the three-men back line trends developped in some of Europe's top leagues. A common defense during the '90s in which Carlos Bilardo's Argentina, Franz Beckenbauer's West Germany and Nevio Scala's Parma showed the way to be a winning side, and not just a defending one, utilizing this system with a spare man behind two centre backs, the three at the back sides made a comeback in the EPL. Wigan Athletic, then Manchester City joined the list lining up James Milner and Aleksandar Kolarov as wing backs in a 3-4-1-2 formation, an old pattern still able to produce. So, after years of classic 4-4-2, or 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2 appeared again into English football. Is the three men line suited for English football? For Roberto Martinez, the 3-4-3 option was favoured because it become a 5-4-1 in the defensive phase. Martinez's three back line version is a defending, counter-attacking one.
“The difference is the width that we get…before, we had to
compromise a little bit, when you want to be very attack-minded, the
full-backs have to push on, so you leave two players at the back. Now
you’re still pushing the wing-backs on, but you’ve still got three
players at the back, plus probably a midfielder." (Roberto Martinez 2012)
Last season, against Wolves, Paul Lambert too started with a 3-5-2 formation featuring Elliott Ward as sweeper alongside Zak Whitbread and Russell Martin with Elliott Bennett and Simon Lappin on the flanks. But play a back three defense with two wing-backs on th eflanks isn't a new for English football. During the 1990 World Cup, Bobby Robson switched England to a 3-5-2 formation, lining up Mark Wright as a sweeper. This experiment was followed by some First Division -Premier League managers. Steve Coppell, the Crystal Palace manager, utilized a 5-3-2 formation during his stint with the club in the '90s. Liverpool too had a run - an unsuccessful one - with a three men back line, under Roy Evans' regime with Rob
Jones and Stig-Inge Bjornebye as wing back. Steve McManaman flourished operating on either flank or as attacking midfielder in Roy
Evans' system. In the 1995, Ray Harford's Blackburn played some 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 formations with Mike Newell, Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer up
front, Henning Berg as centre-backs and Jeff
Kenna and Graeme Le Saux as wing backs. Graeme Souness too went with three at the back at Backburn in 2001 but it never worked. Brian
Little had success with the 3-5-2 building a
defence around Paul McGrath. And England too reinstalled a 3-5-2 formation with wing-backs under Glenn Hoddle, wich still utilized this pattern with Tottenham. So the 3-5-2 isn't a news and isn't dead for English football. The problem of having three central defenders lined up against a single forward is a false one if one of the three defenders is able to move up supporting the midfield in the build up. That's the way some teams play this formation and that's the way Mancini ran this system against Liverpool, utilizing a gifted full-back as Pablo Zabaleta as centre back and ball carrier in the build up from the back.