Why Arsène Wenger finally decided a back three was Arsenal’s way forward | Jonathan W

Jonathan Wilson

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Aug 1, 2010
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One of Wenger’s first acts at Arsenal was to shun the system but 21 years on it is in fashion and – partly out of desperation – his team are employing wing-backs
In late September 1996, Arsenal travelled to face Borussia Mönchengladbach in the second leg of a Uefa Cup tie. Arsène Wenger had been confirmed as manager but was supposed to have only a watching brief, formally taking over after the following weekend’s match against Sunderland. At half-time, with the score 1-1 and Arsenal trailing 4-3 on aggregate, he came down from the stands to the dugout where, according to the caretaker, Pat Rice, he offered “one or two ideas”.
Arsenal had begun the game with three central defenders (given the wing‑backs were Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn, it was a back five rather than a back three) but, as Rice explained, Wenger advised him “to go to a back four and add extra width to the attack, and of course I took his advice”. Four minutes after the break, Paul Merson put Arsenal 2-1 up on the night, but as they chased a third they were twice caught on the break and ended up losing 3-2.
Related: Arsenal’s latest bruising beating leaves Arsène Wenger at point of no return | David Hytner
Related: Tottenham clash with Arsenal takes Pochettino back to another demolition derby | David Hytner
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