Luiz the Pivot in a Back-3, Starts for Laca, Torreira and Pepe: Ars-Spurs Preview/ Line-up


We thought the Liverpool match would have told us how far we’ve come. It told us very little because we played against a team that must have been possessed. They were relentless in their intensity forcing us to rope-a-dope. To the credit of our response to their bullying, just a wee shift in luck would have seen the encounter end so differently.

The Tots play with intensity too, but they are no tropical hurricane. However, the NLD is a game where prisoners are not taken and it is this game, more than any other, that will tell us where we are. We know what our target is.

This is a home derby. We must play as the protagonist and with aplomb but first of all we need to get our set up right and everything is pointing to a back-3 outing, and this is why:-

1). Nacho Monreal seems to have played his last match for us at Anfield. It is only fair and wise that the most we should demand of him is a bench appearance seeing we are very short at the back.
2). Kolasinac who replaces him is a wingback (back-3 set up), which luckily only demands a more peripheral role in playing out of the back. We all know Kola isn’t such a great passer of the ball.
3). Luiz is a lot more effective in a 3-man central defence. It’s a well documented fact and we want him at his most convincing.
4). Mainland-Niles attacking talent is better utilized in a wingback role.
5). At Anfield we played narrow and found it difficult to break the Liverpool’s mid press through the centre. A back-3 gives additional outlets through the wide areas.
5). The Tots like attacking through the middle and 3 at the back is suited to combating that.

With a back-3 (back-5), the back-6 has picked itself.

Contrary to the expectation of many I doubt Emery would ever start the PALs together against the bigger teams. Against such teams I expect the balance of his selection to always tilt in favour of upping the midfield as to leave only two of the PALs up front. We now know Pepe. He is as good as he is billed going forward but tracking back to help in defending isn’t his forte, neither is Auba’s. This weekend I expect Lacazette to start and Auba to sit on the bench as our super sub.

Who will be picked in the midfield provokes the most division in opinion amongst the fans and possibly also with Emery. Against the Tots, who are good at passing in small spaces as they attack, Torreira should be a starter in my opinion. He has the 4 meter burst of speed. Ceballos has given us two opposite stories of himself. I believe in the better story but in this NLD I’d prefer we don’t take that chance.

As for Ozil, I don’t feel qualified to bring his name into the conversation as I can’t still quite fathom what’s  going on. My gut feeling, however, tells me that Emery has revised his pressing demands on the team enough to have a place in his plans for Ozil.  With Ozil uncertain, that leaves us with Mkhitaryan at the apex of the midfield in a role which happens to be his preference. One more name from Xhaka, Guendouzi and Willock completes our 3-man midfield. Here, Emery might be minded to bank on experience or would he opt for Guendouzi who seems to have the best skill for passing out from the back.

My prediction for the line up is:-


Bench: Martinez, Monreal, Guendouzi, Willock, Ceballos, Ozil, Aubamayang.

Ali is available for the Tots and the possible involvement of Erikson remains unclear. Not that we give a damn about whom they field. This is not a game Emery should be too reactive to. We need to take it to them. High time, also, the Emirate is turned into an unforgiving place for visiting teams.

I suspect most Gooners would want to see the PALs start, to see the 5-4 Emery introduced himself as. Who knows, Emery might be in the mood to oblige. Let’s have your opinion on formations and player selections.


By PE.

34 thoughts on “Luiz the Pivot in a Back-3, Starts for Laca, Torreira and Pepe: Ars-Spurs Preview/ Line-up

  • Awwww, just posted a comment on the previous thread only for TA to come back and say “New Post” 😁😁😁
    Anyway, here is what I would like to say to Nacho Monreal whose departure has now been confirmed by Arsenal:
    Thank you very much Nacho man for your great loyal service over the last six and a half years. We certainly appreciate it and we also appreciate you. We wish you the very best in the next chapter of your career. We hope it goes well. You will be very much missed! Kieran Tierney, the torch has now been passed on to you. I hope you take it with both hands and eventually become a legend at the Emirates. Can’t wait to se you start…!

    Thanks for a good preview PE. Somehow, I just don’t think Emery will leave Aubameyang on the bench as well as play Mkhitaryan in the AM position. We are playing at home, so I am guessing he will either play Ceballos (or possibly even Ozil) in place of Mkhitaryan. It will be interesting to see if he sticks with his favored back four or goes with a back five (with the two wingbacks) like you suggested, especially now that Monreal is no longer with us. Either way, I hope we show great spirit and determination and impose our game on the 🥔. A good old-fashioned arse-whooping would be nice and well deserved.
    My prediction: 4-2 to the good guys with Aubameyang getting a brace!

  • A shoutout to the board. You are losing it by selling the best left back available. spuddies will now attack both left and right flanks at ease tomorrow.

    The defense had been low on numbers and now it is even worse. If you want to play the Barca way by playing a full team of midfielders we are still a long long way back.

    Playing a back 3 is the only way to go for us now, and great preview PE. Just extremely unhappy that Mr Arsenal is gone.

  • Gino, … I want to join you in the salute to Nacho. He has been the quintessential professional. Very dependable. His move tallies with Kosh’s statement that we have assumed an aggressive stance in the market, a far cry from the dilly dally of the Gazidis tenure. Tierney must be closer to match fitness than we believe.

    There’s rumour that Nacho would be at the Emirate tomorrow. Maybe he would be given a final 5 minutes cameo substitute appearance. If it happens I hope Emirate bring the roof down for him.

  • Gino …. Ozil or Ceballos in place of Mkhi wouldnt suprise me and is preferable to me. On Auba to start, am keen to know your preference of who should be displace. One of Pepe/Laca or from the midfield?

  • njk, yes we miss Nacho but we seem to have learnt how to also keep our eyes on the future. Tierney might be just 2/3 games away and Kola would be used to plug that hole. Meanwhile we pocket whatever little sum from Nacho that would have vanished by the end of the season. It’s easy to imagine that money as part of or stargared payment for Tierney. In other words Nacho has contributed in funding for Tierney.

  • Cheers PE!

    Well argued post for three at the back and I reckon you are on to something. I would not mind that line-up at all, even though I prefer Ozil in the hole (and I reckon he is as fit as a Mozart fiddle!). You know how much Emery loves his Guendouzi, so he will most likely start again. We need to win the midfield battle against the Spuds and we need men for this… but let’s see how Unai will approach this one.

    So sad to see Nacho go but more about this next week.

  • TA,
    This is your pred in a graphic form (right?)


    I love it!

  • PE, you would have to change Torreira with Xhaka, as that is Emery’s first choice (and captain).

    My preferred line up is:

    AMN – Sok – Luiz – Nacho (but he is gone, so it will have to be Kola or maybe Chambers)
    ——- Xhaka —- Torry ——

    Auba, court jester (Ceballos) and Martinelli to come on to reenergise the attack after 60 minutes.

  • Back 3 why not should be start lyk: Leno~~Chamber~~Luiz~~Sokratis~~Niles~~Torreira~~Ozil~~Kolasin~~Pepe~~Laca~~Auba and subtituted were should be Ceballos to take Torreira Mikhite to take Auba and the last man standing, which is Xha should be taking Kolasin!!!

  • Viewed through the ‘ageing-defender goes home’ lens?
    Nacho Monreal’s pre-retirement back to Spain– is the Laurent Koscielny situation done respectfully. Don’t believe one of the better LBs (occasional captain) to have worn the shirt– is being asked to go. This is a situation that serves Nacho more so than the club. But certainly a deserved nod to his long service at AFC.

    You were a battler for the cause Nacho. Soldier on, at Sociedad.

  • So long, Nacho man. He was a warrior on his day and hardly had much to criticize him about his stay at the Arsenal. Elneny is also off to Besiktas on loan, so it is clear Emery May have achieved all of the departures he desired (except for Monreal, I believe. He’s always had interest from Real Sociedad, Malaga and Bilbao at various windows during his time here).

    Looks like Sociedad have sustained their interest and used the presence of Spaniards Emery and Raul Sanllehi to force a decision. A nice small fee too must have swayed the Arsenal team, it must be said. Not sure I saw much of Kolasinac in the latest training pics though. Hope he is fit, or Emery will look daft to sell at this time.

  • Fine preview, PE and good to see you persist in courageously second-guessing Emery. It’s hard to know how the man is thinking and his penchant for changing things doesn’t help. In a previous thread, you stated that we beat Spurs 4-2 with a 4-4-2, so I am not sure why Emery won’t be tempted to go with same formation, hoping for a similar result.

    If we go with 4-4-2 (or 4-3-3, or a variant), I’d expect to see:


    AM-N. Sokratis. Luiz. Kolasinac

    Torreira. Xhaka


    Pepe. Laca. Mkhi

  • Okay, I’m not good at formatting this right, but hope you get my meaning. Mkhi will play from the left side when we are defending and tuck in for Kola when we attack from that side. AM-N likely going to curtail his overlapping runs for much of the game to allow Pepe occupy that flank while Ozil or Ceballos runs the creative midfield side of things. Now, that’s just me ignoring Emery’s preference for Guendouzi.

    For me, no matter who plays, we just have to be aggressive and get the job done.

  • PE,
    Extremely difficult to guess what Unai’s team selection since he took over. Good or bad, he always seems to spring a surprise or two or three. 🙁 I have learned that for me to guess is an exercise in futility. There’s really no point. But something tells me that Auba will start tomorrow, maybe in place of Lacazette (based on your lineup), who knows… My own preference would be to see Aubameyang, Lacazette, and Pepe play together for once so I can judge for myself how good or bad it would be but I am not Unai, so maybe I’ll just have to wait a bit longer for that excitement to happen. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep salivating.
    By the way, very brave of you to leave Guendouzi out of your lineup. You know HOW MUCH Unai loves him some “Douzi”, right? Even at the expense of Torreira (my preference to start every big game when fit and available) 😉😁😁😁 We shall see tomorrow. I hope we are not left scratching our head like last weekend when the team selection is announced. Most fans won’t have much hair left by the end of season if this persists. 😂🤣

  • Its difficult guessing the pair from Xhaka, Torreira, Douzi and Willock that Emery would like to start. He has utilized Douzi the most in playing out of the back. Being that it is a tactics that is basic to his philosophy, Douzi might be the 1st choice for his double pivot.

    However if we use a back-3 (which is likely with Nacho gone), Luiz can take over the center role in the play from the back, reducing Emery’s reliance on Douzi.

    United and Chelsea lost 2pts each today. If we can beat Spurs tomorrow it would have ended a great weekend for us.

  • Eris– have a notion that PE is correct in predicting a back-3.
    Newcastle played a true back-5 with good success in limiting Kane (then behind him), Moura, Lamela, and Son to just 2 shots (of 17) on target. Hard-pressed being comfortable with Kola on an island at times in a back-4. With he and AMN keeping Sp^rs’ Rose and Walker-Peters occupied– I get a sense Arsenal have an advantage creating wide.

  • Hmmm. Good point then, jw1. However, we are home for this one and it is the North London derby. When have we ever played conservatively, in recent memory, against that lot? Maybe, just once when the media had them as the form side and we needed to play a tactical game to take all three points.

    Tomorrow should be different. I’d even say a 4-3-3, with the PAL starting, Xhaka, Torreira and Ozil in midfield. Could we have a surprise introduction for Mustafi at right back with AM-N going to left back (that will ‘kill’ Kola, though). We will find out.

  • Walker-Peters and Foyth are out at right back. Dier is a doubt. It likely would be Aurier who has not played this season that would be fielded. That should be a weak area for them that we should capitalize on. That side (our left side) is where we attack most from (left side 47%, center 21% and right side 32% so far this season). This further backs up jw’s sensing of an advantage for us creating wide.

  • Eris, I won’t be too comfortable with the PALs, Ozil and likely Kola all in the line up. That’s clearly 4 (less Laca) who ain’t too good without the ball. Hate to say it but the Tots are rated the 3rd best team in the league (not that I agree). Still they require a wee bit more respect …. as I see it though.

  • Yes PE, we need to win the battle in midfield and the Spuds would welcome us attacking them. They are struggling to create chances against compact playing teams, so us attacking them and leaving lots of space for counter-attacks and turnovers is just what the Spuddies’ doctor has ordered. We will need to play more conservative than GoonerEris wants us to, even though we are playing at the home of football. When they played MC they got a point from the game because of the Oilers playing very attacking football and leaving all that space behind. The Barcodes sat back and the Spuddies looked devoid of inspiration… Emery will need to find the right balance today.

  • Hi all..
    PE.. If we play 2 CBs against Pool.. Why should we play 3 CBs tor Spurs..?? We won’t play a counter attack scheme, so I think we will play 4-2-3-1

    And I think people want to see PAL play from the start.. Torriera and Ceballos must also play. They already proved that they were our best Midfielders.. Than one more midfield left.. Either Emery golden kid Guendozi or Xhaka.. I will choose Xhaka.

    If we can’t win this game.. I think we must thinking of buying a new guys in the winter.. hehehhe..

  • Hey fellas… Happy Derby Day!…

    I’m just catching up (again, it seems I’m very much an every-other-day blogger at the moment)…and tuning into Everton vs Wolves… Oooh, bad backpass and Everton pounce though a very good Richarlison shot. 1-nil…

  • Whoa… Wolves equalize… Adama Traore and all that power of his get a cross into the 6 yard…where it is stopped but left sitting there for a tap in… I can’t quite see who the Wolves player was but Coleman will not like what he did for the assist…

    Other end, Iwobi goes down but without a plan…

    Fun stuff…

  • But then gets his first Everton goal!!! With his head!!

    I don’t remember anything like that with us…

    At this rate we’re looking at a 16-8 final score….

  • OK, that’s a good way to get used to the demands of doing a live-blog but I imagine our match to be a good deal more calm…Or at least feature a couple of teams who really want to win by way of defending first and then hitting on the break. It’s early days still and both Poch and Emery don’t quite have the players they would like at their disposal. As such, it’s more about playing a system (or style) rather than letting the emotions of the situation dictate a hell-for-leather approach.

    In my opinion…

    But we shall see, right?…

  • Is anybody around? I need help…and I WILL need help…both in trying to describe the action in today’s match and in understanding what there is to like about Emery’s approach…

    In truth, once I’m past the introduction (and the WAY too upbeat–IMO–interpretation of the beatdown we absorbed at Anfield) I find a lot to agree with in PE’s match preview. Personally, I like the 3 CB approach (and finding a way for Chambers to get back into the line-up) but I doubt that Mkhi would be the man in the middle. Instead, I think Emery sticks with Guendouzi but plays LT11 as his #10, much as he did at the end in Liverpool. Surely, the way Torriera popped up and took his goal doesn’t argue against it?…

    That said, there are other good arguments being made, esp. about Emery being too rigid to switch formations at this early stage despite the fact that Spurs are having a bit of a crisis in terms of wide players (FBs) at the moment. Clogging the middle (even with only 2 CBs) and keeping Spurs from scoring, I’m guessing, is the priority. I predict we’ll see our usual (meaningless) possession in our half and some hopeful booted balls forward so that we can keep our defensive lines at the ready. If Eriksen is on the bench, the goal is to make the Totts supporters moan about bringing him on…while otherwise thwarting the other would-be passers and dribblers in the middle and hope that Harry Kane can’t do anything special with chancy balls hit his way.

  • I’m just spitting into the breeze here (or at least finding nobody willing to engage with me)…so maybe it’s time to put out my predicted 11…


    Actually, that line-up seems just about impossible… Emery giving people their PALs seems wishful…

    The goal scoring has settled down in the early match which is nearing half-time… Team news still is a ways off, but maybe there will be something…

    Certainly, I could use some company, so chime in if you can…

  • Hey Seventeenho, early Sunday start for you. I am watching the F1 racing but will be watching the tail-end of the Toffees’ game. Looks like things have quieted down there after an exciting start.

  • PE, TA, I shall defer to your superior reasoning. We await the team list then.

    Just field those who are ready to win it.

  • Team news

    Arsenal XI: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Luiz, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Torreira, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang

    Subs: Martinez, Chambers, Ceballos, Willock, Nelson, Ozil, Mkhitaryan

    Tottenham XI: Lloris, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Winks, Sissoko, Eriksen, Lamela, Son, Kane

    Subs: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Davies, Skipp, Lo Celso, Alli, Lucas

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