The Players and Formation that Arsenal need to play Emeryball


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…

The Players…

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.

The Width
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.

Central Roles
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?

In Conclusion…
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.



  1. Arsenal should really start planning for the future and forget about immediate challenge for the titles..if we win titles then fine but at this point after so much damage we need to find a better future so we can constantly challenge for title easily……three out four of our star players would be in their 30s next year(aubameyang,ozil and mikhitaryan) if Emery plans to stay long in arsenal he should do well to start building the team around Lacazette……….another point I have to make is this……..since we can’t compete with the high prices in the current market then arsenal need to use the money they can afford to invest heavily on our academy and improve it…it would help us very well in the future…then we can continue to get gems like guendouzi and torriera….and get just one big signing each summer…..we have to be deistic to know that this is the only way if kroenke doesn’t compete with the high prices in the current market……………Barcelona ever best team under guardiola involved a lot of academy graduates who were their key players(xavi,iniesta puyol,busquest,Pedro and messi)…arsenal have to focus on their academy and hope for a better future……….these players are our future(Maitland Niles,nelson,nketiah,torriera,mavrapanos,holding,iwobi,guendouzi,Lacazette,kolasinac,osei tutu,chambers,nwakali,Emile smith Rowe,Leno)……emery has to focus on these players and make them play as a team and be a formidable unit so we can be the next powerful Barcelona…who knows we can have our next invincibles from this set of players…….may God bless our future…. Arsenal fans have suffered so much…so I know we deserve a brighter future we can be proud of

    1. Academy is a gamble and you can never predict how good it would turn out. Barcelona were lucky to have a golden generation of academy graduates at same time and thinking that would be replicated easily is poor strategy. Even Barcelona hasn’t been able to replicate it and have gone back to investing heavily in transfers.

      Again, young players can be frustrating and require patience. Even with such patience, there’s no guarantee that they would fulfil whatever promise they show as youngsters. In the high pressure end that is Premier league, such patience won’t be shown by the fans and the media.

      Thirdly, it would mean a prolonged period out of Europe with its many financial and sporting consequences.

      Fourthly, young teams don’t win a lot (Arsenal experienced that 2006 – 2013). This means that as players develop they seek for both money and sporting success elsewhere (e.g. Fabregas and VanPersie). You would only find yourself in a perpetual rebuilding cycle.

      Long and short of it is that in today’s EPL, it’s not a strategy that can work in a top team. Even relegation tier sides spend a lot these days to remain in the EPL. It’s simply not feasible.

    2. I love this analysis, formation and player proposition! Superb article! Can somebody make this available to Emery?

      1. Re: Making it Available to Emery…exactly how I feel too. Great article. Arsenal website used to have an email address before. I sent tons of mails that got to Wenger! His PA once responded.

    1. Actually any formation would be useless if Arsenal keep losing the ball in tough away games

      Ozil’s stats in Man City game is the most possession lost (19 times lost the ball) and the most possession gained (7 times retrieved the ball). It means he just managed to retrieve one-third of what he lost. This is for you stats lovers that always slated Sanchez for losing the ball

      In the last match, Aubameyang was the worst player in the game. Had the attackers been able to convert the perfect chances, Arsenal would have one goal ahead and they just needed to prepare for counterattacks

  2. Arsenal will kill themselves with that your crazy 3-1-3-3 formation

    The craziest formation in real life I have ever seen is Luis Enrique’s 3-2-3-2 with two inverted wingbacks. This crazy formation managed to turn Barcelona’s table against PSG in Champions League, but not sustainable for a long La Liga run

    For Ozil’s fans, Emery can use 4-2-3-1 to accommodate the no 10 in home matches or when they face weaker teams. But I suggest they don’t use any no 10 strategy in tough away matches, because we don’t have a skillful no 10 like Messi, Neymar, Isco or Hazard (but 3-4-1-2 might be worth to try)

    1. Well said gotanidea. But my problem is where were our defensive strategies? I thought our problems under Wenger was that we were lazy and not defending enough. Am tired of old wine in a new bottle, it just doesn’t change anything.

      1. Let’s see how good or bad Arsenal’s defense would be, when the new outfield players (Torreira, Sokratis, Lichtsteiner, Guendouzi) start to adapt

      2. But it is NOT a new bottle etc. is it? It is still the same old dross players who Wenger constantly picked. Yes, Emery may be regarded as a new bottle if you wish to call him that, but he is not a miracle worker. No one is! Coaching below average players into title challengers is not in ANY managers remit or capability. We need to get rid of AT LEAST half, preferably most, of Wengers dross, many of whom are just wimps and shirkers or rash, immobile players like Xhaka and Mustafi. I really feel for Emery ; he has his hands tied by the dreadful owner who won’t spend and thanks to Wengers ludicrous overpaying of poor players, we can’t even move them on as no other club will pay those wages for such poor players. We have to lower our expectations and KEEP them lowered UNTIL and UNLESS we can get rid of KROENKE. That is the realistic truth, sad though it be. WE NEED A SUSTAINED WAR ON KREONKE , UNTIL WE FINALLY FORCE HIM TO SELL. A permanently almost empty stadium and buying no merchadise is our ONLY weapon.

  3. I like your idea of a back three but i would only use that formation against the top 6 teams. We do not have as yet that high energy set of players Emery needs to carry out his system however we could adjust our system by removing our technical players, going more direct and offer our defence more backing.


    Sokratis Mustaphi Mav.

    Lich Torreira Guendouzi Monreal

    Welb Auba

    I think a team like that would give the top 6 serious issues, with Torreira and Guendouzi being the providers. We can go back to the basic line up for the other teams.

    Emery must realise he cannot use the same type of players in a top six clash because they play at a high pace.

  4. Ozil and Xhaka should be benched asap. Xhaka can’t defend to save his life and is prone to mistakes that have cost us games in the past..On the other hand, Ozil who is regarded as the “best no. 10 in the world” by some here has to be the most overrated footballer in the world. And to imagine he is on £350k a week. He earns more than the likes of Kevin De Bryune and Silva which makes us one joke of a club..At this point, I would suggest we ship him out and invest in younger and hungrier players.

  5. Abua———–lacazzete——- miki
    Torriera Xhaka
    Monreal sokratis mustafi bellerin
    This is how arsenal should play and emery should stop trying to Change ozil’s football u can get him to defend dats not his duty, he also needs to stop using xhaxa as a defensive midfielder its not going to work same mistake Wenger made, Ramsey should sit on the bench then introduce guendozzi when the need arises he just 19 don’t stress him out now he’s for the future.

    1. good line but still missing guendouzi,the boy is a gem ..I don care about his age ,how old is mbappe ?

  6. couldnt agree more with this post author, well said .there will be a lot of formation changing throughout this season , and it will take some time to get it right.surely we do not think that we could actually challenge for the title this season ?, we are a team , and , a club , in total transition .i am more than willing to give emery emery his allotted two year term tom turn this team around. it will take the club that long to get rid of the terrible cancer that was there from the very top to the very bottom for several we are still in the premier league is a miracle, in my opinion.the negativity is still there, but at least emery is beginning to cut it out . a belt and braces cleanout is needed , and i have every faith in the new manager to do so . i cartainally do not mind losing games , somebody has to lose, somebody has to win,it was the manner in which we lost games up to last term was the problem, but thankfully that seems to have gone, already .

  7. Sometimes the solution can be found in how other teams play.On Paper Brighton shd be easy meat but they are leading 3-1.The 2nd goal came from a sweeping movement :just 3 passes and they scored.
    Of course each game is different.
    The Brighton boss won the cl with Chelsea so he must be accorded some respect.
    I don’t wish to repeat: Arsenal are still stuck in forever passing.Why not take aleaf from other teams.

  8. It should be straightforward 4-3-3
    Lichtsteiner Mustafi Sokratis Moneral
    Ramsey Torreira Guendouzi
    Mkhitaryan Lacazzet Aubameyang

    No brainer… No nonsense

    1. No Ramsey though, almost as overrated as Ozil.
      Give the opportunity to one of the hungry youngsters like AMN, Smith-Rowe or Iwobi.

      1. Ramsey is the best option if we are playing that formation. We will need to dip back into transfer market if you want anyone better. Agree that AMN should get a shot in midfield though. Smith-Rowe, it’s probably too early for him to be starting games. Iwobi, our only true wide option on this team, and it’d be a waste to put him in midfield. And he’s hardly better than Ramsey, is he?

  9. Okay, some learning here from Emery. In this second game, he is not asking for the ball from the backfield every-time, allowing Czech to pick when to do what. Good.

    Emery ball, or pressing, winning the possession and attacking more directly, is hard to do properly. The players have to be fast, but also cooperative in tracking down and closing lanes to potential, as from being comfortable the ball. Arsenal do not have the personnel to execute at the highest level, and will lose to the bigger teams.

    What is to be done?

    Emery needs to use both Auba and Laca up front. No point playing pressman without two speedy player up fronts. Welbeck must play along with Iwobi, both work hard, and on their day are deadly. Ozil should be the island and not asked to press but use the space to be ready for the attack, and with possession he should have two targets if not more, if the wingers get up there.

    Ozil is being asked to play pressman. Bad idea. He should be focused on knitting the attack and feeding it. He can link with Guedouzi and the kid has a great range for passing too.

    Torreira and Guedouzi are this season’s answer. Both are savvy with D, and able to tackle cleanly. Both will make mistakes, but they are committed to Emery.

    Back three are not good enough to put an Arsenal jersey. Shame on Emery for not getting upgrades better than Sokratis. I suppose against the bottom ten teams this should be fine, provided they can keep clean sheets and run up the score.

    5th is possible this season. Should win in Europe?
    3-5-2 (variations)

    ———Torreira——-Guedouzi——– (Best mid-field combo?. Younger, hungrier, faster.)

  10. No team let alone arsenal can afford to play with only 3 defenders, so your lineup cannot work in that sense.

    I agree with you that we need 3-5-2 formation that suits our players.


    – I leave out Guendouzi because he is very slow both on the ball and in decision making position.
    – Mavropanos is needed because those long balls over the top can be headed by him well in time because of his height and secondly because he is the only defender in our squad along holding that is comfortable with the ball so is well suited to “playing out from the back” style of play.
    – Welbeck on the wing because even chelsea used victor moses as right wingback the season they were victorious.

    1. Good post , apart from leavingout Guendouzi. He should be the first midfield player picked, not leaving him out. I would play him instead of Iwobi.

  11. Welbeck Iwobi sokratis bellerin xhaka maitland Niles Nelson etc etc … All about scrambling for Europa league … Not one of these players is good enough for top teams … Stop deluding yourselves … Emery’s job if he is to survive is to get the very best out of our genuine world class and top players in a starting 11 that plays together regularly in the EPL so can begin to forge a strong collective bond …

  12. Why don’t we play the exact formation Chelsea play. 433. Simple. We have the players to do that. It’s perfect for the press as we all witnessed there is no shame in doing that. When conte came to the league half of the teams started playing 3 at the back even the championship teams started adapting to that system.

    Lichtsteiner/Bella- Sokratis – Mustafi- Monreal
    Ramsey- Guendouzi- Torreira

    This will keep out Ozil and Xhaka

  13. Arsenal’s new tactic of Cech passing to Sokratis, Mustafi, Bellerin and Xhaka, around thepenalty box even when they are being pressured and marked, should be renamed ‘suicide’ football. No team has ever played that way and ever will play that way. Tactical suicide. Emery needs to phone the Samaritans.

  14. There now seems almost unanimity among Gooners that Xhaka must not play again EVER, as first choice. Most also have had more than enough of BELLERIN. Mustafi is still the same rubbish player he was under Wenger, just not anywhere near the standard we need and deserve. Ozil is conning the club. We were incredibly foolish – by “we”, I of course mean WENGER- to give him that stupid new contract and wage rise, which is now killing us. He is just not working and Emery will not tolerate slackers, as Wenger did. I see OZIL being benched or left out altogether unless he changes his ways and I don’t think changing is in his natuire. HE IS HARMING THE CLUB AND SETTING ATERRIBLE EXAMPLE TO EMERYS NEW BUYS AND THE YOUNG PLAYERS. Thanks to WeNGERS STUPIDITY ,WE ARE NOW THROWING AWAY AROUND £17 MILL POUNDS A YEAR ON HIS WAGES FOR VIRTUALLY NOTHING IN RETURN. I have seen enough of how Emery wiorks to know that we have a great coach at our club now. But he has his hands tied by the shocking owner and WENGERS DREADFUL DEADWOOD STILL HERE. IT WILL BE AN INCREDIBLE, NEAR IMPOSSIBLE ACHIEVEMENT TO GET EVEN NEAR TOP FOUR THIS SEASON. We must be realistic and support him and all the players who are trying 100%. BUT WE HARM THE CLUB WE LOVE BY CONTINUING TO INDULGE AND SUPPORT THOSE WHO ARE SHIRKING AND WHO REFUSE TO BUY INTO EMERYS NEW WAYS. Shirkers have no place at Arsenal FC AND NEVER WILL.

    1. You right mate it was all down to Wenger, mr know it all who wanted to do everything by himself including at some point run over to Gazidis’s tasks kept few players on higher wages who were not good enough- make my observation short, we are really changing under Emery you could tell our playing style on crosses is more efficient now they spot somebody unlike when used to be was just a cross for the sake of it also Guendouzi is find of the century he reminds me of Pirlo a little bit

  15. A very interesting and well written article.Virtually all the top sides in Europe play with a flat back four, but whatever formation Emery adopts the team is only as good as it’s weakest link/s.In the case of Arsenal until we acquire quality centre backs our defence will continue to leak goals.Basically Mustafi and Socratic are not up to it and never will be.Give our young centre backs a chance Mr Emery ,they could not do worse.I agree wholeheartedly with your views on Bellerin,Ozil and in particular Xhaka .

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