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.