LUIZ MAJESTIC IN A BACK-3 AS FANS FAVOURITES LACA, TORREIRA AND PEPE START.
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.