Arsenal already have the perfect backup for Tierney when needed

What’s Our Best Formation? by Ben Dungate

Arsenal’s disciplinary record under Arteta is poor, and whilst it would be easy to lay the blame at Xhaka’s door, I think that would be unfair. However, the number of games in which we have ended the match with fewer players than we started with leads us to an interesting development I would like to see Arteta use more often.

Many times throughout the season, usually when trying to close out a game, or if we had had a player sent off, Arteta would switch to five at the back. This usually meant Rob Holding would enter the pitch, but you can’t have it all your own way. What it highlighted though is that we have a good squad for this formation.
Kieran Tierney is rightfully our first choice left back and left wing back. He has demonstrated not only his ability to overlap but also his tenacity when defending. However, whilst it would nice to have an understudy to cover for him when he is inevitably injured I don’t think we should be looking to bring in more new faces. Either show faith in Tavares (or Maitland-Niles) or move him on. Whatever the decision I actually think our first choice understudy should be Bukayo Saka.
He’s our best player. By quite some way. And even as I write this I can hear Alan Hansen’s immortal words echoing from all those years ago, “play your best players in their best position”. And I’m largely in favour of this. But no player is bigger than the team, and if someone else can fill your position and you are perfectly adept at filling another, then that decision needs to be made.
So many times last season when Tierney wasn’t available there was an opportunity to play Nicolas Pepe out on the right and move Saka to left wing back. And I do advocate wing back, not full back. Saka down the left and Cedric down the right of a FIVE. Tomiyasu has demonstrated what an excellent defender he is but his attacking support leaves somewhat to be desired. The opposite can be said for Cedric. So Tomiyasu as the right of a 3 man defence would be quite effective I think.
With Saliba set to stay for next season this switch to 5 at the back could offer great stability to our defence, which despite a decent record never filled me with confidence. It would mitigate the necessity for the double pivot and not place so much reliance on Thomas Partey to be everywhere at once.
My first choice would always be for Saka to play further forward, but for those times when Tierney is crocked I really think he should be the next in line. It would solve the problem down our left side which has persisted for so long. It would give Tavares time to evolve, or leave, and allow some of our other attacking options more game time.
It would just be nice to see Arteta experiment at other times than when our backs are against the wall. We have the players for it. Does he have the quality and conviction to coach it?

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Tags Bukayo Saka tierney


  1. With Tierney’s injury record it would be a waste to play Saka at LB for 20+ games a season.

    He is our best player and integral to our success in the final third. Thus Arteta played anyone but him at LB last season.

  2. Please don’t talk bull. Sakas’ reward for being our best player last season is to make him backup left back.

    He would rightly move on. Coach the defenders properly so they are first team ready or identify a left back and buy him!

  3. Why would we shift our biggest goal threat of previous season to leftback or wingback?? Let our biggest star thrive where he is best, as inside forward on the right wing. Get a decent backup for the LB position, and for the record, keep Tavares as far as possible from our starting eleven!

    1. This idea should have come fromay be Antonio conte er anyone from the blue and white side not from within
      How do you carry a knife in a gun warfare and leave the tanker at home

  4. Playing with attacking wingbacks and three CBs could work if we have someone like Kane or Havertz as the main front-line pivot

    Conte has been using the same recipe with Vucinic at Juventus, Costa at Chelsea, Lukaku at Inter and Kane at Tottenham. Whereas Tuchel couldn’t use it when he had to play both Neymar/ Mbappe at PSG, but he won UCL with that tactic and Havertz as his main pivot

    The problem is Arsenal don’t seem to be chasing that CF type, which is a wasted opportunity since the tactic could save us in some tough away games

    1. @GAI,

      I prefer Arteta use a 424 formation.

      A midfield Dou of strong aggressive players


      The advanced 4 from the below in a diamond formation


      I wish arsenal sign Neves. That is the player we need in midfield.

      I have seen enough of Xhaka’s mistakes to last me a life time. He should be replaced with Neves.

      Tierney. Gabriel. Saliba. Tomiyasu

      Neves. Partey


      Martinelli. Saka


      1. Nice. But most big teams that won major trophies in the last five years use one-CF formations, to win midfield battle

        Tuchel used two most skillful strikers in the world, Neymar and Mbappe, to play against Flick’s Bayern Muenchen team in UCL final two seasons ago. He lost the ball possession and couldn’t break Bayern’s defense, despite having two world class strikers and two great wingers at that time

      2. The combination of Odegaard and Neves in midfield taking the pressure off Partey sounds extremely classy in comparison to what Arteta put on the field last season. My only disappointment would be that we could lose ESR because the manager cannot find a system that plays to his strengths. I don’t know how the kid can get out of this cycle of niggling injuries and being played out of position. Well soon find out but my gut feeling is that he will eventually play his best football elsewhere.

        1. Messi and mbappe up front too?

          Wolves want £100 mil for Neves do it isn’t happening

          It is pointless to compare last season against players we won’t sign

  5. We need a replacement for Tierney we cant afford to have Saka our best attacker playing LB for half of the season

  6. We have the perfect cover for both full back positions in AMN.
    Mikel needs to sit him down, manage him, coach him and then show he has faith in him.
    If he had done this before sending him out on loan, the players value wouldn’t have dropped from a reported £200,000,000 to £5,000,000.

    As for playing Xaka aat LB – what a waste of talent!!!

    1. KEN 1945, YOU HAVE WRITTEN TWO HUNDRED MILLION! You plainly meant twenty million! At least, I HOPE YOU DID!

  7. We need a player who can challenge him and not just deputise. I still miss our french lb.

  8. Don’t be disheartened Ben by some of the criticism which may come your way in response to your article which,to me raised some interesting issues.In the absence of a dedicated, physically powerful DM, such as those in place at Man City and Liverpool, I very much doubt if a 4-3-3 set up will take us into the top four.I wholeheartedly agree with your comments concerning Tomi, who imo is our best natural CB and one of a lost breed who love defending .In addition to being comfortable with either foot, he is quick, good in the air, and excellent in one against one situations.In essence he is an excellent defensive player who it has to be acknowledged is not so effective when he attacks in the final third of the pitch.Your suggestion to switch to a back three on occasion makes a lot of sense and is a set up I would use to match up against Chelsea and Spurs..As for Saka,Southgate has used him as a LWB due to the injuries to Shaw and Chillwell, and there is no doubt be would be a threat in this position for Arsenal.While I do hope Tavares can come good ,a loan period seems to be on the cards for him ,in which case a natural back up LB is needed for Tierney.

  9. I think we need another left back here. Nothing concerns Saka at LB so let’s go for Lisandro Martinez rather.

  10. OT:a PL player in his 20’s has been arrested and charged in North London for sexual offences(2 different women).i hope that is not true but with the news that TP is not travelling with the team on our US tour, people on social media are making certain assumptions.

  11. I get what you’re going for, it does make sense, but it almost feels (literally) like a step back for club and player, Ben is right, it’s too many games for us to weaken our forward line for the benefit of the defence.

    Loan out Tavares, buy Grimaldo and you’re set, I don’t think AMN has ever played LB, he hates RB, so would hate LB even more.

    I would have preferred Hickey but hey whoever delayed on that has wasted an opportunity, we’ll pay 30m+ for him in a season or 2 when he’s grown.

  12. I concur with you to a large extent. The only way to ensure that we achieve that is to have physically endowed forwards so that the opposition’s defenders do not push Arsenal on the backfoot…a demunitive and versatile DM would also help check that out very well… Remember the likes of Claudio Makelele and Our own Gilberto Silver…not to mention Pat Vieira…

  13. Tavares no. Please move him on since as a defender he is a utter liability. Further forward away from his own half he may prove useful.

    Let’s get a proper LB shall we and let Saka play further up the field ..

  14. I can’t believe you are actually suggesting we should move our best attacker and creator of chances to a left back position. You may be confusing the role of a LB with that of a winger. Imagine playing Ronaldo and Messi as LB. Also who says Saka is a good defender?

      1. So what? Does that make him a good defender? ….. Pat Deep down u know it doesn’t make sense

        1. Act the few games he played as a lb he was as good as any defender Ive seen in a few years ,but nowhere he should be played there as last season he was our best attcking threat , he high begs the question why did we try and sign Raphinha.

          1. He was a quality wing back but is a better attacker.

            Pele was a top draw goalkeeper in his era but neither Brazil or santos ever started him in goal as the loss up front would have been too great.
            He did fill in as a gk I think 4 times for santos and once for Brazil when the keeper went off injured and only 1 sub could be on the bench. He was the reserve keeper for both sides!

  15. One thing Arteta has done is the bold step he took as per creating that discipline and right attitude within the squad. Ozil, Aubameyang, Mustafi, Socrates, Kolasinac have all left the club. You have to justify your wages.
    It is a process.
    We should not pay over the odds for Martinez. With the interest from Man united, anything above 40m pounds, we should walk away.

    1. Totally agree, we were a club full of players coasting for wages and little desire to succeed

  16. Nuno is young and can be trained to hold that position very well. Arsenal needs Saka upfront to create scoring opportunities and score goals himself.

  17. Best scenario is Best way of defence is attack thru team work and aggressive and fast strikers with experience to score goals.
    So Arteta is the best person to know how to select team players for max target shots. This is bound to vary according to which team is the adversary.

  18. Come on man, the writer only wrote his opinion, which he is entitle to. No need of such words. Pls learn or try, at least mind what you said to people.
    Saka is one of the team most versatile players alongside amn, tomi, white. infact more versatile than those I mention cos of his ability to play both in attack and defense, with amn a close second.

  19. So you want to move our most creative player and biggest offensive threat to LB? 😆 😂 😆 😂

  20. Best we get Aaron hickey and tielemen/Fabian Ruiz. Any one of those 2 will do and also amadou onana.

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