Arsene Wenger looks poised to revert to a flat back four when Arsenal face Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final showdown at Wembley on Sunday.
The Gunners boss employed a three-man rearguard in last night’s 2-1 Premier League victory at Middlesbrough in a much-needed win for the visitors.
But the Emirates chief has hinted that he will return to a more familiar formation when his side comes up against Pep Guardiola’s men for a place in the FA Cup final in May.
Rookie defender Rob Houlding played at the Riverside alongside Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel as goals from Alexi Sanches, from a stunning free-kick, and Mesut Ozil handed Arsenal three points against a relegation-threatened Boro.
But despite the crucial win, as the Gunners try desperately to claw their way back in to the top four and snatch Champions League football for next season, Wenger says the three-man tactic is not a long-term plan.
Of the formation employed in the north east, the Frenchman said: “I just felt that sometimes the team needs to believe in something new, something different, just to find a bit of confidence back. Overall I felt that it worked quite well because we won the game.
“We had practiced on it before at some stage, but we like offensive football so this was a bit more defensive-minded for us. I feel overall it is not a long-term plan, but punctually it can work.”
Holding, meanwhile, could make way on Sunday after his appearance last night. And he has been speaking of the role and his display.
He said that he has played once before in a back three and it was actually at Boro on his Championship debut with former club Bolton.
He added: “We lost 3-0 so that was a bit different to this one, but I’ve played in a back three before and you’ve just got to keep working together and communicating and as long as you keep sliding across as a unit then you’re alright.
“We’d done it in the week and then we did it Sunday but I wasn’t in the team and I wasn’t sure if I was playing or not and it wasn’t until today that I found out I was in the back three, so that was good.
“With Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny alongside you it’s a lot easier. Koscielny was the central one, pulling the strings with us both and telling us where to go and that, so with someone like him and his experience it makes it a lot more comfortable.”