Why on earth would Pep change his shape into a completely alien 3-5-2, specially given the success of 4-3-3 over his entire coaching career? This could be the first thought in your mind when glancing at today’s headline. I know that Pep has tried this in his last season at Barca and it didn’t go as planned. But, the love for that formation had completely not vanished from Pep’s heart. The evidence to it is the fact that he had tried the formation at City as well in 2017 and abandoned the plan after Mendy’s injury. Thinking about it in a deeper manner, you actually realize that playing the 3-5-2 could be a necessity this season.
Threat of Antonio Conte
There was a specific reason why Pep tried to play 3-5-2 in that 2017 season. If you go back to the memory lane, Conte won the Premier League title in the season before playing a back 3 and i am fairly convinced that even back at that time, Pep had his doubts about the 4-3-3 being able to succeed against the 3-5-2 shape.
This season that threat has resurfaced again, specially in the manner Spurs defeated us. They were constantly switching balls out wide with fast runners and it was fairly evident that a 4-3-3 could not have prevented that defeat. Its just not City, even Liverpool who play a shape similar to City struggled to cope with that 3 at the back shape of Conte.
Looking back again at that 2016 season, it was Pochettino who switched to a back 3 and defeated Chelsea. Now, with Conte getting all his targets and having people like Son and Kane to use on the counter, this could be a year where Pep looks back to implement that 3 at the back system again.
Also, i do think that having Julian Alvarez in a 3-5-2 system could be a big plus in terms of linking up play and allowing Haaland to venture up forward with less of defensive duties compared to a traditional Guardiola striker. This could liberate more players than you can possibly think, with the likes of Cancelo going up front with more freedom and having less worries about the defensive duties. Also, Kevin De Bruyne might also get that free role up front with almost 2 behind him protecting the midfield.
On the outset, this formation of 3-5-2 might seem like the most un-Pep kind of thing, but when analyzed closely it provides Pep with greater attacking options down the flanks and also it could be very useful when playing against teams like Spurs who look to hit you on the transitions. I am not for one moment saying that we should completely replace our 4-3-3 with this new 3-5-2 formation. Instead, we can add this formation to our arsenal of attacking talents and play it against teams like Spurs when our traditional formation does not work.
Great teams always evolve irrespective of the fact whether they are winning or losing and the next step in our evolution is to address the weaknesses we have faced against the 3 at the back formation. Adding a new formation could also help our players increase the know how of how to play different systems better and it will also make us more flexible in terms of adapting our ideology to the situation