It’s rare that you’ll see something almost completely new on a football pitch.
The Cruyff turn, the Panenka penalty and vanishing free kick spray all stand out as genuine moments of innovation but ask yourself when was the last time you saw something truly different.
Well ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League clash against Leeds this Sunday, Mikel Arteta appears to have experimented with an idea almost unheard of in professional football.
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The Gunners began their preparation for the match with a snow swept training session at London Colney on Wednesday.
The game is of immense importance for Arsenal as they seek to get their late push for a Champions League place back on track following a three-match winless run.
Scoring just once in games against Manchester United, Wolves and Aston Villa has really thrown Arsenal off their stride, so three points are definitely needed on Sunday.
Within the session Arteta and his coaches instructed the side to begin a fiercely competitive 11-a-side match, with one team wearing bibs and the other wearing almost every layer of training kit imaginable to fight the cold.
The match was captured in a video on the Arsenal official YouTube channel and what was interesting to note was that the bib-wearing team had an unusual defensive partnership at its heart.
Paired in the middle were centre backs Gabriel and Pablo Mari, both of whom are left footed players. The Brazilian was on the left while Mari was on the right.
While right-footed centre back partnerships are common place in football, a duo of lefties has pretty much never been seen before.
Arteta has fielded two left footers within a back three before, with Gabriel playing in the middle and Kieran Tierney at left centre back in the 3-4-3 formation the Gunners started the season with, but it has never been seen in a back four.
There is technically no reason why Mari and Gabriel couldn’t play together at the back, but it is more or less unheard of at this level of the game.
Left footed centre backs have become a precious commodity in recent times as teams look to play out from the back in line with the current tactical trends across football.
Arteta’s mentor Pep Guardiola has previously commented how important having a player like this is within his defensive structure at Manchester City. When asked about Aymeric Laporte’s importance to his side the former Barcelona coach responded:
“He has something that we don’t otherwise have in the squad — his left foot in a central defender,” he said.
“There are many actions to build up — to make our play quicker, better — but we can’t do them. Not because the other players are not good but because Laporte is the only left-footed central defender.”
In the summer City signed Nathan Ake from Bournemouth to bolster the number of left-footed options available to Guardiola within his squad. But even then the current Premier League leaders have never paired the two together.
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It is unclear whether Gabriel and Pablo Mari will actually end up playing together at all against Leeds.
Rob Holding has been a near ever-present in Mikel Arteta’s defence this season, while David Luiz is available for selection again following his harsh suspension for a red card against Wolves. Both could end up starting instead.
But if the Arsenal boss does decide to opt for two left-footed centre backs on Sunday it will be a fascinating tactical experiment which has never been seen before in the Premier League.