The Auba-Laca Goal Machine is Ready to Rock: but Who to Sacrifice in Midfield?


The signing of Auba in the winter window left us wondering about Lacazette’s fate. Top strikers both, we wondered if they would be played together or singly or if the arrival of Auba was the end of Laca as an Arsenal player. The latter fear has somewhat subsided, but how they are going to be used remains uncertain. Meanwhile the two have struck up a great relationship off-field dousing any worries that they are going to hate each other’s guts. Certainly, Emery would never have to be invited to decide who between them takes the penalty kicks should they be played together.

Who, really, are these two friends?

AUBAMEYANG (the extrovert) is a goal poacher extraordinaire. Bet on him to be at the right place, right time. To behold his game at its best is to watch his movement without the ball and to see how they (him and the ball) repeatedly rendezvous in goal scoring prime positions. Nobody scores more goals from the six yard box. Each time, it looks a happenstance. His ability to do it over and over again tells us it’s genius.

LACAZETTE (the introvert) loves a clean strike, the type that gets the net rippling. But he is much more than that. He is a team player. A hard worker. An angry man on the pitch. Emery will love him.

While Auba seeks spaces, Laca seeks the ball. Auba is cunning, is stealth, is able to vanish from the opposition radar. Laca is fiery, likes to tangle, to get in the faces of opponents. Auba hovers, never far away from the shoulders of the defenders. He is patient. He knows one moment is enough and that it will come. Laca on the other hand is hungry. If the mountain wouldn’t come to him, he would go to it. A little lull and Laca has dropped deep.

Their styles are different but are as complementary as the yin and yang. That’s good news to us and to Emery who prefers a 5-4 triumph to a 1-0 win. A credential that helped land Emery his new job. Mind you, he has recruited Leno, Lichsteiner, Papastathopoulus, Torreira and the young defensive midfielder Guendouzi. Yes, he loves his team scoring plenty of goals but he is working hard that they don’t ship in goals. There isn’t going to be us conceding four goals in a many-goal thriller. 8-0 sounds more like it.

Auba-cum-Laca is like talking about goals galore even though Emery does not intend to use the 4:4:2 formation except in special situations. The few times the two goal merchants played together under Wenger, Auba was moved out wide on the left. Steve Bould on the other hand is convinced that Laca would fit well into the #10 role or out wide with Auba up top. All are viable options but remember that whenever the two play together, a midfielder is displaced. One of say Ozil or Mkhi would have to drop off; otherwise, by its ripple effect, it would be a midfielder down the offensive chain, like a Ramsey or a Xhaka.

The pros and cons of playing Auba and Laca in the same team at the expense of one regular midfielder is for Emery to determine. As a protagonist who loves his team dominating and scoring goals, expect him to play the two together more often than not. We have seen goals from them with Laca top and Auba wide left. Reverse their roles and bet on the goals to keep flowing.

Emery’s typical 1st eleven with the two in the team wouldn’t be far from this:-

4:14:1 FORMATION  (Xhaka dropped). Emery has hinted on this formation as suitable for his pressing needs.


Bel.   Papa.  Musti.   Nacho.


Mkhi.   Ozil.  Ramsey.   Laca.


4:2:3:1 FORMATION (Ramsey dropped). Emery used this formation at Sevilla.


Bel.   Papa.   Musti.   Nacho.

Torreira.    Xhaka.

Mkhi.    Ozil.    Auba.


4:3:3 FORMATION (Mkhi or Ozil dropped). Emery used this formation at PSG.


Bel.   Papa.   Musti.   Nacho.

Xhaka.   Torreira.  Ramsey.

Ozil/Mkhi. Laca.   Auba.

That’s Auba-cum-Laca for you. Nothing to fault about it. Also, nothing to fault in an occasional tweak that omits one of them for a player from our midfield chain to slot in. We are ready for the high stakes. And remember that Auba-cum-Laca is not an eclipse of our rising star Eddie Nketiah. There are games aplenty.

Can’t wait for ’18/19 season to begin.

By PE.

48 thoughts on “The Auba-Laca Goal Machine is Ready to Rock: but Who to Sacrifice in Midfield?

  • Excellent footie post, PE. 🙂

    Yes I agree that Auba-Laca are likely to be played together in most of our games and that means that Ozil, Mkhi, Rambo (Perez and Iwobi, Welbeck?) will have to be rotated to fill the two remaining attacking spots, unless Ramsey is played deeper in which case all five can play in the team: your first option, which I reckon will be very suitable for home games (with Xhaka not Torreira as first choice in front of the defence). In most away games I expect (hope) we will play a bit deeper and more solid in midfield, so with your second or third option. I reckon that Torreira and Elneny will be important tactics-adjustment players, both before and during the game, for Emery, with the Uruguayan playing in most of the games.

  • TA, ……. and Ramsey played deeper becomes an example of the ripple effect as he would in turn displace somebody down the midfield chain.

    I do feel that between our 1st choice pivot of Ramsey and Xhaka, it is the latter that is more threatened by the recruitment of Torreira. Xhaka is naturally deep lying and Torreira’s role is also the base of the midfield. A MF 3 however accomodates the three of Torreira, Xhaka and Ramsey unless a displaced attacking mid say Mkhi is moved down to again displace one of them.

    What it all means is that Auba/Laca gives us the luxury of rotation within our 1st choice players.

  • Horrible horrible post.

    Leaves nothing to discuss because it covers everything. 🙂

  • Yesterday Auba was deployed as the Left Winger and Laca deployed up top.

    I believe we would see something as a Wenger Plus formation (meaning the formation will not change much, but tweaked to suit the tactics of Emery) and it is still a 4:2:3:1 formation. Either that or the 4:1:4:1 formation is possible. 4:3:3 is just a tweak ot our 4:5:1 formation, but that is now not feasible as it exposes the defence greatly.

  • 3 more lineups stuck in moderation.. 🙂

    Btw, I have Mustafi starting as CB because I think that’s what will happen. I have Kolasinac starting ahead of Monreal because I think Kola will gradually supplant Monreal over the course of his season and is set for a great year.

  • Shard. …… bring out your microscope. Take us to the dizzy heights. We will cling on. How about the pros and cons of Laca top or Auba top. Or have they only the pros?

  • PE.. The only negative I can think of is the risk of injury/fatigue on our two best goalscorers.
    That’s why I think Perez and Nketiah will both play a part this season. I hope Welbeck stays but I think he will be sold, both for his sake, and for the club making some money.

    Btw. I hope you realise I was joking about it being a horrible post. It’s a thing I do with TA too when I think the post is well written, and I agree with everything it says.

  • I’d prefer Laca as CF rather than out wide though. Auba is quicker and can find space in the box. Laca is more clinical, a better player with his back to goal, and he will bring runners into play if he’s not scoring himself. Playing him wide will blunt his goalscoring. At No10.. I guess he could but we have better options there.

  • njk, …. I agree hat formations are more or less to give players the datum for navigation. They are also their for the purpose of instruction, of reading the game and of analysis. It is a language. It is also a structure but with spaces for players to respond with their initiatives to the field situation at any moment.

    Can’t understand how 4:5:1 or 4:3:3 expousees the defense greatly.

  • Shard … of course I got your message.

    I also got your point about injury. That might be the saving grace of Perz or Welbeck and off course Eddie is available. Anyway the two together wouldn’t mean they have to play all the games. For resting legs, only one plays in certain games.

  • @ Shard
    “I’d prefer Laca as CF rather than out wide though. Auba is quicker and can find space in the box. Laca is more clinical, a better player with his back to goal, and he will bring runners into play if he’s not scoring himself. Playing him wide will blunt his goalscoring. At No10.. I guess he could but we have ”

    99% agreed. Kept 1% aside for games against teams like City who play the high line. Auba’s pace would hurt any high line.

  • I like the options you have displayed there, S. And there are more and that is what’s good. It is really important that we improve our away form and results next season and it may well mean tweaking the centre of midfield or even the formation. I expect Torreira and Xhaka to play together a lot in our away games and against the attack-minded top teams. At home, I expect only one of them to start in most games.

  • PE. Again, agreed. Though I’d start Miki, or even Iwobi instead of Laca in such a scenario. If for no other reason than to have an option from the bench.

  • TA.Hahaha. Taste of my own medicine.

    I agree with you on Xhaka and Torreira playing together. I think in some games playing Elneny/AMN next to one of them will be the compromise we reach. Both have a good engine to press and cover, and also possess a good defensive awareness. (Elneny needs to tackle better though)

    Also, I sent you a mail.

  • Shard … agreed. Against teams that might dominate us, one of them only. Auba my choice to start.

    Elneny outside my top 3 CMders (Torreira, Ramsey, Xhaka).

  • Let me echo– a really good piece PE. The follow-ups too.
    Some heady times for many reasons. Most of it to do with widened choices and possibilities. Working out the permutations seem endless–

    Those choices — are indicative of what the club lacked/required. Squad depth. The additions– from ground up — added mortar to substantive brick on a solid foundation. We’ve complimented what was in place– with broader selection.

    Of the mind there’s no one/right answer as to how Emery will lineup– either formation or personnel. Emery now with a full set of tools? Predicting lineups– each week– will be a challenge.


  • Wanted to link to this:
    Lucas ‘Luquita’ Torreira receiving a hero’s welcome, returning from the WC to his home town–

    Did not find the meaning of Lucas’ nickname– Luquita. Google Translate managed to come up with ‘la quitar’– or loosely, ‘The Remover’. 🙂


  • Well France were my favourites to win the WC but I reckon the best team lost today. Croatia kept the ball down and played the best passing football, but luck was on the French’s side and at the end it was a bit of class by Mbappe to kill off the game.

  • On the day, France weren’t the better side but, overall in the tournament, probably deserved winners. Congrats to France.

  • Another excellent post, good job Pony. Good to see Shard also.
    Lots of permutations in the line ups, so I won’t even try, you guys have covered it well.

    I am very excited to see what I consider great depth in midfield and forwards. Many top coaches don’t rotate as much as I’d prefer, and I don’t know Emery’s style in that regard. One thing I’m sure about, is Arsene didn’t do it enough, and was too conservative with subs. Defensively, I think We will be a work in progress, but Torreira will certainly help a lot.

    I hope Unai uses our depth and young players, and rewards hard work. Id love Ramsey’s hamstrings to not be over-worked —Wenger was always afraid to not have him in every game. We predicted the breakdowns and were correct every year.

    I have been thinking, with Ramsey able to play more advanced and central, and now having Mikhi also, Ozil can be rested occasionally…….. but even more importantly, I would absolutely love to see Ozil come out early as the evil Mourinho always used to do in Madrid. He’s older now anyway, and his energy level has never equalled what he showed back then. Look up video compilations of Ozil in Madrid. It’s a stark difference, undeniable. Some down to the difference in leagues, I know, but still I can’t help but be jealous of the early Ozil.

    Besides all of this, I assume the increased work in pressing will take it’s toll on every player, and I hope it means more rotation and opportunity for Reiss Nelson, Perez, Nketiah, and others.

  • Croatia played the better football, but France had more in reserve. They play conservatively because that’s how Deschamps wants to play. But France could adapt to various situations, and although they had some luck along the way today, they were not going to lose this one after they had lost to Portugal in the Euro final.

    Apart from the first 10 minutes or so, and the wonderful strike from Perisic, Croatia, for all their possession and good play, were easily held at bay by the French defenders. France deserved winners if not the most exciting.

  • in agreement with your article (and thanks for the “Papastathopoulus” great laugh)
    i’d bet on:
    hector-mus-kos (when fit, of course)-kola

    yes … my bet is he’ll love aaron in a more upfront position
    we’ll see
    anyway: i’ve always been, and always remain a staunch wengerean, but 2018-2019 smells like title(s) spirit – won thanks to enjoyable, artistic football

  • Shard, the first goal came from a free-kick caused by a disappointing dive by Griezman (then there was further luck for France as it was an own goal that got the French in front very much out of the blue and against the run of play). Then the referee gave the French a penalty that seemed harsh to me. That is two big decisions that went against the Croats whilst they were actually on top, which is very poor for a WC final game. It should have been a much more even game but it was spoiled by the refereeing.

    I agree with Eris that the best team of the tournament won, though.

  • I hadn’t noticed the dive then. I haven’t looked back but a lot of people say it was a dive. The penalty call was correct I’m afraid. I didn’t want it to be given, but Perisic does bring his hand down a little quicker than would be natural, to block the ball. It’s pure instinct, not a planned action obviously, but that is how handballs calls are made these days. This one was borderline. I would not complain about it either way, but I think the ref got it right.

    I agree that luck didn’t favour Croatia. But I wouldn’t say that’s the same thing as them having their chances ruined by the referee.

    You know what did ruin their chances? Subasic.. It’s probably a result of the injury he seems to be carrying but the guy was not moving properly. On the first goal he barely got off the ground. On the 3rd and particularly the 4th goal, he should have stopped it, or at least been diving towards the ball and getting close to it. At the least. But it seems moving to his right was a problem for him. Despite his error Lloris was the better keeper on the night. Subasic should not have played if he was injured. If he wasn’t, then he doesn’t even have that excuse. That ruined Croatia’s chances.

  • Ok

    First the final. Right call, ball was significantly altered, intent doesn’t matter… equally, just cuz you’re better at the counter and Pogba / Kante are shrinking the attacking space for every team doesn’t mean you’re worse or even dominated really. It’s just a way to play a pressing team and win, well.

    I had them and Nelgium top coming out of the group stage…

    Pogba and Kante are the unsung hero’s I think.

    Cheers — jgc

  • Now onto The Arsenal,

    To be different as the post covered it all. I’m going to go Belgian with a 3-4-3 and drop Bellerin! Or Nacho, your call

    Auba (as Hazard, part 1) Ozil (as De Bruyne) Laça (as Lukaku)

    AR (as Hazard, part 2) Mkhitaryan (as Meunier)

    Torreira (as a way better/shorter Fellaini) Xhaka (as Witsel)

    Nacho Papas Mustafi

    Cech / Leno

    And there you go.

    The best part of this really is the depth it shows. There will be injuries, into break rests etc

    Cheers — jgc

  • Sorry that didn’t format nicely but take the 3-2-2-3 it shows as 3-4-3 with outer two B2B types.

  • geoffchase

    You’re going to play Ramsey and Miki as wingbacks? Or are Nacho and Mustafi going to drift wide with Torreira and Xhaka to drop deeper to occupy the middle spaces?

  • The trouble with 3 at the back in a 3223 as you suggest is that a 433 (Or 4213 if we’re being pedantic) provides an easy enough foil to it.

    A 4 at the back for the opposition means they always have a spare man in defense. The 2 counter the two AMs. And if the cm doesn’t go too far forward, and one of the wide forwards squeezes the space, then the attack is completely blunted. If one of the deeper mids (Torreira or Xhaka) try to join in they then leave space behind, open to a 4 on 4. Even without that, you have wide forwards and a Cf running at 3 defenders who need to occupy both the centre lines and half spaces, while drifting wide to follow a winger.

    Not sure that makes sense. Hang on. I’ll try and create a graphic again.

  • The arrows for the opposition are pressing actions when Torreira has the ball.

    The only option it leaves him is to go long. With someone like Giroud up front, maybe that works (though is not the football we like to see) But it’s still a risky strategy because if he loses it, the counter is well and truly on.

    I think it worked for Belgium because in international football the pace is slower and teams don’t really press. Because that needs greater coordination than they can muster and because they can’t pick and choose their players too much.

    Against any good pressing team, or a team which will just man mark and play roughhouse tactics, I don’t think the system you suggest will work. Unless we have two Santi Cazorla’s in the middle and good passers at the back.

  • Great comments from the NZ based Prof and India’s finest tactician 🙂

    I don’t like three at the back and I can see Shard’s point re the danger of being left with no options when being pressed. I reckon some of the most valuable players are top quality wingbacks, in whichever system we play. Shard has belief in Kola coming good this season and I have high hopes that Licht will get us to another level, and if both have a great season we could be in for a treat. I am definitely in favour of a 4-2-3-1 system with two deeper laying mids who can also play the passing game going forward.

    Yes Geoff, Kante and Pogba had good tournaments as the French played with two deeper laying mids and mostly on the counter/re-bound. This was very effective and won them the cup but it was not for the purists. Belgium and Croatia played the better football but lacked that bit of luck/ quality up-front. All in all, France won it because they had an efficient system with very, very good players (and a calm and focussed manager in DD). Thought Giroud had a stinker in the final but the French got away with it (also because they were lucky on the day). The pen was harsh. I agree it could have been given as the hand seemed to move towards the ball, but it was still not really a deliberate move towards it. Many of those do not get given and most experts believe that was not a pen. I still think France would have won it eventually, and I am happy for them. They and the efficient Swedes kept the Netherlands from qualifying for the WC and you can see why. It is going to be tough for the Dutch to find a way back into the big tournaments; Koeman has his work cut out.

  • TA

    Hmm, as someone who played to national level I insider myself a purist too. I like/love efficient and raking vs beautiful and not working. My take on Belgium – France was Belgium was a touch flat after Brazil, and perhaps simply Pogba + Kante > De Bruyne + Hazard on that day. It happens! Credit to them imo.

    Cheers — jgc

  • Shard,

    Yes I’d play them both as wingbacks to an extent, really B2B attackers with lots of freedom.

    I agree that if you play a tough(er) pressing team you could have troubles.. But then we are not under AW anymore, so we could line up in any of the other five choices. I very much don’t mind being pressed back with Mkhitaryan, AR, Xhaka, and Torreira looking to find a long pass to Ozil and countering with blistering pace. I think Mkhitaryan has the graft for it, AR ??

    Equally, I was just tossing it out to be different.. And got a reaction… 🙂

    Cheers — jgc

  • TA

    I could see us playing quite like Croatia did actually. With the fullbacks pushing high up, Torreira sitting deep like Brozovic, Xhaka in the Rakitic role, and Ramsey/Ozil in the Modric role higher up. Wing options include Auba, Miki, Iwobi and Perez (Welbeck if he stays) and up front Laca or Auba.

    If we can control the game in midfield the way Croatia did, our attack is stronger and we should score lots of goals. Even adjusting for the strength of the opposition.

  • Hahah geoffchase.. I’m a fish that always bites… Not very appetising though 🙂

  • Shard


    I think also I just wanted to break the idea a midfielder had to sit, or that AR and Ozil and Mkhitaryan cannot all play. It just depends on what’s asked.

    Belgium did this well. With, for example, Carrasco more attack minded and Chadli more balanced. Remember too, the mid two sat wellll back and hat allows one of the middle three to go wide for cover… Meunier was a balanced bit on the other side Andy i think they missed him a lot vs France.

    Cheers — jgc

  • TA may have a point Shard.
    Regarding France winning with more than luck.
    1.4B Chinese fans can’t be wrong– can they?

    This was an expression seen during the finals: “法国队没怎么射门就进了两个球了,这都是玄学” (fàguó duì méi zěnme shèmén jiù jìnle liǎng gè qiúle, zhè dōu shì xuánxué) — “The French team has two goals despite not really shooting, this is all Xuexuan.”

    From a very humorous article I found here:

    Worth a read, and a chuckle. 🙂


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