Unai can Field the ‘Spine of Champions’ v Burnley: Line-up | Preview

A winning team needs an unbreakalbe spine: from defence to attack we need men with character and pride, quality and passion.

I reckon Arsenal will be able to field its almost strongest possible spine, if not strongest, tomorrow; only Holding is still missing, who may well be able to dislodge either Luiz or Big Sok in the ‘Spine of Champions’. In this spine I have for now Torreira but he may well be displaced by either Ceballos or the pre-season mega-surprise, JW28, anytime soon.

There has been a rumour that Xhaka is not fully fit and, would you believe it, there are some ‘supporters’ out there in the blogosphere who are rejoicing in this, but I saw him in the training pictures and fully expect Unai’s (and Wenger and anybody else who knows anything about football) ‘first player on the team sheet’, and captain, to play.

Here is the line-up I am hoping to see v the Clarets: 

Emery may not start with these eleven and give one or two more youngsters a chance, but eventually we should end up with these players on the pitch, subject to late fitness checks. Xhaka is our pivot in the team and the arrival of Luiz, who can quickly move forward with the ball and join Xhaka in midfield (like Holding likes to do too), or even swap with him to keep our defensive shape, will help him to be less relied on to make play from the back. It will give us an extra dimension that we have been missing. Xhaka and Luiz will understand each other as they both have great strategic awareness, and I expect their on-field partnership to flourish.

The other player who is very mobile in the spine is of course Mesut Ozil: the one who gives us that added dimension to our football. He will come and get the ball of Xhaka and Torreira whenever they are forced to sit deep, or indeed get the ball of Luiz to continue a quick penetration of enemy lines. Oh how we missed Mesut’s use of space and control of the ball against the Barcodes last weekend, so great news to have him back now!

Furthermore, the one who plays next to our central playmaker in midfield, either Torreira, Guendouzi, Ceballos or Warrior Willock, will also need to be mobile up and down the spine and yet protect the team’s shape and defence continuously. To get this right is Emery’s biggest challenge this season, and I must say I loved Willock’s performances in this role during pre-season.

And if that is not enough mobility for you, we have of course our ferocious workhorse, player of the season and homme de beaucoup de merite, Lacazette, to complete the spine-mobility with his runs up and down the opponent’s half (and beyond if required).

All together, Leno – Luiz/Sok – Xhaka/Torreira – Ozil – Laca, they give us a very strong spine and I  see these players – give a change or two during the season – as the bedrock of the team.

All it needs is a couple of fast and effective wings, and it is great news the club have invested in this with the arrivals of Tierney, Pepe and Martinelli. What a squad we have and let’s hope we see this spine in action tomorrow.


Auba and Mesut

By TotalArsenal.


65 thoughts on “Unai can Field the ‘Spine of Champions’ v Burnley: Line-up | Preview

  • TA, … 5 changes and why not!

    Would Emery want to keep faith with Chambers?
    Would he play the PALs against a team that plays narrow low block?
    Would he insist on starting Pepe even if he is not quite ready to energize the Emirate?
    Would he sit his Guendouzi on the bench!
    A million questions …..
    But your line up is the team I’d like to see.

  • I hope Emery has learnt from the C Pal experience where he fielded a weakened team banking too much on Emirate advantage. Full blast every match home and away.

  • Good one TA…and I enjoy the history lessons from N5 as well…

    I think we’re going to have to “agree to disagree” about our respective assessments of Emery’s Arsenal. I see a whole lot less about spines and the desire (of the current manager) to control the middle of the pitch. Get the ball outta there, I think, is what Emery is after. That said, when it’s in that part of the pitch we need to win those battles, and, by and large, I think you’ve identified our best players (with a nod to current fitness questions) for doing just that.

    Unfortunately, though their personal security issues seem better, Ozil is reported to have sat out training due to illness, so I doubt he’ll start. This could mean he’s still being shopped around and that if we can secure the points tomorrow without him, some combination of youngsters (and Mkhi) could be the way to get us through at Pool and in the NLD. I’m of the opinion that 7 points and some “good signs” had to be the target when management first looked at the August schedule. As such, 3 points tomorrow is ‘uge (as the New Yahkers would say)…

    How to get those points? I’m thinking we’ll see fewer changes but maybe Pepe comes in (for Nelson) so we can play inverted wingers. Only one change and it looks like this…

    Kenny G(uendouzi–Xhaka

    Personally, I’d love to see Ozil in that #10 spot with he and Pepe switching wide and center and also maybe forward if Lacazette were to start up top. I think that’s for the future, but it’s early days so it’s anybody’s guess. I’d also prefer us to only use one sitting mid (sorry, but I don’t see too much getting forward with Kenny nor Xhaka. LT11 maybe tries a bit more running (and fitting his tiny frame into tighter spots) but I still believe–for Emery–it’s all about numbers and therefore positioning (i.e., 2 sitting mids)–and trying to let the ball do the moving, being in possession of it being a (far) lesser priority. Still, I’m hopeful that we try to push Burnley back a bit rather than being just chancers on the break (or long-ball)…

    As always, with all this in mind, the first goal is key. Boring, boring…but if we get it–and maybe a 2nd…even Emery might allow for a bit more freedom. I was gonna say “and joy” but with (reckless) Rambo gone–(and his “joy” was always a tad self-absorbed for my taste), I’ll wait and see if such a quality might emerge. Certainly, I won’t be holding my breath…

  • Cheers PE, I feel tomorrow’s game is a good one to test his best team or there about, even though he may wait till later in the game to do so. No game for a week and it is our first home game, so why not start with all gun(s)(ners) blazing! 🙂

    Hope are things in Nigeria… what is cooking?

  • Cheers Seventeenho, always good to read your comments and agreed with quite a lot. Let’s see how Unai will set up the team, and I am hoping that Mesut will still play and you are wrong re potentially still selling him this summer…

  • There was a time I could predict the starting 11 for our games, but not with Emery. He always seems to have a surprise or the other for us. In my thinking, after having acquitted himself well against Newcastle, Emery won’t (shouldn’t ) be looking to change too much with his central defence and drop the likes of Chambers. Where I feel the changes will come is in midfield and the introduction of Laca for Nelson, thus having Auba wide on the left with Mkhi retained on the right. Despite having a poor start, he grew into the game and gave them a few problems at St. James’ Park. I also feel we could play with a 3 at the back to accommodate Luiz, stick Ceballos at No. 10 with Laca and Auba upfront, So, we will have :


    Chambers – Socrates – Luiz

    AM-N. – Torreira. – Guendouzi – Kolasinac


    Laca. Auba.

    With Liverpool and Spurs to come, Emery will want to give his big guns a run-out to gain match fitness. Subs to come on later will be Ozil, Mkhi and Nelson/Pepe.

  • Xhaka was spotted training with Bellerin, Tierney and Mavropanos, players with long term injuries. My guess is he won’t be risked. Pepe is still feeling his way back to fitness and won’t be thrown in at the deep end with a watching/critical Emirates crowd, who won’t understand how delicate it is changing playing environment and joining a big club, as Pepe has done. Once he gets in another 30 minutes tomorrow plus a week’s training, I think he can be started at Anfield and in the NLD.

    Willock has done well but at 19, the manager will feel he has time to impress on his hands; same way he used Guendouzi sparingly last season. He may yet come on as a sub, depending on how it goes.

  • Did I mention that the Ref for the game is Mike Dean, the EPL’s very own reality TV star? Other interesting stats (as gleaned from the official site):

    Auba has scored a brace in all 3 of his PL games against Burnley = pure 🔥

    Sean Dyche (Burnley gaffer) has lost all 8 of his PL games against us; on the other hand, his side has taken points off all the rest of the top 6 sides in the same period.

    We’ve won our last 10 matches against Burnley, in all competitions; a run stretching back to March 2010.

    We can kick off a PL campaign with 2 victories, for the first time, since 2009/2010, when we beat Everton and Portsmouth.

    We’ve lost our first home PL match of the season in 5 of the last 8 seasons (W2, D1, L5).

    From the above, it looks like we have Sean Dyche’s number; he will be looking to change that dismal record, only not happening tomorrow.

  • That didn’t come out too well so, let me try it again:


    Chambers. Sokratis. Luiz

    AM-N. Torreira. Guendouzi. Kolasinac


    Auba. Laca

  • Cheers Eris for the updates, stats and your line-up. I don’t really like that last one as much as the one I posted but you could be on to something……….

  • Let’s do some predictions for a bit of fun – home win, away win or draw:
    Everton – Watford: away win
    Norwich – Newcastle: draw
    Southampton – Pool: draw
    Man City – Spuds: home win
    Wolves – Mancs: draw

    Over to you! 🙂

  • Just doing what Emery must be busy with now — revising the the tactical and other considerations that gave rise to his line up. I might do mine once but Emery might do his a thousand times more before he submits his list.

    Sean Dyche sets up his team in a 4:4:2 formation. He utilizes a low narrow block. They are not going to press in our defensive third playing out from the back so we will find ourself playing a high defensive line. They would try to catch us on the counter. Luiz is faster than Chambers so he starts.

    Because they play deep and narrow penetrating the through the centre would be difficult. So Emery might decide to attack through the flanks using wing backs. Wingers (Pepe) might therefore be on the bench to come in if Burnley open up with us ahead. Back 3 so Chambers is back. Back 3 Monreal gives way to Kola.

    Laca as striker to get in the faces of CD so Auba can ghost into spaces.

    Ozil for creation but needs a b2b so one of Xhaka/Guendz drops likely the latter. b2b to be Ceballos.

    Line up:


  • TA, your predictions seems influenced by my wishes.😅

    Evert- Wat ….. home
    Norw- NCastle …. draw
    Southp-Poll …. away
    City-Spuds …. home
    Wolve-United …. draw
    Arse-Burn …. home.

  • This game I like…And I need a new shirt now that my Koscielny kit is for “statement-making” only… 😉

    All home wins except Liverpool = Away win and Wolves-United = Draw

    How does the scoring work? More points for some results over others? Where’s VCC?…

  • A strange work situation may make a live-blog possible despite the early kick-off… It will be a last minute decision, but all is possible, esp. with the full moon…

  • I have to admit I have no clue what Emery is going to do tomorrow. Not a surprise, eh?

    Speaking of Emery… How did Remontada damage him? Has it installed a handbrake in his mind? Has he become afraid whenever he is expected to win the game in advance? Our best performances were in big games and when we go behind. Speaking of going behind, in the last eight Emirates openings, as goonereris said, we have won two, drawn one and lost five. We had been tracking at some point in seven out of those eight games with the game against Sunderland (0-0) in 2012-13 being a sole exception.

    Back to the board… It’s difficult to predict but I expect us to go with the same back five as we did against Newcastle. Kolasinac for Monreal is the only change I’d expect.

    In the midfield… Well, with Xhaka’s possible absence, Guendouzi and Torreira are more likely to start. With Òzil’s illness and other stuff going on, I’d expect a front four of Pepe, Mkhitaryan/Ceballos, Auba and Laca.

    Chambers is the first name on the team-sheet as he has scored twice v Burnley at Emirates since his arrival from Soton.

  • Cheers Seventeenho. I am happy to throw in an Arsenal away shirt by the end of the season, but I have not got the time/patience to do the admin/ create a spreadsheet like the VCC liked to do.

    Live blog from Lake Tahoe …. how early would that be for you? Would be great of course, but I wont hold you to it..

  • Hahaha! When you play a predictions game, nothing like a prize at the end of it all. So, here goes:

    Everton – Watford: Home win
    Norwich – Newcastle: Draw
    Southampton – Pool: Away win
    Man City – Spuds: SPANKING Home win (minimum, 4 goal margin)
    Wolves – Mancs: Home win

  • Everton-Watford – an away win (hosts with a depleted midfield)

    Norwich-Newcastle – a home win

    Soton-Pool – an away win

    Man City-Spuds – a home win

    Wolves-Manure – a draw

  • The Guardian predict starts for Torreira and Ceballos – regarding Ozil and Xhaka as injury doubts – and also Luiz in back four. Not too long before kick-off now.

  • Ok

    Last minute tho no tv for me at midnight… 😦

    A. Lineup, I’m with Admir, no ideas… BUT, missing Xhaka, El Neny might appear, BUT for interest, if you want a DM with solid vision.. Chambers? Leaving space for Luiz in a back 4 … I have no expectation but hey..

    B. Prediction of game: 2-0 to Arsenal

    C. Predictions per TA:

    Everton – Watford: home win
    Norwich – Newcastle: draw
    Southampton – Pool: away win
    Man City – Spuds: home win
    Wolves – Mancs: draw

    Cheers from way down under — jgc

  • Cheers Geoffski, I guess in this home game Xhaka will be less missed as we are likely to push Burnley into their own half and either Torreira or Willock can do the last gasp DMing quite well. I expect Emery to go for GuenPermi and for him to play the deeper Xhaka role when we are building up from the back. Really hoping Ozil will start as we will need his ability to see the cracks in the parked busses. An early goal would be bliss.

  • TA, most probably Emery is still fine tuning. Your country man Westerhof, most successful Nigeria national coach, once confessed that he stayed up all night, before a match day, agonizing whether to play Jay Jay or another midfielder. Just one position took him all night.

  • Nice one, PE, and I would imagine Unai to do the same, even though I reckon he has his favourites (and those out of favour). If both Xhaka and Ozil will not start, I reckon we will notice it today, but we should be able to get away with it.

  • Morning all

    From Arsenal.com

    1 Leno

    15 Maitland-Niles

    5 Sokratis

    23 David Luiz

    18 Monreal

    8 Ceballos

    29 Guendouzi

    28 Willock

    14 Aubameyang

    24 Nelson

    9 Lacazette



  • I wonder who is the #10. Willock or Ceballos? My guess is Willock. Ceballos to help in progressing the ball from the back. Interesting that Willock and Nelson are both in the team again.

  • Cheers GN5 – fairly early morning for you too, I reckon.

    17HT may be doing a live blog, if he didn’t ignore is alarm clock this morning..

  • I would imagine Ceballos is in the hole and Willock is next to Guendouzi, otherwise we are very lightweight in de DM pivot if you ask me….

  • Burnley remain dangerous and especially Big Sok is struggling with the high deliveries. Open game and we need to recontrol the midfield but as I have already said before, we are missing Xhaka’s pivotal play. Why is Torreira not playing?

  • Either TA is having a Tyler Durdene moment with 17 or they use the same account. 🙂

    Anyway, awful first half. No control of the game, no fluid attacks…

    I said to my little girl that we’d concede as soon as I saw our player (Nelson?) getting his shot blocked and instead of trying to male a recovery, he took a few seconds to moan about it.

    Pepe, Torreira and Mkhitaryan are needed.

  • Cheers Admir, it looks like you and me are the only survivors from Armageddon..

    Second half better as we are pressing them into their halve which is our only chance with our midfield currently. Goal had to come from the pressure and Auba finished beautifully. We need to keep pressing in Burnley’s have and go for the third goal..

  • Three points are all that matters from this game. Ceballos excellent, two strikers finished magnificently. Next: Bin Dippers.

  • Couldn’t watch this one. Distracted; glad we got the 3 points even though I am a bit surprised we made hard work of it. Sounds like we still lacked a bit of cohesion; but, it will come. Liverpool next then.

  • Sorry TA, your loneliness but thanks to Admir who popped up. My pounding heart wouldn’t let me go anywhere.

  • Today am convinced we have at 2 players who’ve made us bdtter: Ce-ball and Pepe. And that’s plenty already. COYRG!!!

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