I took my time to watch the Bayern v Arsenal game. Germans do not do friendlies and so it was a good, meaningful game to analyse. Key question for me, as I am sure regulars on BK will know, is how will Emery fix the midfield for the coming season.
We need to get the balance right, and once we do this we will realise that we do not have such bad defenders after all. Fixing the middle part of the team will also allow us to score more goals, or should I say even more goals.
It is clear that Xhaka will once again be our main player in midfield. He may not be the fastest player and make the occasional mistake, but he is clearly the brainy rock in the heart of the team. Many do not get Xhaka’s qualities but there is no doubt he is also Emery’s first player on the team sheet.
Captain Granit will need a player around him who hoovers up balls and links up well with him, and I reckon Willock is showing real promise. Clearly, once Torreira is back JW28 will struggle to hold his place, but if he continues his impressive start of the preseason Emery may have a ‘great problem’ in that key position next to our Captain. Joe is quite the complete midfielder: he can harass opponents and obtain the ball with some ease, he passes well, and has an eye for both a key pass and goal.
What I like is that Emery has played both Xhaka and Willock relatively deep AND close together. This gave our defence a much better protection than in the previous season. The risk of doing this, though, is the potential lack of support for the attackers from midfield. This is of course most needed when we have to build an attack from the back, rather than play for quick turnovers (as suits us best it seems).
And Emery seems to have found an answer for this now: a free role for Ozil in which he plays midfield-to-box constantly.
Yes Mesut had a very dynamic role v Bayern and was constantly available to connect midfield with attack. With Auba, Laca and Mkhi he had three players to connect with in attack, and as such they were playing the often in the ‘old’ Mesut (Nr10) role. Mesut did not only come and get the ball in midfield time and again, he also made many a run into the box and was thus an attacking threat too. His calm on the ball and superior passing ability were also well used against the Bundesliga dominators.
It was also good to see that both Auba and Mkhi made themselves available for the midfield players and were willing to come deep to come and collect balls. Especially Auba was in fine form and a constant threat to the German defence by running at them from deep. And mobile, dynamic Laca was of course also a real threat throughout the game.
I like to see more of the WOX midfield, but there are some promising signs that Emery is fixing the midfield at last.