Arsenal’s 5 at the back simply can’t work – We need a Number 10

Can Arsenal really play without a No 10? by Eddie Hoyte

Okay folks, let’s discuss this like matured supporters. We’ve been on a good run and sadly it came to an end against a very poor team with the team giving an awful performance.

I’ve noticed this whole thing with the squad since Emery started playing 3 Central defenders and 2 Wing backs. Total of 5 defenders on the pitch. Not forgetting 2 additional defensive minded midfielders in Torreira and Xhaka. All sums up 7 players on the pitch whose sole focus is covering for Leno and making sure we hold our defensive line.

Truth is it’s not working, and we can’t keep that up, Using that formation and strategy is really limiting the ability of our attackers. I’m not the type to go and delve into stats and stuff and I know Aubameyang is aiming for the golden boot, but if I’m right almost all of his goals came from playing with 4 at the back and having our attacking minded midfielders behind him, with only 2 of his goals being from playing with 5 defenders. Both goals against Spurs.

Every game that we’ve played with that formation, we struggled to create chances and struggle to win. With that formation, Emery plays and fields almost defensive minded players, with poor supporting attackers: Iwobi and Mhki.

We struggle to create chances with the formation, Aubameyang looks useless up front alone without creative midfielders behind him. Even Lacazette alone up front will struggle with this formation if he gets no support because he can’t do it all alone. This brings me to my question, Can we really play this formation without a proper No 10 or creative wingers?

Against Spurs we were losing until he introduced Ramsey who we all know plays the No 10 position, and he created some chances and got 2 assist. Rest of the game where we’ve played a midfield of Torreira-Xhaka-Iwobi-Mhiki, we struggled a lot to win because Iwobi and Mhiki are both too poor to contribute anything. Go back and watch those matches, we won none comfortably, do you think it’s a coincidence? We missed Mustafi and Sokratis but even with those 2 on the pitch, even though we defend well, we fail to score and create multiple chances.

This match against Southampton, his mistake was playing Xhaka-Torreira-Guendouzi all in the same team with again the poor duo who can’t create chances for our world class striker. Aubameyang again looks useless.

This formation leaves us too defensive minded.

People say Ozil is crap and a luxury, I admit he’s poor, but with how Mhiki and Iwobi have been playing we need to play either Ozil or Ramsey behind Aubameyang. Without a creative player or matured player like Ramsey, Ozil and Lacazette playing alongside Aubameyang, he’s of no use to us. I can’t even question his goalscoring abilities because we all know he’s been one of the world’s most deadliest striker for the past 3 seasons or so. Are we utilising him well?

The game against Manchester Utd needed a player like Ramsey or Ozil simply because United’s defense was too poor, so much poor and Iwobi or Mhiki couldn’t even spot a perfect forward pass. We could’ve won that match if we played with either of Ramsey or Ozil from the beginning of the match, because both players fancy going for creating and scoring goals and they do it well, we could’ve taken advantage of United’s poor defense. Ozil on his poor day even creates and makes forward passes and chances more than Mhki and Iwobi has even attempted. Ramsey seems to be playing well just to get a pay rise or a big club transfer, so? Who cares? Play him and let him show he can be good and helpful after all we’re letting him go for free. Why not play him since he even contributes to the team while he’s here?

I’m not jumping on Emery’s neck right now because still I’ve been impressed by him ,but I have to ask questions like this if only it was possible to reach out to him. Arsenal playing 5 defensive players on the pitch with Xhaka and Torreira won’t work without a creative midfielder supporting whoever strikes for us. We don’t have to play with a No 10 but we do need World class wingers and since we don’t have those now? Why not make do with our best attacking midfield options till we get necessary players?

Am I being paranoid or this whole 5 defenders thing can’t work out perfectly?

Eddie Hoyte


  1. McLovin says:

    We got BATE Borisov in the Europa League.

    When we switched to 5 defenders, we conceded 2 against Spurs, 2 against United, 3 against Southampton.

    Not that much better than our record playing with back 4.

    We do need a consistent CB in January, no question about it.

    1. Sue says:

      Not a bad draw! COYG

      1. Vish says:

        Yeah not a bad draw, should win comfortably, especially given the specialist Unai is in Europa league.

        P.S. – 2 awesome matches in CL – Liverpool vs Bayern, Juventus vs Atletico. Crackers.

        1. Raja Danish says:

          dortmund vs tottenham
          psg vs man united
          plus barca vs lyon u cannot underestimate lyon with the way they are playing in ucl especially the way they beat man city in etihad and drew them at their home so they were unbeaten against man city and unlucky to finish second in their group in my opinion so it will be a good attacking contest of both these teams fekir, depay in good form and barca is barca but they bottled against roma in quarters so barca will be more casual in their approach this time. These are all excellent draws in my opinion..

  2. Vish says:

    Issue with Ozil is he slows the play down too much and he has become a sideways passer off late. Laca and Auba need quick through balls. Till the time Ozil looks up to make a pass the opposition defence is already back to crowd us out. Atleast Guenduozi and Xhaka try to play through balls. Torreira is himself enough to cover our back 4.
    Mkhi is not good enough for this team. The only consolation is that Sanchez is playing so poorly at Manu that it seems we got the better side of the deal.
    Iwobi sparks sometimes but many times he acts like a headless chicken(reminds me of Gervinho).
    I still think we are going to miss Ramsey because he has that tendency of making the right runs at the right time.

    1. Eddie Hoyte says:

      Vish Absolutely correct, so until we get new players, our best options still she to be Ramsey and Ozil because Iwobi and Mhiki isn’t cutting it at all.
      I hope we get a proper defender and a winger soon though

    2. Dammy says:

      3 at the back can work and worked when Wenger first introduced it. The first thing that needs to be gotten out of the way is that a back 3 of Lichsteiner, Koscielny, and Xhaka would leak goals, even if it is against a poor Southampton side. All 3 goals were headers and all of this talk about defenders, formations, and new CB’s ignores Leno coming out for a corner and missing it completely!

      Sokratis is a stop-gap signing to provide leadership at the back in Koscielny’s absence. Statistically however, Mustafi has been our best defender. Not because he is better than Sokratis defensively but because he is more mobile. He is also vastly more experienced than Holding. Koscielny is back but still has his Achilles to worry about for the rest of his career. Big Ups to him for playing with the injections. But at 33, he won’t have to do this for much longer…

      3 at the back can work with the right personnel. The reason Wenger introduced it was because we were conceding at an alarming rate, other teams (notably Chelsea and Leicester- last 2 league winners) had successfully implemented it, and more teams including Spuds became harder to break down due to the formation. But it has to be used according to the strengths of the team. With the immobile Mertesacker, the pacy Koscielny, and the reliable Monreal, this worked to great effect for Arsenal then- the only downside being Xhaka playing DM and being prone to last man tackles or having to break up counter attacks recklessly and picking up red cards.

      With Sokratis, Koscielny, and Mustafi, you have an experienced back line showing a mix of mobility (Mustafi), aggression (Sokratis) and nous (Koscielny). Rotate in Monreal, and Mavropanos and you have the backbone of a stable back line. One that can adapt to the managers ever evolving in-game tactical management. Kolasinac is a wing back and is more effective in this position because he will create chances. As a left back, he is more suspect because of his positioning. Hence with 3 at the back, he is an asset. As part of a back 4, he can be a liability. Bellerin can play both and we wish him speedy recovery. Lichtsteiner playing as part of a back 5 gives a defence that has shipped more goals than at this stage last season under a much maligned Wenger, a better chance of improving defensively. With Torreira as DM, we have a reliable DM and no longer have to worry about Xhaka getting sent off. With Xhaka unshackled by Torreira, distribution improves. With Torreira, Ozil is also unshackled somewhat similar to the days when Coquelin happily did his defensive work for a place in the squad. Play both Lacazette and Aubameyang in this formation, you would have both goals and tighter defence.

      Mustafi – Sokratis – Koscielny
      Lichtsteiner (Bellerin) – Xhaka – Torreira – Kolasinac
      Lacazette – Aubameyang

      1. Ingleby says:

        Very interesting analysis.

  3. GB says:

    Yes the Bate Boys

  4. john hodges says:

    this is the best post this year,i agree 100%,i wish i could put pen to paper like this post.

    1. jon fox says:

      You CAN John. Only lack of belief in your own writing ability stops you. And it need not, not if you just say sincerely what you think. Do not concern yourself if others disagree, some always will; that is life. Test yourself out. You will find you can write. Just write as you would speak and don’t worry about spelling or punctuation being accurate. No one else does either, me included.

      1. Admin says:

        I always proofread and edit all articles, and I don’t mind as long as the content is interesting to us Arsenal fans.
        Anyone who wants to send a post to me can find my email address above on “contact us”

        1. jon fox says:

          I already know this Pat. Why have you put this in answer to my above post? It seems irrelevant to what I told JOHN HODGES, UNLESS YOU CAN CLARIFY FURTHER.

  5. Maks says:

    Playing 3 holding mids against Southampton is really strange, and I agree we need good Ozil, we need him or bring someone new and at least good as he was. Ramsey is not good enough no.10.
    also Emery has to address issue with our injured defense, although our defense is not good enough even with everybody fit and in form. Arsenal need to buy, and to buy big like Liverpool finally did with CB and a goalkeeper. They were delaying those buys for ages and lost lot’s of time, I hope we won’t follow that bad example.

  6. Grimlar says:

    I suspect that Emery will go back to four at the back when he has a defense he can rely on.
    Given the financial situation he cant really afford to buy more than one player in January unless he can get some other players off the books.
    Ozils name keeps coming up for the simple reason of his wages, lose Ozil and you could afford one or two good players and maybe a squad player. As others have said, its not that hes awful, but is he worth the money he is on? And the answer from most fans seems to be no. In a way I feel sorry for him, but at the end of the day, if you take the wage you have to perform.

    1. Grimlar says:

      Of course, finding someone to buy Ozil will be something of a struggle too.

  7. Mike Fowler says:

    Been checking the name “Eddie Hoyte” on the internet. I thought I’d be able to find some evidence of coaching qualifications and lengthy experience at a top flight club as a manager. I mean the bloke reckons he knows more than a highly experienced and qualified professional. I can only assume my search engine has broken; either that or perhaps Mr Hoyte doesn’t quite know as much as he thinks he does……………..

    1. Eddie Hoyte says:

      No I don’t know shít, I ain’t no coach, never will be one. I’m just a fan and supporter who like the rest of us on here try to make valid arguments and debates. Now if you nothing reasonable to say you can either post whatever crap you have without typing my name or you can crawl back to the miserable hole you just came out from cus nobody seen you here before.

      1. TOM says:

        Dude. This article is banging. You don’t need a title (coach, fan, footy fan…) other then writer.

        1. ozziegunner says:


      2. jon fox says:

        Eddie you have my fuill support too. It takes a person of courage to submit an article which however well constructed – and yours certainly IS – will always anger someone. That is how life works. You can’t please them all so don’t even try. Just write as you have ; it is a fine article and ignore the coward called Mike Fowler completely . His comment is that of a spiteful troll. Forget it! I don’t agree with all you write but with most of it. But that does not matter either. You are a fine fan with a strong and worthwhile opinion who has contructed a well thought out and well written article. Be proud of yourself and let us have more of the same.

    2. jon fox says:

      This miserable comment is that of a mean minded troll. Comments like that say far more about YOU than of the real fan Eddie, whom you miserably deign to criticise without any cause. If you disagee with his comments then say so and why, honestly like a man , instead of looking him up on line as trolls do. Pathetic !

      1. Eddie Hoyte says:

        Jon Fox he’s not worth our time…not even a bit

    3. Ingleby says:

      Can only assume you lead a very sad life.

  8. AndersS says:

    I think you need to look at it from another angle.
    All the teams above us play high and quick pressing football, where even the forwards are very much involved in getting the ball back and keeping the opponents away from our goal.
    Bayern, Barcelona and PSG play the same.
    This is the way modern football is, but Wenger failed to adapt, and it seems Mourinho is also failing to do so. Fortunately Emery is going to implement it.
    Our attacking players from the Wenger era not used to it, and Mkhi can’t do it well either. Some may learn after some time, but some probably can’t learn (Ôzil, Ramsey, Mkhi and others), and for those, we will have to get some replacements.
    I think, Emery is trying to do as best possible until then by starting matches with more defensive midfielders and then substituting to get more attacking power in the second half, when opponents are tiring. It has worked reasonably well.
    The match against Southhampton was special because we have so many injuries in the back line, that we had to play players there, who aren’t even defenders. Emery tried to protect them with a more defensive midfield. It didn’t work. Our backline & goalkeeper had a really bad ay, and actually for their second goal, it was partly down to Iwobi, who could have put pressure on the player providing the cross, but Iwobi was just walking around.

    So there you have it. It will take time.

    1. Things are changing says:

      I have to agree.

  9. Good Article and analysis.

  10. Mobella says:

    Majority of us, infact all of us know that defeat will happen and now that it happened we are overreacting. This defeat maybe what the coach need to realize to change something and the owner to get more involved. I always look for the positive and the positive in the defeat to Southampton is that it will wake up the team and the coach to further see that his team is not good enough.

  11. Things are changing says:

    For me, the loss against Southampton was not due to the formation. The first two goals by Southampton were perfectly executed crosses that were pinpoint accurate without our CD being massively out of position.

    Aubamayang was careless with a few chances and we should have been 1-0 up before Southampton got a look at our goal. Also, Southampton didn’t play like a team who hadn’t won at home. Their new manager had the expected short-term positive effect.

    Gendouzi is not bad going forward and to me, Xhaka is not a defensive minded midfield player but more a forward going and forward passing midfield player. Sadly against Southampton, he had other responsibilities as a result of our defensive absentees.

    When we finally did introduce a nr 10 in Ozil it was his loss of the ball that lead to the third goal of Southampton.

    I am not going to argue that we don’t need to invest in a creative attacking midfield player in the form of Silva, Eriksson or Santi Cazorla and that MIkhi and Iwobi are poor but I am not sure Ramsey is the answer and I am sure Ozil is not the answer.

    I would not mind bringing Reiss Nelson back for the second half of the season and giving Rowe more minutes because we do need better wingers.

    But I am not convinced that the formation is to blame for poor results but believe it is the quality of the available defenders as much as the team still needing to grow into Emery’s system.

  12. Samuel Akinsola Adebosin says:

    I am not against Emery playing 3 at the back and 2 outside the trio as wing backs and 2 defensive midfielders to protect the back three. While the wing backs provide covering for the defensive midfielders and also for the back three. The same thing the defensive midfielders do to provide covering for the back three and for the 2 wing backs also. Playing 7 defenders by Arsenal could make them defensively stronger especially in the big games. But it has to be with the right personnel so as to have the job done properly to be successful at doing it.

    Koscielny who has just come back from long injury layoff with a cameo start against Qarabag should not have been started in the PL so soon against the Saints. But could be given appearances substitute role to play against Burnley and Brighton in the PL to sharpen him up to standard before giving him a start against Fulham to see how far with him. For his height and his being able to head ariel ball away defensively in the box, and haven played 90 minutes in the Qarabag match, Jenkinson should have been the preferred option to Koscielny by Emery to start him alongside Lichtsteiner and Xhaka as back three in the interim at Southampton. Then Bellerin and Monreal will be the wing backs.

    The problem encountered by Arsenal against Southampton was Iwobi in particular was not creative enough and not taking the bull by it’s horns to charge in into the box to score or gives assist. Mkhi’ too was not creative enough but at least he compensated for it by scoring twice. And the most guilty of them all is Auba’ who missed sitters and fluffed his line for Arsenal several times in the game. Too bad of him, i think he contributed immensely to Arsenal losing their 22 matches unbeaten run to Southampton yesterday.

  13. Raja Danish says:

    dortmund vs tottenham
    psg vs man united
    plus barca vs lyon u cannot underestimate lyon with the way they are playing in ucl especially the way they beat man city in etihad and drew them at their home so they were unbeaten against man city and unlucky to finish second in their group in my opinion so it will be a good attacking contest of both these teams fekir, depay in good form and barca is barca but they bottled against roma in quarters so barca will be more casual in their approach this time. These are all excellent draws in my opinion..

    1. Raja Danish says:

      Liverpool vs bayern is best of them

      1. Declan says:

        BM are having a bad season though and I think Liverpool will tonk them both legs. Dortmund are top of German top division and playing a lot better than when spurs last beat them both legs.

        1. Raja Danish says:

          yeah liverpool in red hot form and are favorites for this tie bayern are always a gian in ucl and they know how to win in big matches in ucl but it will be a cracker of a match

          1. Raja Danish says:

            and juventus vs atletico is another match full of fighters and tacklers it will be an awesome contest more like a wrestling match and a low scoring one

  14. jon fox says:

    What is really letting us down creatively in central midfield is that both Ozil and Mkhi, our two most gifted central creators are both sponging off the club for huge unearned wages and both are bone idle. You know me, I tell it as it is. No half truths, but straight to the point. Both these players, as did Walcott for a disgracefully allowed decade before them, are cheating the club , the manager, us fans, even the ones who still refuse to believe it (Phil/ Sue/ Ken) and are cheating themselves too, since both could do much more and Ozil has world class ability yet , rightly, -since the manager is no fool – cannot even get into the current first eleven in a club struggling for creative central midfield talent. That is a disgrace. It was a disgrace that Wenger sanctioned that huge wage increase for Ozil, mainly because the club so badly handled Sanchez, who had more ambition than the manager and owner put together while he was here and only got disillusioned when he saw how little many other players cared about fighting hard and so finally left, in frustration and financial greed disgrace. Emery is a fighter and makes things happen BUT as I am tired of telling Gooners, cannot be expected to work miracles, even though he has done wonderfully well to get this mediocre squad(taken overall) on the top four fringes. We need both those ponces gone from our club asap and players brought in with fire in their belly and huge talent. That will need huge money and our Scrooge owner cares nothing for glory. In a nutshell my fellow Gooners there is the realistic problem. KROENKE!!! Those who are still being conned by Ozil, like Wenger was for so long , will no doubt now shoot these comments down. I say to them, get rid of those rose tinted specs, get real and face FACTS , unpleasant though they be!

    1. Eddie Hoyte says:

      Jon Fox again with the deep and thoughtful statement. Like I said, Ozil Mhiki, Iwobi and Ramsey are all poor and we need to get new Creative midfielders or wingers if we’re to play like Liverpool. The problem is Today you go with Ozil and Ramsey, they might be pissful poor… Tomorrow you decide to go with Iwobi and Mhiki and they’ll end up doing worse.
      We really need new players, anyways my main focus is how much we struggle when we play with 5 defenders alongside Torreira and Xhaka. Torreira does his job perfectly well so we can’t expect him to take responsibility of the creative side also.
      We better go back to the 4 man defense and play to our strength until we get proper replacements

      1. jon fox says:

        I also prefer a back four. Playing as we are now we have too many in the eleven who are defenders and many of those are just not good enough. We badly need to buy some top creative players who are NOT lazy, as are Ozil and Mkhi. As you say, we badly need a winger or better still two

        1. I don’t think Ozil is lazy. His achievements say otherwise. I just believe that he does not fit into Emery’s system. I don’t think any individual playmaker does and this is a problem which Emery is going to have to address and try and sort out if he wants Arsenal to eventually be a tittle contender. His style of management is to play to a certain system which does not allow for playmakers. Ozil is not going to perform under Emery unless this philosophy changes. Any other playmaker that comes into the side is going to have the same problem. Not being allowed to play like a playmaker.

          1. ozziegunner says:

            ?hopefully Ozil’s professional pride, causes Ozil to pull his finger out and prove to Emery he should play him.

          2. jon fox says:

            I see little sign of ANY professional pride. If he had any he would start working hard. He does not, so he has no pride. Simple truth , often overlooked by some.

  15. Tom says:

    I don’t think the system has Been given time to work out what is gonna happen up top as the back is not right. Firstly I feel in a flowing 3-4-3 system in defence it’s 5-3-2. If ozil in the top 3 drops back alongside torriera and xhaka can also learn to pressure or even mark zonally and cut out passes it gives torriera and others time in the game. I guess that’s the idea of it..

    Everyone press, everyone has time on the ball. But at the moment it’s used more to be defensively sound. And that’s hard with current injuries, suspensions.

    I think unai needs consistency. The medic at arsenal said koscienys time off can prolong his career and he could even come back better because he could work on our areas.

    I don’t know what our long term defensive setting will be. But first we need confidence in players. Monreal -injured season so far. Kociency 2 games. Kosianic carrying same injuring from start of season, not fully recovered vs new training. Holding excellent but now injured. Bellerin, mustafi just got injured, sokratis few games back from time off. Kostain injured.

    If signings can help the system and personal then fine. But I want to see our young defenders given the chance because they have been good when they played.

    Welbeck injury is a shame. Because we need a squad and willing players. Iwobi, Mhkit we all agree can offer more spark. Iwobi is learning what it takes to do it week in week out, while Mhkit with prior Dortmund and Man U injuries isn’t the same style of player we knew. He himself I feel needs to work out what we personally wants to be as the game progresses. At the moment he is secure on the ball, unai likes that I guess.

    Personally, it’s a tough time for us. And now we start again – game 1.

    But if we can get 3-4-3 right, we will smash 4-3-3 in time.

  16. Grandad says:

    A back four with quality is the way for us to make progress. Some of the vitriol aimed at the likes of Iwobi, Ozil and unbelievably AMN is completely over the top The reason we lost against a very average Southampton can be attributed to the poor quality of the back three selected by Emery and a below par display by Leno,. Basically we are a club which has real talent in midfield and in attack but is lacking in real quality at the back.End of story.

Comments are closed