Who Will Play Between Xhaka-Torreira and Laca to Trap the Foxes? Preview and Line-Up


Where are we? I don’t know. There are mixed signals but I guess we are heading in the right direction. North.

We are 4th on the table of points yet a lowly 12th on attempts on goal (all stats from WhoScored after game week 8).

We are 12th on attempts on goal yet amazingly 2nd (behind City) on goals scored.


5th on possession yet a worrying 5th on the amount of action conceded in the defensive third. We dominate possession. We are dominated in territory. By comparison City is 1st in possession and is seeing the least action in their territory. Where are we?

Being dominated in territory should mean we sit back for the counters but that is blown to pieces by the fact that we have scored zero goals from counter attacks.  Meanwhile against the odds of territory we have scored a whopping 16 goals from OPEN PLAY, 2nd behind City.

It’s contradictions galore but we are heading north.

We are by a long stretch the best team in the shot to goal conversion ratio (at 19.6%) yet our 19 goals have been scored by 11 different players (1 own goal). Against Leicester don’t rule out a Bellerin goal or Torreira’s or even the keeper’s. Emery has them all pumped up.

If games had ended at 45 minutes we would have been at 7pts only. That’s relegation waters. At final whistles we are at 18pts challenging for the title! Even the Maputo Express (Maria de Lurdes Mutola) never used to finish her 800 meter race with as much burst of speed (wow …. the way she used to eat up space and opponents in that final stretch like an Emery Express).

At 1st half we’ve scored 5 goals and conceded 6 compared to the 2nd half during which we have scored 14 goals and conceded 4 only. Negative territory in one, bulls in the other. Where are we?

Is there a dichotomy in Emeryball or is it existing as a veiled strategy? I can’t rule out the latter because nine wins in a row has bounced beyond the bounds of fluke. That is why am leaning on the side that Leicester would come and go empty handed, leaving us with a perfect 10. Except that this is football but heavens forbid.

Leicester is no longer the Ranieri-Leicester who conquered the Premier league by simply holding the fort with a conservative 4:4:2 formation and catching teams unaware with over the top balls for the speedy and unerring Vardy. That team was found out by the following season. Currently they are 7th on the possession table, yes 7th but with the best counter attacking stats with 4 goals which says they now mix things up and have become more subtle, like a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. Add to that the fact of their terrific spine of the brilliant Schmeichel (keeper), the excellent Maguire (CD), the combactive Ndidi (DM) and the terror Vardy who’s banged in so many goals against us and it’s clear we have a battle in our hands. Emery, though, has all their details and I dare not begin to guess what Fabian tactics he would come up with, this time.

I expect our back seven to be the same that played against Fulham. Lacazette appears the only certain call in our front four. Some big shots just have to be on the bench, mark you, as elite troops to be sent into battle after the area has been thoroughly bombarded, borrowing from TA’s insightful analysis of Emery’s tactics.

Expected line up:-


Bellerin. Mustafi. Holding. Monreal.




Bench: Martinez, Lichsteiner, Sokratis, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Welbeck, Aubamayang.

There is the main plot of the premier league battle. There is the sub plot of 10 wins in a row. At the moment the sub plot is my bigger fancy. It’s so full of promises. It can stretch on and on and on but here we think OGAAT.

Against Leicester it’s “Operation Ten-Ten” and nothing more.


By PE.

59 thoughts on “Who Will Play Between Xhaka-Torreira and Laca to Trap the Foxes? Preview and Line-Up

  • Excellent stuff, PE. Love the stats and analysis and the Maputo express reference. Also like the line-up and that could well be the starting 11. Welbz, Aub and Rambo to come on late and wage WAR on the Foxes?! More tomorrow as I am knackered.

  • Nice piece of writing PE, I really enjoyed that.

    Where are we? Where are we going? What does it mean?
    Usually when faced with these big issues I put the kettle on and have a cup of chai…
    And after my 2nd cup of spicy chai I’ve gotta say we’re in a better position than I imagined we’d be at this stage of the season.

    Ok, there’s room for improvement, there always is, but you know what PE, I’m really enjoying this season, I’m really enjoying that we’re approaching every game with the same intensity, that we’re staying in games when under pressure, that we’re not folding and that we actually get stronger in games, that there’s no favourites, everybody has to earn their shirt and that we’re up there in the table and that the ‘experts’ in the media ( I use the term expert very loosely) are sitting up and taking notice rather than dismissing us as an irrelevance.

    You know what, Iast season I dreaded our away games, this season I say bring it on, bring on Liverpool, Tottenham and Man Utd, because we’ll give them a game.

    We’ve got 3 games in 7 days this week, the TV scheduling has been unhelpful for sure and Emery mentioned it, but he won’t let the players use it as an excuse, it’s what successful teams have to face, you deal with it, you find solutions, you take it one game at a time and move on.
    3 games in 7 days, I love it, wall to wall Arsenal.

    Ok time for another chai. 😉

  • No, TA, just that we looked at the stats with the same eye.

    The big question to me is which is the aberration: our very high conversion rate or our low chance creation. Possibly both. So while our conversion is regressing to its mean our chance creation would be progressing to its own mean and things would balance out.

  • Enjoyed it PE–
    It’s very early here and have to get going for work– but here’s a possible method of measure of sorts, for the shots/conversion aspect. If you choose to look it up?

    How were those stats for Sevilla– and PSG? Tell if it’s a one-off by way of statistical anomaly (hope not), personnel (a positive, comparably), or systemic approach (hope so!)?

    Gotta’ run. Hope I can tune in during.


  • My theory still stands. We entice them to come and have a go and that leaves us with the much-desired space. We knacker them out and then bring on the sharp shooters in the last thirty minutes. There are chances and we have the quality and fitness of players to turn them into gold. Space + quality = goals. Under Wengerball we were always looking for space whilst squeezing our opponents into the tightest of spaces…. under EmerySpacecraft we allow a little apparent vulnerability to allow for turnovers and counterattack through the space that is left behind by the opponents.

    As per Seventeenho’s previous teaser, sooner or later teams will not come and have a go anymore when we play out of the back…. they will park the busses instead…. And how we will respond to this will make all the difference.. but a high conversion rate by quality attackers is always something to cherish.

  • Hi all.. Hi PE.. nice post..
    I agree with you that this isn’t the same Leicester three years ago.. but still a good team.. and winning 10 in a row will mean a lot yo the team.. upgrading our spirit high.. hehehe..
    But comparing with Sporting CP we will meet 2 days ahead, I think we must prepare more for Sporting. Moreover it an away game there, comparing a home game tonight.

    So, playing with a mixed team will be the best solution.. Putting Mhikitaryan, Ozil and Iwobi together isn’t a good idea. One must drop. Maybe Ozil will and Welbeck in.

    I hope to see our captain playing soon.. asap.. for we will play 3 games in 5/6 days..

  • Very interesting set of paradoxes you’ve highlighted in those stats, PE. 4th on the table, 12th on attempts on goal, yet 2nd on goals scored just suggests we are getting more clinical; or, at least, that we are creating clear cut opportunities which lead to goals. I did state, some 5 games ago, that we are looking like a second half team, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing because another side with better strikers (like Mitrovic, Richarlison and Deeney, amongst others we’ve met and kept quiet, largely) would have set us back with a lot to catch up on. Emery did say he would rather we started stronger instead of waiting till the 2nd half, but it must be heartening to know you can call on game changers from the bench.

    Leicester are a fairly good side but, surely, we should have a bit too much for them tonight. Balls over the top for Vardy to run behind onto must be prevented, as much as possible. Holding and Mustafi should be able to keep things tight; Torreira has to keep an eye on their new No. 10, Maddison (fine player with lots of trickery plus a good shot on him), who is full of confidence and creativity. As for your predicted line up, I expect Iwobi to start from the bench. It will be Auba and Laca. That will be my only variation to your predicted line up.

    Let’s look forward to a good night, in the end.

  • With two away games to come thereafter, on Thursday (Lisbon) and Sunday (Palace), there will be opportunities to see the likes of Welbeck, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lichtsteiner, Elneny, Kolasinac and Guendouzi, in the mix.

    If Cech and Kos recover during the week, expect a game for Cech and some minutes for Kos in one of those three games (likely in Europe).

  • TA … there might be plenty in your theory. Strange that we control possession but don’t control territory. Looks like a ploy. Wenger controlled possession in opposition half. Maybe Emery’s choice is to control possession away from opposition territory to lure them out. This can explain our high conversion rate and our lower attempts at goal. Would that mean that Emery favors fewer but moe gilt edged chances?

  • Eris … it might not be that we do less in the1st half but that the opposition does less in the 2nd half meaning that Emery has his team fitter. That can make all the difference.

  • PE, I think what Emery really, really wants is to have space to operate in, especially when we attack. The modern football battle is all about creating space, quick changeovers and taking the chances when they come. Lure in, absorb, repossess the ball, quick changeover, and then boom boom boom. Pool and Citeh like to suffocate opponents in their own half and find the space in those tight pockets with moving the ball round quickly and incisively. Maybe we will go the same way (again) eventually, or maybe Emery is working on a better way to create space and opportunities to pounce. If we become more often watertight at the back and get the balance right in midfield – which for me is Xhaka-Torreira-Ozil – it could work a treat. But tonight will be another test and the Foxes have the weapons to score a couple against us, so let’s see how Emery will set the team up and how we will deal with an early upset… if indeed we will have to endure one.

  • So TA?
    Within that context– of Emery “really, really wants is to have space to operate in, especially when we attack.”? Was where my perspective on the replacement of Cech with Leno extends from. Not of respect or disrespecting Petr. But that extra iota of time that Bernd’s footwork and distribution offers– at every stage of attack– that is seemingly offering our goal-scorers more and better shots.

    Every aspect of defending involves reaction in fractions of seconds. I’m contending that those imperceptible moments that the keeper can provide– may be a factor in our conversion rate upfield.


  • That is a bit tenuous for me, JW. I don’t think Leno has much influence on the conversion rate, but I agree that Leno is easier with the ball at his feet and he may suit Emery’s system better than Save Hands. I like both GKs so not a big issue for me.

  • Good points for discussion Pony…
    JW, the same thought crossed my mind about conversion rate, that maybe there’s something in Emery tactics that leads to that, was also wondering about those stats from Valencia, Sevilla. PSG stats to me would be worthless with unmatched billion dollars of talent ran rough over the weak french league.

    I also like totals theory, which also leads to the Emery subs that I’ve been complimenting so often, having a larger impact in second halves. It does follow suit with the evidence so far.
    Great analysis here as always.

  • 8 minutes in and our keeper’s had to intervene twice while we’ve not had a good incursion on their goal. We need to start allowing the possession count. Mustafi nearly let Vardy in there but we are stroking the ball around with nothing to speak of thus far.

  • Leicester are matching us well and as it is now, hard to know which team is at home or aiming for top 3. I guess we should just sit back and wait for the 2nd half Renaissance.

  • Similar pattern as in previous games, now lets see how we will play in the second half. Brilliant goal between Ozil and Bellerin. The Spaniard’s ball in was to the right man but as the ball was not on the ground it was not an easy chance for Mesut. The German is one of those technicians we have in our team who can turn a half chance into gold, though. 1-1 all to play for.

    Where are the Americanos? 15 days wait and then they go and walk the dog – or somepin – rather than watch the boys.

  • Leicester playing well I think, solid defensively, and we needed 2 good saves from Leno so far. We got a big break on the handball. To add to the chances created discussion from pre match, I was thinking that a good steady run of starts for Mesut may help. But I’ll take goals from him too.

  • Started the second half as expected…on the front foot. We just need to ensure we get the goal we need.

  • Xhaka has to be reminded he’s on a yellow card. Best he stops his frequent remonstrations with the Ref.

  • Xhaka has to be more aware of his surrounding there. No reason to get caught on the ball in that situation.

  • Auba scores the 2nd with his second touch. Absolute beauty of a pass by Ozil to Bellerin for the assist.

  • Looks like Xhaka is at left back. It’s turning into a bit of Poetry in motion.

  • Alternate universe. Game still 1-1 , Arsene Wenger still pondering his first 72nd minute sub…..

  • Another great 2nd half performance and lots of quality play to admire. Once again I will give some credit to Mustaphi though, he was very strong tonight.

  • A Messi style performance from Ozil. I noticed while the game was still scoreless the way he was hustling all over the pitch, often defending. He seemed inspired from the start. Armband effect?
    Other observations… Iwobi is a different player under Emery, showed nothing like this under Wenger, no matter what you saw, Total.
    ..Torreira, is a technically brilliant player, even when he won’t make the highlights, adds so much.
    And Xhaka defending after Lichtsteiner came off was impressive too.
    But, for me,
    Man of the match…. Emery. Responsible for inspiring everything we saw today.

  • You make a good point Johnnie regarding the armband and Ozil…
    I hope he holds onto it for the difficult trip to Lisbon.

    I’m not so sure about the Holding non penalty.
    I thought the Leicester forwards raised arm knocked the arm of Holding onto the ball.

  • Interesting that Alex Iwobi was named man of the match; thought it should have been our captain on the night.
    Jync, maybe you should go back and watch Arsena v Chelsea (3-0), September 2016. He was man of the match in that game too. Or try Barcelona Away where he was our best player on the night. The natural trajectory of youngsters with any quality is upwards. I am not surprised despite all the gushing going on about what “magic” Emery has done to him. Patience is what most needed.

  • Spot on, Kev. Not obvious at first watch. That’s not why the Ref hasn’t given it, mind.

  • It’s progression to our mean. 19 attempts at goal. We dominated possession and dominated territory.

  • Thanks for that PE/Eris, the commentators on BBC5Live thought it was a nailed on pen, but when I saw it on Arsenalist I thought no, the ref made the right call.

  • Really pleased to see Alex wobi realising his potential, he seems to have a nice understanding with Mesut Ozil.
    Love it when the camera focuses on Emery when we score, you can see the enthusiasm oozing out of him,.

    Ok fellas, off for a cup of chai…. 😉

  • Was watching while at work (good to be the IT Guy!)–
    Saw bits of the first half. Saw most of the last 30 minutes.
    What I saw was flippin’ brilliant.
    What I saw were two teams that looked even on effort.
    Then one whose quality showed through and stayed in high gear for that half-hour.

    I saw The Arsenal win a match with their quality– then kill the game on their terms.
    Seeing it out with calm and resolve.
    I was proud today.

    Going to sit now– and watch it start-to-finish.
    Have a few freezing pint glasses of Corona.
    (Worth waiting till Monday for! 😉 )


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