Rumours, rumours rumours. Apparently, we are on the verge of letting both Bellerin and Kola, two great Arsenal personalities, go. Is that a clever thing to do?
It all depends on what Arteta’s plans are regarding formation and roles within the starting-11. With such a short break, Arteta just cannot take the risk of changing things too much. I wrote earlier about the importance of the spine and Mikel needs to set up the team in a way that maximises the strength of it.
Leno/Martinez – Luiz – Xhaka – Willian – Auba/Laca, to me that is the core or spine of the team in the coming season. If we play Luiz we need to surround him with players who can play the game to their strength whilst also covering for David’s shortcomings. We know that the Brazilian powerhouse doesn’t like to be attacked with much space behind or around him; that’s when he tends to snap and do something stupid that leads to a penalty, a red card, or both. Therefore three at the back is ideal for him.
Luiz is a great leader and organiser: he has got good overview, gives clear instructions, motivates well and is the sort of leader other players want to go deep for. With the curly cannon in defence we have withstood the greatest levels of pressure in recent months. And I think we are yet to see the best of him in an Arteta-Arsenal side.
He simply has to play, and to get the best out of him he needs to be surrounded by two first soldiers: one on the left and one on the right. Arteta has good CBs to pick from now (if indeed the Gabriel signings gets completed this week). On the left he can pick from Gabriel, Mari and Tierney; and on the right it is Mustafi, Saliba or Holding. The latter is probably the best cover for Luiz himself as the central CB, if he had to miss out on a game. But he is also suitable to be the RCB. Arteta is spoiled for choice at the moment (and I have not forgotten about Big Sok or Chambers either..).
With three at the back, we need to play with wingbacks rather than full backs. What are the key requirements of a wingback? Big fecking engine, good runner with and without the ball, good positional play and defensive qualities, good forward play including crosses, passes and (ideally) dribbling skills, and production of assists and (ideally) close to double figures PL goals. In the modern game, these are among the most exciting and demanding roles on the pitch. They need to deliver on all aspects of the position for our team to flourish in a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation.
Arsenal are blessed with two great left wingbacks: fiery Tierney and super Saka – and there is Kola but he just has not made it Arsenal, has he? On the right we are less blessed. Bells had a few half decent games but never really set the world on fire on the right wing. Soares must have the confidence of Arteta and he may well become our nr1 right wingback.
If Hector was to leave, what is Mikel going to do? I don’t think he will buy a new nr1; that would surprise me. A nr.2 to Soares could be bought, but we also have a few youngsters with Saka-like qualities to make the right wing theirs: Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson, and of course Arteta bought the multi-functional Willian who could cover on the right wing… And then we have Big Sok or Chambers who may well get time in that position in the coming season.. Plenty of options.
And what about AMN? Is Arteta really going to sell both Hector AND AMN? I doubt it, but if he did he will have options to fill the RWB position with hungry and very talented players, and, and at least from a technical/tactical point of view, I don’t think he would be weakening our team much if both Kola and Hector would leave.