Last season David Moyes’ three-at-the-back system flopped, and the club shipped far too many goals as the team flirted with relegation.
The Scot is no longer around, having been replaced by Manuel Pellegrini, and the Chilean is most likely throwing out all his predecessor’s blueprints.
The 64-year-old has never dabbled in the three-at-the-back fad, and it is hard to see him trying to force it again this season.
Pellegrini’s favoured formations at Manchester City were 4-3-3 and 4-2-2-2 and the idea of marauding wing-backs might be a bit alien to him; unless he has been studying the way the game has evolved since his time away from English football.
Assuming he sticks to his guns though, it might spell trouble for Arthur Masuaku, who has proved himself to be an extremely attack-minded wing-back since his move from Olympiacos in 2016.
A flat back four certainly favours Aaron Cresswell at left-back. The Englishman is not quite as offensive as Masuaku and can recover his position more quickly than the Frenchman. That is key in the Premier League – a division renowned for having lightning fast wingers.
And speaking of swift wide men, the opening game against Liverpool a week on Sunday is about as tough as it gets with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, and it will be a chance for Pellegrini to see if Cresswell can hold his own.
Pellegrini’s history suggests that Masuaku could be starting league games on the bench this season.
But do not be surprised to see him brought on in place of new West Ham signing Felipe Anderson in the latter stages of games so he can burn weary full-backs high up the field.