A back four or a back three this season, that is the question. I have a preference for four at the back, but with the arrival of both Tierney and Luiz, Emery has the sort of players now to make a back-three a success, and in all competitions!
We can argue about our strongest possible line-up with three at the back, but I reckon it will be close to this:
Luiz to lead the defence and bring/pass the ball out from the back and Nacho and Holding securing the wings, with fast and furious Bellerin and Tierney supporting our defence as much as possible. Xhaka can go deep and allow Luiz to penetrate the opponent’s midfield regularly, as he likes to do! Torreira and Xhaka have to find the balance between protecting the back three – especially with AWOL wing backs in our line-up – AND support Mesut in the hole as much as possible. The latter is a challenge and especially Torreira can/should grow into that role. I would be quite excited to watch this team start games once everybody is fit.
But I amalmost just as excited about our possible ‘B/Cups team’ with a three at the back line up:
Chambers and Big Sok can produce the calm in the back three and a less centrally positioned Mustafi can also be effective. But there is also Mavropanos who will want to get some games under his belt.
The centre of midfield could be our undoing with this formation: both Willock and Guendouzi are talented and we have high hopes for them, but playing without the experienced Xhaka or Torreira will make them more vulnerable. Having said that, from what I have seen until now, Willock is possibly to best fit for the B2B position in a three at the back line-up, and I would not be surprised if he dislodges our Uruguayan carve-biter anytime soon. Willock may well become key for our midfield balance this season.
A shout out for Elneny
Guendouzi likes nothing more than walk/run forward with the ball and look for an attacking pass and he will add value to our attacking endeavours; however, his defensive positioning, reading of the game and rapid ball distributions are below par as yet. This may be controversial, given the dislike many seem to have of him, but imo there is still space in the team for Elneny. There is nothing spectacular about our Egyptian midfielder, but he is a solid passer and hard worker and his forward passes are not too shabby either. Mohammed definitely fills me with more confidence in terms of effective support for our defence and being the more natural partner for B2B-Willockie.
I have no doubt, though, that Kola and AMN will add real width and penetration from the wings and that Ceballos, Mikhi (or indeed ESR) will revel in the hole position. It would also be great to see Martinelli and Pepe play in such a formation, and I expect them both to play in the ‘first team’ regularly, of course.
So except for some worries regarding the midfield-pivot, I reckon we now have the players to make three at the back our main line-up for this season…. You agree?!