). As good as Santi is, we can’t rely on him any more. This is the second season in a row now and you can’t rely on 1 guy for your formation to work. The above formation would also work with Elneny, Coq and Jack in the midfield 2.

  12. Zed says:

    G’day, matelots, and apologies for interrupting the Micky/Chas bromance. 🙂

    After the Chavs got hammered by us, Conte decided on a George Graham. That is to say, he brought in another CH and hence the supposed ‘3’ in the configuration.

    Of course, like George, Conte kept the two full backs, as well – why wouldn’t he? 🙂

    He also powered up the midfield with 3 middies, and then a ’10’ and Costa – so it probably reads 5 – 3 – 1 – 1.

    It is important to note that discerning gentlemen like us know it is all bollix – and it should be a straight 10. So it would be all attack and all retreat defend.

    Brook no arguments from the likes of Chas, Mickydelicious! 😀

  13. GunnerN5 says:

    I sense RA in disguise?

  14. GunnerN5 says:

    Eddie in order to resign you have to give six months notice – so therefore your resignation is not accepted.

  15. Pritpal says:

    Nice to see this popping up after the discussion yesterday 🙂

    Think it would vary depending on the personnel available at the time but we definitely need the formation to be built around the players we have (rather than the other way around).

    For me, when everyone is fit, our current formation is the best in the league. But keeping everyone fit is always the big “if” *sigh* 😦

  16. TotalArsenal says:

    Good discussion starters by Raddy and Micky.

    First comes footballing philosophy and style, then comes system and then come the players, especially now that we have the money to hold on to players and develop and buy those that fit us best. Arsene stands for attacking, passing football that makes him go ohlalala. A bit of defensive risk is allowed to enable breathtaking attacking football.The Chavs and Spuds, to name a few scumbags, aim to minimise defensive risks and attack as efficiently as possible. However, we are also sitting back more and are less horny for possession these days, especially when we play other title and CL contenders. I don’t think it matters too much difference whether we play 3,4 or 5 at the back; what matters is who we will play as our double DM pivot and whether they predominantly play horizontally, close together or stretch themselves vertically almost constantly. It also matters whether we play 4-2-1-3 or 4-1-2-3. I reckon Wenger would love to play the latter but it is too dangerous; the one defender in midfield can get very exposed and overpowered. So two DMs that can play football is ideal. I hate to say it but I reckon the Spuds combo of Dembele and Wanyama, who play like a horizontal wall up and down the pitch constantly, look pretty good at the moment. If we want something similar I would play Elneny with either Coquelin or Xhaka. If we want to play with a typical box to box midfielder, Rambo with Xhaka or Coq are your Bob’s uncles.

    Like others have said, I don’t think we have a settled solution for this season, and I believe that Santi’s unavailability is not a major factor here. We either keep adjusting the DM pivot depending on the opposition and availability of players, or we opt for a settled solution for the remainder of the season. I would always play Elneny and either combine him with Xhaka or Coquelin, unless we play a park the bus team: then I would opt for a fit Santi or Rambo.

  17. TotalArsenal says:

    Good to see Redders back and it would be great to get the points of view of Shard, FGG, GoonerB, GiE, and my favourite Ozzie, OzG. Let’s be having you! ⚽️⚽️⚽️

  18. Big Raddy says:

    I just read that Everton had 4 shots on target vs Man City scoring 4 goals.

    Luck or awful goalkeeping?

  19. chas says:

    The last one went through the keeper’s legs but he stood very little chance with the other three which were all fine finishes. They all came from pretty ‘open’ defending, mind you.

    It was partly down to one of those games where one side takes their chances and the media narrative is purely driven by the scoreline.

    Possession Home 29% Away 71%
    Shots Home 6 Away 13
    Shots on Target Home 4 Away 5

  20. chas says:

    Southampton v Norwich tonight to find out our 4th round opponents.

  21. chas says:

    It’s bad, you know.

  22. Rasp says:

    Great work Micky, after plumbing the depths of my considerable knowledge and expertise I can safely say that I haven’t got a scooby do 🙂

    I guess the formation should have some bearing, but for me, the team ethic and understanding between players is most important.

  23. I have no idea Micky. My idea of tactics is to stare at players hoping they realise that those who let me down shall be stalked.

    Systems mean nothing. How did Leicester win the league? For six months there players lived in terror of Nigel Pearson forcing them to indulge in bare knuckle fighting and refusing them entry to a nightclub because he thought there expensive leather shoes looked like trainers.

    Along comes Ranieri and what did he do? Nothing, except walk round with an inane grin, cook some pasta, and most importantly, wasn’t Nigel Pearson.

    I believe despite the formation playing to our potential will win us the league

    If not, I have clothes that merge with the shadows and everybody’s address.

  24. GoonerB says:

    A bit late to the comments but 2 good posts which tie in well together so thank you Micky and Raddy. I have said before that in my opinion the only time formation really changes is whether you start with a back 3 or back 4 and after that it is the types of players you combine and their strengths and weaknesses that dictate the other subtleties of the formations.

    The 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 can morph into each other depending on where the players like to predominantly operate from on the pitch and their strengths as players. If Chelsea play with 1 main striker (Costa) and 2 attacking players playing off him that like to attack from wider areas rather than down the middle (maybe Hazard and Willian) then you get your front 3 and hence more a 3-4-3.

    If you pair another attacking player with Costa who is more a striker and centrally orientated in his play (like Batashuyi) then you get more a front 2 and hence a 3-5-2 formation unfolds more.

    We certainly have the squad options to switch to a back 3 in either formation but you then need to match the combinations to play to the strengths of our players and provide a balanced line-up, which is something I feel AW is guilty of not doing on many occasions even in our preferred 3-4-3 line-up. This leads to non fluid disjointed performances where our play doesn’t seem to tally with the individual quality on paper of each of the 10 outfield players.

    My only concern for us with the 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 is how you accommodate Ozil. Once you start putting other players into position to get your full 10 outfield players does it leave Ozil unshackled to perform his free roaming central attacking role without leaving us exposed elsewhere?

    I feel keeping Ozil in his free central role with the team well balanced around him is important to us. The 3-5-2 set up favours him a bit more where he can play in advance of the other 2 CM’s and behind the 2 strikers more in a 3-4-1-2, but we may lose width with this overall.

    This balance and subtle alteration in formation (whether a 3-5-2 vs 3-4-3 when starting with a back 3, or 4-3-3 vs 4-2-3-1 vs 4-1-4-1 e.t.c, e.t.c when starting with a back 4) is heavily influenced by the balance and combination of the central players. None more so than the deeper central midfielders.

    T.A’s description in his 2.01 comment is brilliant and nails a lot of it for me. Some players strengths are more to sit deep and move predominantly horizontally only advancing when the whole team does, (Le Coq and to a slightly lesser extent Elneny and Xhaka), and some players strengths are more in vertical movement often independent of the the rest of the teams position (Ramsey).

    As T.A says I don’t think we have a settled solution yet which concerns me because we should have at this stage. Xhaka is the only CM addition from the summer so we should have had a clear idea from the start what his role would be and who he partners when he plays.

    If we get our balance right there is less need to be concerned with Chelsea’s set-up but I would however pay some attention to it with our line-up. I would stick with our 4-3-3 (in reality more a 4-2-1-3) but with a view to freeing up the front 4 players more. I would play Kos and Mustafi with Kos paying specific attention to Costa (if he plays). Kos has the pace and temperament and the physicality to deal with him.

    I would play the quicker Gibbs and Bellerin at FB’s to counter their dangerous wing forward players and ask them to sacrifice some of their own attacking intent in order to snuff out their danger. I would play Xhaka with Le Coq in front of the defence who will together provide a better defensive screen but with Xhaka having the passing range to put us on the front foot even from this more disciplined deeper holding role.

    The back 4 and the 2 in front will be required to press quickly and win back possession and then quickly get the ball into our front 4. In a more disciplined set-up they literally free up the front 4 to concentrate more on attack.

    My front 4 would be in line with Micky’s thinking and comprise Ozil behind Sanchez with Danny to the left and Perez to the right and I would say to this front 4 just go win the game. If Perez and Danny can stretch the wider 2 of their 3 CD’s at times and pull them out wide then there will be space open up in the middle for Ozil to ghost into and support Sanchez in goal scoring duties.

    See….easy 🙂

  25. GoonerB says:

    Sorry I mentionedd our preferred 3-4-3 line up, I meant 4-3-3 line up.

  26. Aaron says:

    I say we go moaninho style, and go all in nine at the back and one up top.

  27. mickydidit89 says:

    Ah Haaa GB

    “My only concern for us with the 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 is how you accommodate Ozil”

    Yessss…………you see the thinking behind my question in the post “Is the classic No10 role redundant?”

  28. chas says:

  29. chas says:

    Isn’t the answer that Ozil just plays anywhere he likes (as he does now) but nominally as part of the front three rather than the middle three as now (which is more or less where he plays now anyway).
    See Pritpal’s comment on yesterday’s post which was repeated here.

    Classic no.10 – pffffft.
    Did Bergkamp and Ozil play in the same position?

  30. mickydidit89 says:

    Love the Karma vid

    So the classic No10 role as defined by us oiks IS dead 🙂

  31. chas says:

    Who is a classic no 10?

  32. mickydidit89 says:


    Messi isn’t

    It’s redundant in the classic meaning

    Like I said

    Isn’t it? 🙂

  33. chas says:

    Random google list

    Wayne Rooney.
    Georghe Hagi.
    Michael Laudrup.
    Roberto Baggio.
    Johann Cruyff.
    Diego Maradona.
    Michel Platini.

  34. chas says:

    What is the classic meaning?
    That’s what I was getting at.

  35. mickydidit89 says:

    Apart from Rooney, they’ve just listed the best footballers 🙂

  36. chas says:

    Gorra go.
    Shame we didn’t even get to ‘libero’. 🙂

  37. chas says:

    ‘the best footballers’

    Pre feckin cisely

  38. chas says:

    The ones you just let do whatever they want.

  39. mickydidit89 says:

    Stationed centrally, orchestrating behind attack

    Fuck me, this is a bit footbally 🙂


  40. chas says:

    Really going now.

    Where’s Eddie?

  41. chas says:

    Have a look at an Ozil pass map – stationed centrally, yeah right!

  42. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Love the 6.52

  43. Big Raddy says:

    Liam Brady was a classic 10.

    Can the 10 be a deep- lying player like Bryan Robson or Frank Lampard?

  44. oz gunner says:

    It does seem like all the rage these days doesn’t it.

    I always use/d it in FIFA but that’s because I’m shit at defending.

    4-4-2 will always be my favourite.

    I think we could do it because are CB’s are quick and top quality. We also have fullbacks that were wingers changed to defenders and are quicker than a hiccup (Gibbs and Bellerin anyway)


    yeah, I hate that formation. Burn it with fire!!!!

  45. chas mobile says:

    Isn’t the whole point of 3 4 3 to have two sitting CMs like Kante and Matic or Dembele and Wanyama in the centre of the 4?

  46. GoonerB says:

    Morning all

    Oz your 4-4-2 looks suspiciously like a classic 3-1-4-1-1 🙂

    Chas is right about the classic number 10. Ozil and Bergkamp, both great players but subtly different in their key strengths, essentially play the same role. Whether you consider it a number 10 or free roaming ACM probably depends on the way the rest of the team is set up around them but they are still both the most central attacking player behind the main striker.

    A classic 10 is probably considered more a creative deeper striker who both scores and creates in equal measure. If Ozil can start to hit 15+ in a season there is no reason to not consider him this.

  47. GoonerB says:

    Blimey Chas, your 8.46, i reckon you have it right again. I just knew you were a dab hand at all this tactical bolleux stuff 🙂 You can’t hide it anymore. Not long before you are exposed as a secret purist who loves Maggie Thatcher 🙂

  48. mickydidit89 says:


    Is your Xhaka a libero 🙂

  49. mickydidit89 says:

    Ah ha, here’s another. What happened to The Sweeper?

  50. Big Raddy says:

    Micky. There is a post in the “sweeper” comment.

  51. Big Raddy says:

    There is a New and quite frankly throwaway Post (in the manner of the New Order)

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