EMERYBALL: CAN THIS BE THE SQUAD UNAI SHOULD SETTLE INTO
Arsenal succumbed to another defeat against Chelsea, and it is now two losses out of two matches. However, the London derby at the Stamford Bridge could have gone either way and Arsenal had more than enough chances to win the game. One, player – Eden Hazard turned the game and that should be something Unai and Arsenal must look critically into. The other was that Arsenal have now been out-matched by two of their direct rivals for top four and possibly the EPL title.
Against Man City, they had less shots on goal and less possession though they gave one of the best accounts in this respect compared to every other team that have played the EPL champions for the last season. Against Chelsea, they fared much worse in this respect.
A few players must come in for stick, Xhaka (How many times will this name continue to be in poor performances leaderboards for Arsenal?), Ozil, and Bellerin. Xhaka and Ozil went missing and Bellerin was caught out more often than not. It is instructive that the Chelsea’s left wing- right wing for Arsenal was where most of the attacks were being put together.
With the evidence of the first two competitive matches under Unai Emery, this is the squad I feel would make sense for the new manager.
Why this pattern? First, it is a compact system that allows the players to stretch and condense the team depending on the intensity of the match and the ‘attack or defend’ moments of the match. With this pattern, players are available to help each other out and there should be no problem to find that person to pass to and it will help the players to effect playing from the back better. It will also help to cover exceptional opposition players such as Eden Hazard, by condensing the area around this player and cutting off their options of passing rather than have our defenders all pulled out of position too easily. It will bring back the width that Emery has continued to miss out upon. This pattern will allow Emery to keep away the non performing players from the first XI without losing some key components of the game. And also reward the better performers as well as those waiting in the sidelines to come into the first XI. I know, many people will start the chorus – back three! No, No, No…
It is almost criminal that Lacazette and Torreira are starting on the bench and if the balance of the side is considered, these players will be able to play. People may say that we have been high scoring from last season’s evidence where we were joint third on goals scored together with Tottenham. However, evidenced from the last two matches, if Arsenal were more prolific, Chelsea would have been a won game and Manchester City could have been drawn.
I have Left Xhaka, Ozil and Bellerin out in this squad because they have continued to have mixed performances to downright poor like with Xhaka so far. I have to remain with our ‘slow’ defense and I have covered their need for speed by availing the width on both sides, compacted the side and Torreira in playing like the advanced centre back and link to the midfield. That means they do not have to venture too much outside for Arsenal to be effective in attacks. The highline does not have to involve leaving the back exposed so much.
Welbeck has been training in the left back position and should be able to help out in the defending but also capable of running the ball into midfield and deep attack for us when necessary. in this pattern, he has got Aubameyang ahead of him who is speedy and can cover acres in the areas too. Mkhitaryan would have to get the ‘fullback’ training too. Iwobi ahead of him is also a very mobile player and can help out in the need to defend when necessary. Both Welbeck and Mhkitaryan can cut inside to help Torreira in the centre and start off the moves from there.
Lacazette is a false nine and arguably playing the number 10 role combined with centre forward. Guendouzi is in the box to box role aside to Torreira in the places where despite his young age, his calmness and availability to move the ball around, absorb attacks and start our own attack will best be useful here. Torreira is the workhorse in this pattern and will be the person linking the defense and the midfield. He can plug into the back when needed.
From The Bench
Should Ozil recover the Mesut Ozil that can win matches on his own like we know he can, then he replaces Lacazette in that position and Lacazette moves to the right for Iwobi and Iwobi moves to the left for Welbeck. Ozil can still play in the right side of this system and have either Iwobi or Mkhitaryan give way and moved to the other wing to replace Welbeck, leaving Lacazette in the false nine-role. Of course such changes will be based on performance and maybe Welbeck could perform very well forcing a spirited fight for positions in the first XI, a good problem to have for Unai. Aaron Ramsey must just find his place in this line up. By evidence vs Chelsea he is getting better. Bellerin can help out Mustafi and Mkhitaryan especially coming in after the first hour.
Three at the back
By recovery of the widths, training the wing players on becoming defenders like what happened with Welbeck when we were short in the left back, by creating a compact system where players can spread out when we are attacking and contract into a defensive armour when being attacked, and by availing another dimension of attack in the form of Lacazette getting to start alongside Aubameyang, there will be no fear of having a back three that is responsible, not too adventurous and not having to be pulled out of shape too much. With this condition taken into account, there is no reason why we may not implement the back three more successfully. Our defending has not improved despite the changes we have been making and perhaps the solidity may be in a back three that actually starts by defending first before going to help out attacking – but most importantly, they can play from the back more convincingly because they have options in the width and the centre too. Emery is known to prefer the back four but what if the back three delivers on his vision of the game and provides the balance in defense and attack needed?
On the goals scored table Arsenal are now ranked joint 7th and on goals conceded we are on par with the three sides in relegation zone joint to Fulham and only ahead of West Ham. We have just played arguably the toughest matches of the first two games in the season, so maybe no cause for alarm just yet. We must also appreciate new coach Unai Emery tenacity in looking for a working formula and we have seen players like Guendouzi and Iwobi being brought in and Ramsey, Ozil and Xhaka being subbed on a performance based plan. However, based on the form of the players, matches played this season and the needs to get Emeryball into gear, this pattern and these players should be starting in the First XI.