My preferred Line-Up:
GK – Cech
RB – Jenkinson
CB – Mustafi
CB – Koscielny
LB – Gibbs
CDM – Xhaka
CDM – Coquelin
RW – Walcott
CAM – Ozil
LW – Perez
CF – Alexis
Interesting prematch comments from Wenger about how he sees Arsenal’s midfield and forward line working:
“You think about [the solution] in a global way and when you integrate more than two players, with Ozil [in the side] you have to balance that,” Wenger said. “Sometimes I play Iwobi or Chamberlain so the combination has to be in the four or five.”
“I consider Walcott and Alexis to be strikers, in their mind and the way they play. So around them you have to build a team that is balanced.”
“When I play Santi most of the time I have Coquelin because he is a really defensive breaker of attacks. He gives Santi more freedom. He is a more offensive player first although he is disciplined tactically. He is not a ball winner but a more creative player.”
“We are close with the balance as Xhaka in midfield is moving upwards. He has a different influence to Santi. Santi is more of a guy who gets out of very tight situations with a very short technique, right and left foot, while Xhaka has a pass and is not a dribbler. He passes through the lines.”
My read of Wenger’s comments is that he clearly sees:
– Alexis (CF) and Walcott (RW) as the team’s attacking/goal scoring outlets
– Iwobi/Ox (LW) and Ozil (CAM) as the forward creators
– Xhaka/Santi (CDM) as the transitioning central midfielder
– Coquelin (CDM) as the tackling central midfielder.
That’s fair enough in principle, though there are a couple of practical issues I can see with that approach.
1. Alexis frequently likes to drop closer to midfield and act as another creator. To account for that I think Arsenal need another attacking outlet in their front four. As Iwobi and Ozil have proved inconsistent in naturally adopting that role when required and as Ozil is the better creator of the two, I think a more natural attacking outlet, like Perez, in place of Iwobi would provide Arsenal with better balance in their attack.
2. I don’t think Xhaka is comfortable or needs to physically “move upwards” on the pitch to improve Arsenal’s transitional play. For me Xhaka lacks pace and nibble feet when on the ball. So Xhaka, like Xavi Alfonso, has built his game on collecting the ball in deep central midfield and quickly firing long accurate passes forward to allow the more attacking players to subsequently create and/or score goals. By making those passes from a deep lying midfield area and not physically dribbling the ball vertically up the field Xhaka positions himself better defensively in case his long pass is inaccurate or one of his more attacking teammate subsequently turn over position. In an Arsenal context, with regularly advancing fullbacks and intricate passing amongst its forward creators, Xhaka natural game from deep central midfield should suit Arsenal nicely, without the need for him to physically move upwards on the pitch.
Looking forward to the clash versus the Hammers. COYGs!