Unai Emery sprung something of a surprise on Bournemouth in Sunday’s 2-1 win at the Vitality Stadium, moving to a three-man backline and dropping Mesut Ozil in the process.
The switch allowed Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to flit in between the lines and cause the Cherries problems, while the dual holding midfield axis of Granit Xhaka and man of the match Lucas Torreira protected the backline.
Getting all three points means the switch was justified but were some teething problems; it takes time to adjust to switching to a wing-back system and Bournemouth’s counter attack goal showed that the system didn’t quite do the trick in preventing their rapid breakaways.
So Emery has a big decision to make ahead of this weekend’s visit of Tottenham, who themselves are coming off the back of mauling Chelsea with rapid attacking football.
Does he stick or twist? Leaving out a player like Ozil for such a big game would be a bold move and could potentially offer Spurs a psychological boost before a ball has even been kicked.
And the three-man defence does not look nearly refined enough to be unfurled on a huge occasion, but it could help stem the tide of Mauricio Pochettino’s rapid attack.
It’s a huge decision and while the temptation may be to go back to the tried-and-trusted four-man defence, Emery is paid to make the bold calls.