Is Three At The Back Just Pep Talk & Hall of Fame Inductees

The tease continues. A month on from this, “You will soon know. Very soon”, we have graduated to, “I haven’t told anything to anybody“. It’s worse than waiting in all day for a delivery which is scheduled to arrive any time between 8am and 6pm, only to get a text late in the day telling you it will come another day. Repeatedly.

Despite the protestations that the FA Cup won’t influence his decision – and I’m sure it hasn’t – it’s definitely affecting the announcement. I can’t shake the feeling that if we win, he’s going to bound on stage at his pre-Leicester press conference in a gold lamé suit, with pound notes printed over it, with an inane grin like it’s been some big game for him.

Sunday’s team news is not unexpected. None of the walking wounded are ready to run, so it’s pretty much the same squad as the one which demolished Middlesbrough. Danny Welbeck might be back but to be honest, it’s hard to see any changes if – and it’s a big IF – Arsène goes with three at the back.

Is there a case for it? Personally, I’m sceptical. Against City in recent years, we’ve played rope-a-dope with some success, relatively speaking. Yes, we caught cold at the Etihad in December but with one defeat in the last seven, there’s a suggestion that it worked.

However, Pep Guardiola knows how to beat Arsenal or not be beaten by us is probably more accurate. A win and draw against Barcelona, the same against Bayern. Wasn’t he also in the Barcelona team as a player when we drew and lost at Wembley. From memory, he was fairly instrumental in Gilles Grimandi’s sending off in the Camp Nou.

Tiny Step of Advancement

While Arsène was understandably coy about his intentions for Sunday, the question is whether City saw three at the back as a problem or massive opportunity. One of the reasons it works for Chelsea so successfully is that the midfield and wing-backs understand the needs of the pressing game.

We don’t have the players for that system. They can run a lot; they have the stamina. But what they don’t have is positional discipline. Hector Bellerin is suited to the formation but with confidence draining away, is struggling. Leroy Sane punished his naïvety with the opening goal at the Emirates and generally ran the young Spaniard ragged for the opening twenty minutes or so.

I can see him doing the same against Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Ox is committed, will try but the FA Cup semi-final is not a time for experiments. Bellerin on the flank and Ox inside, as one of the three central midfielders? It’s a better solution in my view.

On the left, I would drop Nacho back to one of the three central defenders, with Kieran Gibbs at wing back. I’m talking myself into thinking this might work here, aren’t I?

Running On The Spot

It’s an interesting aspect of the match. Arsenal’s form has been so wretched that you wonder what impact it has on Arsène’s preparations for upcoming games. Legend has it that he concentrates on our game and not so much on the opposition. The defeats at West Brom and Crystal Palace certainly bear that out.

However, is the focus on stopping them more than getting the team ready for how he wants the game to go? Of course he can’t ignore the opposition but our style is such that we don’t tend to change particularly. Three at the back is the only major deviation since bringing back defensive midfielders.

Which was more by luck than judgement, but that’s a long forgotten story. The City match is coming into view; the butterflies are starting to flutter. It’s the FA Cup semi-final and the prospect of a tough match. If you can’t enjoy the cup runs, check your pulse; make sure it’s still there.

The younger generation of supporters may not understand that and I do think it helps to remember what the FA Cup was. A day of television devoted to football for the final with the semis on neutral ground at Villa Park, Maine Road, Hillsborough; not necessarily good games, but intense nonetheless.

Wembley robs the matches of some of that and I wonder if there is a way to resurrect that? Have the semi-finals one week before the final? A logistical nightmare but hey, we used to have replays inside three days. What changed?

Finally, a warm round of applause for Bob Wilson, who is a 2017 inductee into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame, along with Arsenal Ladies players, Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey.

’til Tomorrow.

Since beginning writing this, I’ve learned of the sad death of Ugo Ehiogu at 44. My condolensces to his family.


50 thoughts on “Is Three At The Back Just Pep Talk & Hall of Fame Inductees

  1. buckagh says:

    Three at the back and same level of performance as at Boro, we will be spanked

  2. HenryB says:

    Ugo Ehiogu, a fine footballer and a very nice guy! R.I.P.

  3. HenryB says:


    “we used to have replays inside three days. What changed?” The costs to fans, probably.

  4. andy1886 says:


    Absolutely. That’s the first thing that came to mind, I don’t recall anyone ever having a bad thing to say about Ugo Ehiogu. A player that wasn’t the most talented but who gave 100% every time and played the game fairly. Many modern players would do well to take a lesson on how to play the game from Ugo. A sad loss at only 44 years old, he’ll be missed.

  5. andy1886 says:

    It’s telling isn’t it that the team that wins the game on Sunday will be the one who’s defence is less bad than the other’s. We know that defending isn’t our coach’s speciality but it’s equally ridiculous that City can spend hundreds of millions on players and still cannot defend. Stones is a prime example, decent footballer but a sub-par defender nine times out of ten.

  6. HenryB says:

    I am not sure what the perceived benefits of playing 3 at the back against a small, skilful attacking side like Citeh.

    Martin Keown said that it works very well when the ‘right’ players, trained exhaustively in how to operate it is employed. The way it operated against Boro showed the players were uncertain how to execute that system, and they were pretty much like strangers to each other with all the changes to the team.

    ‘There were 3 in the bed and the little one said, roll over’ — and don’t do it again. 🙂

  7. mingus says:

    Hi Yogi, (long time) I’m sure you meant “Finally a warm round of applause to Bob Wilson, Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey who are all 2017 inductees into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame”.

  8. HenryB says:


    It is a sobering thought that many fine athletes/footballers who look after themselves physically seem to have genetical problems with the heart that are not picked up during their careers.

    Outside of football, there have been marathon runners who have collapsed and died and in cricket James Taylor was lucky to survive a heart condition at the age of 26, and his career was finished (altho that was the least of his concerns, I suspect).

  9. Steve says:

    Like a raindrop falling into the ocean.


  10. kelsey says:

    Hello Henry

    How are you ?

    Having unfortunately suffereded a H A what do you mean exactly “It is a sobering thought that many fine athletes/footballers who look after themselves physically seem to have genetical problems with the heart that are not picked up during their careers” as there are many forms of causes of heart attacks.
    Genetic causes are a reeason but feature quite low in the percentage table of having a heart attack.

  11. DFS- says:

    Yes, very sad to hear about Ugo Ehiogu passing.

    Regarding three at the back.

    We looked like a deer in the headlights for much of the Boro’ game – I thought it was just overall stress until in the post-game we heard they had never even practiced it until that week (FGS).

    Yeah, City are poor in defense but they can be electric in attack.

    I would opt for the least disorganized mode of defense which we can muster.

  12. andy1886 says:


    Yes, I suspect that the strain of high intensity training can contribute in exposing any weaknesses or applying long term wear and tear to the body, heart included. That’s why I resist the temptation to train like a top athlete and keep physical exertion down to, let’s say, a more modest level 🍩🍪🍟🍔

  13. Orson Kaert says:

    Wenger is ready to offer Wilshere a new contract, and expects him to be fit for a full pre-season. I notice that he doesn’t mention him being fit for the season itself.

  14. Wavey says:


    Well said.

    Always worked hard for his team and seemed like a genuinely good guy.

  15. Wavey says:


    I don’t take any risks at all on that front. Much safer to stay in the pub.

  16. DFS- says:

    Re Wilshere –

    If it is the case that Wenger will offer Wilshre a new contract, I think it just shows a growing disconnect between club and fans.

    I know this is not definitive, but it is indicative….F365 just did a small piece on Wilshre and at the bottom tacked on a little poll…

    “Should Wilshere leave Arsenal this summer?”

    3,142 clicked so far and 78% said yes, he should.

  17. YW says:

    Of a global fanbase, 3142 is a extremely small percentage.

  18. Orson Kaert says:

    Should Wilshere leave Arsenal this summer?

    I asked my circle of acquaintances this question, two said he should leave, two said he should stay, the other farted, licked his arse and went back to his kennel. I took that to be don’t know.

  19. C says:

    Good stuff Yogi my man.

    I will have to FULLY disagree with you starting Gibbs, in theory it makes sense for him to be a wing-back but the reality is that Gibbs still has no clue how to defend and because of that, Sterling or De Bruyne will run riot.

    I am not in no way a fan of 3 in the back unless you have a manager that demands defensive discipline and you have 3 CB’s who are committed to working as a unit. Problem is, Kos has become a liability, Holding while impressive is still learning, Gabriel isn’t suited to it and Mert seems to have no been allowed back.

  20. Pete the Thirst says:

    That’s no way to speak about the other half … Boom Boom

    Orson Kaert:
    Should Wilshere leave Arsenal this summer?

    I asked my circle of acquaintances this question, two said he should leave, two said he should stay, the other farted, licked his arse and went back to his kennel.I took that to be don’t know.

  21. Pete the Thirst says:

    Sad about Ehiogu. Young to drop down dead.

    I wonder about the impact of PEDs. In Rugby League there have been a number of unexplained early deaths. It’s one sport where PED abuse is obvious. Similar issues with American Football. I’m sure football is not far behind.

  22. HenryB says:

    Hi Guys,

    I rushed back to get the news — have we signed anyone yet? Are there any decent rumours? 🙂

  23. HenryB says:

    Hi Kelsey, baby,

    I would not dare disagree with you about medical conditions — altho as I said to you some years ago — I reckon it’s all that hair you have to wash, perm and colour that takes it out of you.

    I am not too bad thanks – but I hope you and your daughter are keeping well.

  24. HenryB says:

    Hiya, C,

    The guy we were linked with might well be a good catch, but his pop said he was going to choose between us and Juve (I think) and having seen Juve on TV this week, I am not holding my breath.

    Just as an aside – I would not hold my nose up at any good player we manage to get – but there are other positions I think we should be filling first — unless we are going to spend bucket loads of cash. And you never know. 🙂

  25. HenryB says:

    Sorry, Kelsey,

    I missed your main point. The players I referred to as having genetic heart conditions, who were young career athletes were Muamba and James Taylor, and because they are not like Andy, who has a very strict regime of dietary training by raising his pint bearing elbow and eating 🍩🍪🍟🍔it is a shock when athletes get such serious problems.
    [Not that I am saying you are not an athlete!] 😀

    Unlike poor old Ugo, another player, Muamba, was saved from a potentially terminal attack on the pitch at WHL by the fortunate presence of a heart specialist.

    There have been quite a few players who have succumbed while playing.
    Youth + Fitness do not = having a heart attack — except sometimes they do.

  26. C says:


    Heya mate,

    Yea I think it was between Arsenal and if I’m not mistaken it was Milan but it could have been Juve. One would most certainly think if it was down to Arsenal or Juve, he is headed to Juve.

    I agree, I think LB isn’t a priority but if we are able to get him on a free (his contract is up in the summer) then it is good business getting it down now. I do think moving forward LB will be an area given Gibbs still can’t defend, Nacho while still consistent and solid isn’t getting younger and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him head back to La Liga and we really don’t have much coming through the youth ranks outside of Bramall who is so unbelievably raw that he will need at least 2 years before he breaks into the first team.

    We have seen some strange strange things happen at Arsenal so you never know.

  27. Bill says:

    Great post Yogi. I agree completely with everything you say.

    I have not been posting much lately. In the past I usually had something to say that was different then a significant segment of the blog starting with my defensive obsession in 2008. However, lately I can’t find anything to say that has not been said by you and everyone else on the blog. There is no more need for a resident realist. In fact I find myself being one of the least pessimistic bloggers now days which is a strange situation.

    Anyway, thanks for your daily blogs. You da man.

  28. C says:


    The best thing about ACLF is that no topic is off limits.

    You one of the least pessimistic people is like twlight zone type stuff!

  29. Bill says:

    A lot of people might disagree but I have never considered myself a pessimist but instead I always thought of it as realism. Many times the evidence points to conclusions that don’t flatter our team. However, I always thought the objective is to get the right answer even if it is not necessarily the answer we want to hear.

  30. HenryB says:


    You are right that funny things happen at Arsenal, but they also happen elsewhere too.

    With all the shedloads of money which will be shipped out of Manure to keep poor little José’s reputation intact by buying anything that moves with a triple A value rating, up pops a 19 year old kid, Rashford, and outperforms all the expensive buys they already have.

    That’s the thing with kids – any club could have a special talent in their youth team, but if they do not get a chance their worth, the club will never know.

    We have some seriously talented kids, who are, of course inexperienced, but if they do not get a chance to get that experience, like Rashford has been given by Manure, they will just waste away.

  31. HenryB says:

    ‘get a chance to show their worth’ — but you knew that already – right? 🙂

  32. Bill says:

    C @ 5:06

    It is certainly a turnabout from the norm of the last 9 years.

  33. HenryB says:


    ‘A lot of people might disagree but I have never considered myself a pessimist — that’s a bit pessimistic isn’t it? 🙂

  34. HenryB says:


    For what it is worth, I have never really thought of you as being a pessimist, but, yes, in your own convoluted way you have tried to be objective — but it is important to remember that such objectivity can sometimes become an orphan.***

    *** What I mean is that, if a particular point rings true, everyone claims it — if it is logically compromised, even the author eventually says it had nothing to do with him. 🙂

  35. Bill says:

    There is not as much to talk about in the comment section now that everyone on the blog is on the same page. How many different ways can you say that it’s time for Arsene to move on?

  36. Bill says:

    In the past theremay have been some room for disagreement about Arsene but there is no longer any legitimate arguement that can be made for keeping him as our manager.

  37. nicky says:

    Your 3.57 brought back our son’s early death at 36 after playing squash. Although in apparent prime physical condition, something must have been awry and it is THIS that is so hard to bear.

  38. Wavey says:


    Much as i despise the idea, I think it’s inevitable that Wenger is signing up again. With that in mind, does anybody really think he’s going on a big shopping spree this summer? I can see the BoD making some comment at the end of the transfer window that the money was there, but Wenger didn’t want to spend it. Of course there will be new and improved contracts for all of his young lads, which will put a nice hole in the budget. Wenger will claim there wasn’t as much money as everyone made out once the new deals had been sorted out. So Alexis will be off, but Ozil will probably stay for one more season and we’ll get some cheap striker that no one’s heard in. If that sounds overly pessimistic, its exactly what Wenger has done in the past.
    I don’t want to be accused of stealing Bill’s crown. 😉

  39. DFS- says:


    The F365 poll is small but illuminating.

    People are voting blind, they have no idea how others have responded until they vote – then the breakdown is revealed. However, statistical theory underlines a small sample size is just as accurate a much larger one.

    The figure has now moved to 3,300 replies and the percentage for a Wilshere exit remains at a steady 78%.

    As I said, not definitive but certainly indicative.

  40. Kevon Robinson says:

    Its an outstanding article and I like to read it again and again… please do share more and keep us updated about Arsenal info!!!

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