Last season we saw many Premier League managers adopt the 3-4-3 model. Whether that was Antonio Conte after his 3-0 loss to Arsenal or Arsene Wenger later on in the season, it seemed to have a massive impact. In fact Chelsea went on a 13 game win streak as Arsenal won 8 of their remaining 10 games of the season after the change.
The opening weekend of the Premier League season saw yet another manager try to implement the system, however, it didn’t work out as well. In his Premier League debut, Frank de Boer’s Crystal Palace used the 3-4-3 formation as they lost 3-0 against newly-promoted Huddersfield Town.
The result would have disappointed the new Palace boss, but on the eve of the game he spoke about what he wants to get out of the system and the season.He said:
“When I sat down with the chairman he said ‘we want to be a solid club like Southampton’ building step by step who are now fighting for Europe every year, we’re just starting so it takes time which he knows so I think it’s a realistic view.”
Coming from Ajax where the school of thought is much about total football it wasn’t surprising to hear the benefits of 3-4-3 as he said:
“Everybody always says 3-4-3 can be very adventurous and exciting but you can also say we’re playing with 5 defenders so it’s how you look at it”
“If you have a lot of ball then it’s very offensive if you don’t then it’s very defensive.”
Looking at where the Huddersfield goals came from its clear there’s work to be done on the training ground when out of possession as some of the defenders didn’t seem to know their roles properly and this was shown in Huddersfield’s 3rd goal.
New signing Jairo Reidewald was caught out of position as were the whole back line which left gaps for The Terriers to attack and eventually seal Mounié’s brace. However, this wasn’t the first time the defence didn’t seem to be on the same page as each other. In possession it looks like there needs to be some work done too as looking out of ideas at the back, Scott Dann misplaced a pass to set Mounié free, only to be saved by an inch perfect tackle from loanee Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t think there’s reason to panic for Palace, but I do think it may take a while for the defence to adjust to the new style of play their being asked to play.
On the other hand, the Eagles did look promising at times when going forward and it’s clear to see where the inspiration for this style came from as de Boer said:
“Van Gaal used it at the World Cup, he played 3-4-3/5-3-2 but they mostly let opponents have the ball and had a lot of transition especially with the quality of Arjen Robben at that time”
Palace have quite a few players who could fit that ‘Robben mould’ in a transition and they showed that during the game too. Starting the game, Wilfried Zaha showed that playing in a shape where he is able to feed off his striker, his pace will get him in behind defences but he will be having to do better in front of goal than just forcing a save out of the goalkeeper as he did on Saturday.
However, Zaha isn’t the only player who can drive Palace up the pitch. In on loan, midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek showed what he could bring in this system as he was able to surge forward before playing in another encouraging attack-minded player in Andros Townsend who laid the ball onto Benteke, who like Zaha, really should have scored.
So, that’s how Frank de Boer’s Crystal Palace looked in their first game using the 3-4-3 formation, it may not have been very impressive but as everyone knows, it’s only been one game so there’s no reason to panic. This system may take a while to click, but once it does it could be very promising, however, de Boer does know that the next 37 games will be massive tests as he said:
“Of course we always want to dominate the game but we also have to be realistic and we want to be a solid club but there are a lot of good teams in the Premier League so there will be times when we’re pulled back but have the security of 5 men at the back.”
But hey, we’ll see if they can continue their good form of 3 wins in their last 5 against a vulnerable Liverpool this weekend so that should be a good watch if you’re looking for something to do this weekend.