How Arsenal Can Beat Liverpool: Auba-Pepe Attack, Ceballos AND Mesut, Mustafi RB

This is a quick and dirty post to discuss how we can beat Pool in Saturday. I like to get your tactical views and ideal formations: the more the better!

I watched the Pool v Chavs game last Wednesday and saw the West-Londoners making it really hard for the Champions League winners. How did they do it? By placing a solid wall of three ALLROUND midfielders in front of the defence and keeping the side-doors – especially the one on their left – firmly shut.

If we want to have a chance on Saturday Arsenal will need to do  the same. Klopp’s Liverpool (but also his predecessor’s) love nothing more than combining through the middle and open up opponents for fun. If that is not so easy they will happily go the flanks, and especially their right flank, where an Egyptian football pharaoh rules the land, is the go-to-area. The difference between us and the Chavs is we have some awesome firepower to cause the Pool defence some real worries, and so, if we play it well, have a real chance to get something from this game.

The line-up I would pick is:

Ceballos-Xhaka-Torreira protect the defence when Pool pushes us back into our own half. As soon as we got the ball we have the midfielders to pass our way out of the press OR put one quickly over the top to the hungry horses of Auba and Pepe (or Laca – whoever is the fittest on the day). Key is also to play Ozil in the hole who can hold up the ball for our midfielders and attackers to move forward and find that killer pass easiest of all. If Ozil is not available, Ceballos can pay in the hole and Willock can partner Xhaka and Torreira in midfield.

The full backs have to play at the highest level and I would  go for Mustafi for this one. As a full back I reckon his occasional mistake will harm us less, but in terms of energy and experience he is just ahead of Ainsley for this cracker of a game.

Over to you!

By TotalArsenal.

46 thoughts on “How Arsenal Can Beat Liverpool: Auba-Pepe Attack, Ceballos AND Mesut, Mustafi RB

  • God-love-ya’ PE. You do have a big heart.

    But Mustafi will not see the field for any match of consequence–
    Unless AMN, (and soon enough) Bellerin– Papa, Luiz, Kolasinac, Monreal, Chambers, Mavropanos, (and soon enough) Holding– are all called to the gates of Heaven.

    Possibly even Zech Medley before Mustafi.
    You’re going to need another stave soon enough. 😉


  • Hi all! Just here to drop my thoughts hehe.

    One thing I have noticed during our first 2 matches against the “smaller teams” is how low our defenders drop when playing out from the back. Almost as if we are drawing opposition players in really deep before quickly searching to get the ball pass the first wave of pressure. In a sense forcing counter-attacking scenarios even though we have majority of possession.

    Will this tactic work? It has been risky against less clinical opposition, I’d probably have a heart attack watching this match if we continue with this tactic. Pep did the same in his first season, and has since abandoned it, to good effect. However, I trust Unai to find us a winning formula.

    I wonder whether we will see the Arsenal in pre-season, against Real Madrid. Pressing high and aggressively and forcing turnovers in advantageous positions for us. I’m personally not sure whether I’d prefer seeing us play in a controlled manner or in a gunslinger fashion vs Pool.

  • Morning all,

    I’m not much of a tactical football blogger, I’m more the “horses for courses” emotional type, so I leave tactics and team formation to those who are more knowledgeable.

    But here is my two penny’s worth.

    I cannot see us stopping Liverpool from scoring – their goals per game for the last four seasons have been – 2016/17 = 2.05, 2017/18 = 2.21, 2018/19 = 2.34, so far in 2019/20 = 3.00. So it appears to be a given that we have to score more than two goals to have any hope of a result.
    Therefore I feel it’s essential to overload our offense so i would go with a 4-3-3 and insert Lacazette between Auba and Pepe with either Ozil or Cebba supplying them with the ammunition they need to score.

    That’s about as tactical as I get.

  • Good Morning all,

    I’m not much of a tactical football blogger, I’m more the “horses for courses” emotional type, so I leave tactics and team formation to those who are more knowledgeable.

    But here is my two penny’s worth.

    I cannot see us stopping Liverpool from scoring – their goals per game for the last four seasons have been – 2016/17 = 2.05, 2017/18 = 2.21, 2018/19 = 2.34, so far in 2019/20 = 3.00. So it appears to be a given that we have to score more than two goals to have any hope of a result.
    Therefore I feel it’s essential to overload our offense so i would go with a 4-3-3 and insert Lacazette between Auba and Pepe with either Ozil or Cebba supplying them with the ammunition they need to score.

    That’s about as tactical as I get.

  • My first post did not appear (even after refreshing 4/5 times) so I entered it a second time?

  • Lucas, I reckon Pool would love it if we would attack them like Norwich did, so they get all the space to counter-attack us. The Chavs’ approach was far more effective and they were unlucky not to come out of the game victorious. If we keep compact but break out with real speed and slick passing, we can get a result.

  • Not sure how that happens, GN5. Good point about outscoring Pool rather than leaning too much on defence. I thought with Ceballos, Ozil, Auba and Pepe we would have four creators and goal scorers on the pitch and that would be quite attack-minded… But adding Laca also to the mix sounds attractive!

  • Meant to comment on the previous MoTM post– and thanks for that TA.
    But we finally moved to our new home– bulk of which occurred Friday. Then up at 6:00am Saturday to watch the match (cable not yet activated) on a hastily-located ‘free online broadcast’. Then back at it with a few carloads through Saturday and Sunday-night late.

    I, for one, was impressed with several facets. Most of which have been discussed at length– and well. To my liking and agreement on most.

    I’ll skip past the obvious (not to be redundant)– and hopefully hit a few minor points.
    Reiss Nelson. His effort is one that showed he’s capable of playing at this level. He can press and chase– which is why I think UE had him in the lineup. Shame about the VARed goal– but still, showed his focus. Would have liked for him to have been quicker in decision on several passes in attack– but he’ll catch up to the speed of the game. Probably soon too.

    To the chagrin of a few here– I’ve been a fan of Emery starting Guendouzi consistently. This was perhaps the first match I’d felt I’d have rather seen Torreira on– either with Matteo, or Willock– but not the two (MG/JW) in tandem. A bit too much chaos– when control was required. I get where UE was coming from though. Burnley are a bunch of strapping, raw-boned brawlers. Seems Unai felt like-for-like in physical size with Matteo and Joe– were a better match than a smallish MF including Torriera and Ceballos. Probably for the best considering the type of match it became.

    Leno. Showed me some Cech on Saturday. He’s finding ways to make himself even bigger at close range. Two point-blank shot-blocks in 2 weeks– that have meant 4 points to the good for Arsenal. Think Bernd made good decisions (aside from punching David Luiz back-of-head)– though, would like to see him generate attack more swiftly upfield (a la City’s Ederson) with the team’s speed up front.

    As for Pool on Saturday? Play every attacker we can get on the pitch.
    As Bowie sang: “Putting out fire– with gasoline…”
    Unai Emery had stated he would be happy to win 5-4?
    Here’s the chance to cash that check his mouth wrote.


  • Nice and brave preview! Every preview that doesn’t include Mustafi on the stands is a brave one.

    In all seriousness, what can we do at Anfiel

    What has happened to us there in the last few years?

    In the Emirates era, we had been leading 3-2 in league victories at Anfield before Klopp’s arrival. In three occasions we conceded a late equalizer (2008-09, 2014-15, 2015-16) or our lead would have been bigger.

    Sadly, since Klopp bought Sadio Mane everything changed.

    Firstly, they dominated our young defence at Emirates and won 4-3 with Mane scoring a stunning goal. In the second half of the season, Wenger started without both Sanchez and Özil. We were losing 2-0 when Sanchez was brought in, he assisted for 2-1 but Reds scored from the last counter-attack to make it 3-1. Mane was again the best on the pitch with Monreal being powerless whenever the Senegalese winger – the best Liverpool player IMO – took on him.

    Then we were thrashed 4-0, this time Arsene left Lacazette on the bench and started Ox & Sanchez contrary to what everyone expected. We didn’t muster a shot on target all day long. Welbeck did miss a good chance at 0-0 though. The reverse fixture was a feast – they had been thrashing us for an hour with Coutinho and Salah scoring, then we scored three in six minutes before Čech gave away Firmino an equalizer.

    Last season, we were doing well at home aside from the fact Van Dijk could have scored a hat-trick and Mane scored a goal that was wrongly ruled out for offside. Milner got them a lead before Lacazette scored a peach of the goals. Bellerin’s left footed attempt in the injury time went just wide.

    At Anfield, we scored first (AMN after Iwobi’s cross) but Firmino scored twice in a few minutes before Mane and Salah put us to sword again. Their divings aside, we were defensively all over the place and couldn’t keep the ball long enough to do something with it.

    So, what I want to say is, stop Mane at all costs. He was the only one fit from their deadly trident when they turned a 3-goal deficit v Barcelona. He got them a penalty from which Salah scored. He scored twice at Munich to deal with Bayern. Cut Mane off and it’s half-way through to a positive result.

  • All our trust and confidence is in our tactical coach. We need to have all our wingers sharp on rhe ball and not to allow Pools defender’s RD and LD her into our zone

  • Well TA? If it wasn’t PE’s post, then: ‘mea culpa’.
    Then? I’ve got to take you– to task. There’s simply no way– that a defender who did not even make the bench against Burnley? Plays versus Pool– and out-of-position too. Suicidal.

    Of course then, that’s my view whenever he plays. 😉


  • EPL should watch out for arsenal this season, Liverpool looks beatable so far this season, I suspect fatigue

  • Sometimes the weakest becomes the strongest, Jaywobbleyou. Mustafi is a man with incredible defensive contributions (you know about his stats) and always works his socks off. I admit it is a gamble but that is what I would do. have a good talk with Mustafi and give him a vote of confidence…

  • Admir, good point about Mane – indeed a superb player and the one to watch. That is why I want to play with three in midfield, so one of the midfielders can do a bit of one to one covering when required…

  • Actually, Pool has high scoring records to teams that cannot protect their BACK FOUR. But, am very optimistic if Unai can adopt this tactics: Back Four: Soks, Luiz, Kolo, Chambers
    at the middle: Xaks, Toriera, Ozil/Cebas and Front Three: Aubas, Laca, Pepe
    This tactical formula will force the Pool attacking defence (Robertson and Arnold) back home and Luiz pushing up a little will help negate Mane and whoever (James or Henderson) and the BIg Soks will man-handle Firmino while our eagle eye Ozil can throw in some chops to Laca or Auba. And at that, it is FINISHED.

  • Now JW, I am happy to play AMN instead of Mustafi. I thought he did very well against Barcelona even though he gave away that horrible OG… So with AMN in the team…. do we have a team that can get a result on Saturday?!

  • On one-one, Mane is Lifeless, So throw a hard man on him and he is silenced. With AMN, he’s just learning football business on the FIELD. With him, NOTHING for the GUNS this SEASON.

  • Leno

    AMN Chambers Sokratis Kolašinac

    Luiz Torreira


    Pepe Lacazette Aubameyang

    That’s the team I’d send out. Luiz in the middle to protect the back four (he can wear Guendouzi’s shirt to trick Emery into thinking he fielded his favourite) and to offer quick transition for our counter-attacks.

  • TA– I’m pleased with AMN. In perspective? The OG at Barca was a friendly. Can surely live with that. AMN as interim RB until Bellerin regains form– is as good as I’d ask for. Competition for that position will good for both. Also will free up AMN for minutes in MF– which will be a good thing too.

    Per Mustafi? Look. I’ve laid my feelings bare for three seasons. I’ve not been off-target either. To a great degree– I have compassion in my dealings with individuals. But– also one of the most competitive athletes you might imagine. I don’t cut anyone slack on-field. Hardest on myself.
    Here’s my view– give him minutes in cups. Earn more. Make good. Rebuild his own confidence. Prove it to his detractors over this season. There’s a chance that way. But if you throw him into the ‘deep end’ versus Pool and he has a ‘Mustafi Moment’? Stick-him-with-a-fork. He’ll be done.

    On a positive note? I absolutely loved this quote from DLuiz:
    “‘I want to see this club shining. That is my motivation.
    That is what people are going to see if they look in my eyes.”

    This? Is what you want your teammates to feel, think, say. Inspiring!


  • TA, I like your line up. What you have is a 4:4:2 diamond mid field. The eleven for me are:


    Xhaka …. base of the diamond.
    Ceball …. tip of the diamond.
    Pepe and Auba as split strikers. Their presence would inhibit Liv two biggest creators Arnold and Robertson (RB and LB) bumping forward.
    Mustafi’s job would be to man mark Mane and to help out with dead ball situations at both ends( jw you weren’t wrong after all 😅). But I doubt if he is still part of the squad. M-Niles might not be able to cope with Mane and he is weak in the air.

    Liverpool’s strength is the hardworking (but not creative) midfield plus their excellent full backs. If we can neutralize their midfield and discourage their full backs we have a chance. On paper they use 4:3:3 but their striker Firmino plays so deep that theirs is actually a 4:4:2.

    This is a game Emery should think 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 1-1. The worst of these scores wouldn’t do any harm to the team’s self belief.

  • Plenty of time to chat about Anfield.

    My initial thoughts are how we can get out without our young team being humiliated and having their confidence shot. My second thought is that if Spurs can luck a draw at City we can do so at Anfield.


    We have to score twice. We can. Remember 26/5/89

    As Admir says, Mane is a pest but so is Salah and Firmino isn’t bad! They will score at least once. My hope is that we can get to half-time on equal terms then push on.

    No point parking the bus, we don’t have the defenders/midfield with those skills (thankfully).

    Liverpool are dangerous at set pieces as they have giants in the team (it is here we badly miss Giroud). Luiz will be important.

    More later.

  • While Amy Lawrence is known for her pieces on Arsenal in The Guardian?
    She also writes on Arsenal for The Athletic– a subscriber publication.

    I’ve been a member of The Athletic for over a year (approx $50). It allows you to select as many teams and sports to ‘follow’ (links emailed to your inbox) as you’d like. I follow about 5 teams in different sports. Mostly professional in the US– but Arsenal too. I get several well written,excl;usive pieces every week– from writers like Lawrence.

    That is where I got the David Luiz quote.

    Like I mentioned– it’s behind a paywall. But here’s a pair of excerpts that might entice:

    “People make impressions not only with what they do but the vibes with which they do them, and Luiz has brought something to Arsenal’s dressing room that is making a difference. Charisma. There might have been some raised eyebrows that the club’s attempt to fortify the centre of their defence led them to a veteran with flamboyant style but, within the camp, Luiz is making an important impression. Talking, listening, helping, enthusing. In whatever he does he is presenting the sense of motivation that is an essential part of what makes him tick.”


    ““Now I am 32 years old. I left (Brasil) a long time ago and lived many moments of my career in football. I won many titles and lost many titles. What I always tried was to be honest with my heart and honest in my actions. Charisma is something natural. I don’t want to judge who has it and who doesn’t, I just try to do my best to improve the club, inside and outside the pitch and I want to see this club shining again. That is my motivation. I do it with pleasure. That is what people are going to see if they look in my eyes.”

    It was quite an emotive speech to come out with shortly after a home debut but it gives an insight into why Luiz might turn out to be a really valuable addition to Arsenal. Leadership and personality at the back is a critical component of any ambitious team and when Luiz teamed up with Papa Sokratis it automatically increased the amount of authentic leadership from the base of the team. With Luiz in the team there was an extra layer of authority straight away.”


  • TA

    I’m late but here goes without rehashing good points made, I think.

    A. I like Your lineup a lot, and we agree on Guendouzi – he’s a “not yet” in my book. Needs some of the advice JWs quotes have from Luiz. 🙂

    B. I like Admirs lineup just a touch better, but I would switch Luiz and Chambers for Luiz’s organisation at back 4. Chambers May Be to usher tho so… so, it’s


    AMN Luiz Sokratis Kolašinac

    Chambers Torreira


    Pepe Lacazette Aubameyang

    — good balance of attack and defend and distribute IMO. I don’t think Ozil will start first up if he’s healthy.

    Cheers — jgc

  • OK

    Separate post on passing out of back. I would like to lecture one thing clear. Football is a game for anyone who can count to 4 (holds up 3 fingers).

    Passing anywhere is about numbers. You pass only to create, with ease, favorable numbers. You pass sideways or back when you are going into more than you have. And vice versa to create or take advantage of them. The exceptions? When marking is poor which really means they have less numbers than you do in practical fact. Dribbling? A player to create space or take a last player or to reverse poor numbers when no other pass (or impatience) presents itself.

    For Arsenal and these comments? Passing out of the back is fine, IF you have or can move to create numbers. In your own half you should always have numbers (and space), especially with the keeper to use. If you don’t due to pressing, then pass long, route 1 will be open and we’ve good speed. The key is recognition of numbers. All these players should have the skill and confidence to do it well. Can you or they count to 4?

    So, we should play that way! IF it is there, if not, back to keeper or to Xhaka and Luiz to go over the top and find the numbers elsewhere. There are 11 a side. If you dont have numbers here, you will have them elsewhere.

    Can you count to 4? 🙂

    — jgc

  • Yes Erik the Pool set pieces are a concern. But I don’t think we can do anything else than play compact and deep and then pounce on the break. I don’t want us to park the bus but play compact and don’t be afraid to pass the ball round with speed when we win it back. The potential of Auba and Laca/Pepe running behind the defence is just great.

  • Wolves and Mancs drew tonight and the latter will be gutted as they missed a penalty and went ahead in the first half. So everbody dropped points except Saturday night’s opponents. A game for TOTL status…

  • TA, he’d have been there if he had at least 90 minutes under his belt. I highly doubt that Emery would put him after all off the pitch distractions in an away game of the highest intensity.

    In my book, Torreira-Ceballos with Özil at 10 is our best midfield three. Sadly, we might not see that one because of Emery’s ideas.

  • Admir

    I agree, when players come back with Emery after illness/injury they virtually always reappear as a substitute. Which is fair enough. I think we are perhaps still too attuned to “Wenguries” vs the actual “injury” word… 🙂

    I like Torreira + Ceballos with Ozil up top, very interesting to ponder, but TA will likely delete your post as it excludes one Granit guy… 🙂

    However, if Granit remains injured (“Wengered”??) ..

    cheers — jgc

  • Love the positivity regarding Mustafi, though I agree with JW1 on this one. He has to come back in cup games, earn his minutes and place in the team. If he indeed has a Mustafi Moment against a side like Liverpool, I’m afraid the fans will end his Arsenal career through sheer negativity.

    While I would love to see Xhaka in this game, I reckon a midfield trio of Torreira, Ceballos and Guendouzi would be highly effective. Good forward distributions, tough tacklers and good at keeping possession. The only problem I have with them is that they fail to track midfield runners into our box in a consistent manner.

    I have to say though, I would love get a glimpse of Chambers in the DM role where he won POTS for Fulham. He is more disciplined/ rigid and would help shut down Firmino, who is their glue to their attack.

    But forget complicated tactics, I sure as heck wouldn’t mind a route 1 ball from David Luiz to Auba for a simple goal!

  • Admir, I understand that argument but I have no doubt that Mesut is as fit as a Mozart fiddle. We need the organisation skills of at least one of Xhaka or Ozil in this game to get something from it. Of course I would prefer to play them both but per your reasons it is unlikely to happen.

  • Geoff, Xhaka had a knee in the back during the Barcodes’ game so I reckon it’s a real injury and they can take a while to disappear.

  • Lucas, I would also like to see Chambers in midfield, just so we know what that would look like. If we can create quite a few turnovers in midfield, we have a real chance of getting something from the game.

  • Lucas, I like every thing you said. Everything.

    I’ve been rooting for Chambere as holding mid but even better than Chambers would be Holding. He is so intelligent with his passing that am yet to see how Rodri of City (making all the waves) can be better than him. I wrote a piece on him as holding mid 2 years ago. I had to shut up because nobody saw it. 3yrs too since I started seeing a holding roll for Chambers whom I fear is not athletic or physical enough for a last ditch man.

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