A couple hundred Crew faithful got a look at new signing Jairo Arrieta. He got 45 minutes with the reserve team on Sunday. With his arrival, the Crew now have 9 players who can play forward on the roster. A brief look at both the roster and Arrieta gives me the perfect opportunity to get into a little tactical nerdery.
Arrieta is a speed player who looks to break past the defensive line. He can play off a target striker like Olman Vargas or Aaron Schoenfeld in a classic British 4-4-2 alignment, tracking down the odd lay off. However, with the wealth of options the Crew have now, he may be the type of player to fit into an agressive possession based 4-3-3 alignment.
Warzycha has occasionally switched to what he calls a 4-3-3, but it's more like a 4-5-1. The wide forwards are there to provide width to the team and are pulled away from an increasingly isolated target forward. The ball flows from the back line to a central triangle of midfielders who push the ball wider to the wing forwards. These players are charged with cutting in, or more often, pulling wide and looking to cross.
An ideal 4-3-3 with Arrieta and perhaps Emilio Renteria would be narrower than what Warzycha has played so far this year. The speedy Arrieta and Renteria would play more in the center, off Vargas, and look to move into channels from the central zone. Additionally, they can check back into midfield to provide another forward option to the central midfield trio. They often would be far from the touchline.
The midfield behind them would focus on keeping and creating chances. Danny O'Rourke plays simply and is a very good screening defender. Milovan Mirosevic certainly has the vision to get the ball where it needs to be and follow up with the right run. Eddie Gaven has shown flexibility to play where needed and his ball skills in traffic are quite good.
The chief drawback to this new 4-3-3 is that it is narrow. The width in this formation would have to come from the team's fullbacks. The Crew probably have the players to make this work now though. Both Sebastian Miranda and Nemanja Vukovic are good with the ball and can provide crosses from out wide. To allow the fullbacks to push forward, the screener in midfield would have to cover a large amount of ground. O'Rourke is capable when healthy.
It's unlikely to see a major tactical shift in midseason, but the staff has mentioned that Arrieta's arrival will prompt a rethinking of the lineup when he's ready to go. It's certainly nice to have the additional flexibility provided by his arrival.