Arsenal v Villareal Preview/ Lineup. Time for 3-4-3 with Saka and Soares as wing-backs!

The Yellow Submarine is our new opponent on the way to the UEFA League final. They are of course managed by Arteta’s predecessor, Unai Emery, and if there is one thing that nobody can argue with it’s the fact that Unai is an UEFA-league specialist. Will the extremely ambitious Spaniard be extra extra motivated to give us a bloody nose tonight? You betcha!

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I must admit that I have not seen much of Villareal this season. They scored 50 goals in La Liga and conceded 38 and are currently seventh, so not much better than us. They play in the beautifully named Estadio de la Ceramica or (even more beautifully and unofficially named) El Madrigal. You can say anything in Spanish and it sounds beautiful, though. A cheese sandwich is bocadillo de queso and whereas the former hardly gets me excited the latter is simply mouthwatering! Tengo diez por favor! 😀 Furthermore, a small city/town situated near the sunny east coast and that prides itself for its oranges and ceramics is one I would love to visit, and what a shame it is we still cannot do so.

Arteta had some heavenly news for us yesterday; as per per Mikel’s own words on They are all in contention. All of them. Including Aubameyang, Laca and Kieran. They are all in contention for the game. Yes [it is good news].

So what can I say about our first team selection. If all are truly fit then that will have given Arteta a sleepless night. The only thing to compare it with is when you have been out and several girls (or boys) have been eyeing you up and made advances… who to pick, who to pick?! I guess what is key here is who is actually fully match fit? This only Mikel will be able to judge.

So I am going with my hunch regarding match fitness and build further on the great comments made in the last Bergkampesque post.

This would be my team to start against the Yellow Submarine, and I am going for 3-4-3 to make us stronger on the flanks and through the middle:

If Laca is fit then of course he should play but Martinelli must have been penciled in for this one. I expect us to play compact and attack with seven or eight at a time, so in reality it is more like 3-7 or 3-6-1 for large parts of the game because I expect us to take the game to them tonight. If KT is fully fit then we could play 4-2-3-1 again with Soares making way and Saka moving up a position. Pepe has been good in Europe but I would prefer (a fit) Odegaard to start as he is much more ball tight. I am sure Arteta will have a few surprises for us tonight and that I got it pretty wrong with my preferred selection, but as long as the boys put in a great performance we will all be happy. Looking forward to this one. COYRRGs!!

By TotalArsenal.

32 thoughts on “Arsenal v Villareal Preview/ Lineup. Time for 3-4-3 with Saka and Soares as wing-backs!

  • Well that was a great post Total I really enjoyed feeling the positivity coming up between the lines.

    Ceramica or ceramics or pottery, does that mean that Villarreal are the Stoke City of Spain?

    I like Unai Emery, he is a decent guy and he tries to coach his teams so that they play good football.
    Many will say his crowning glory at Arsenal was the 4-2 win vs Tottenham at the Emirates and that truly was a memorable occasion, the Aubameyang rocket that set Tottenham back on their heels, the coup de grace by Torrieira and his roar as he ran towards the Arsenal crowd, it was marvellous. But for me the top top Emery performance was in the Europa and the 4-2 demolition of Valencia on their own ground. Valencia had been a Jonah team to Arsenal for many years so beating them 7-3 on aggregate really laid a few ghosts for me. Then there was the Arsenal record in Spain which had been quite mixed for a long time, so putting them to the sword was so so magical for me.
    That’s my abiding memory of Unai.

    I think these two games will be wide open with both teams going for it although I actually have no idea how it’ll fall, but I’m nervous and that’s usually a good sign…

    If Arsenal can finish then I think we’ll be ok

  • Not keen on Soares as wing back play a winger instead.

    My team : Leno
    Soares/Chambers Holding Tierney
    Pepe/Willan Ceballos Partey
    Auba/Martinelli Lacazette/Nkeitah

  • TA , good choice for the line up. But my concern with this formation is that the central channel becomes devoid of creativity and it’s left of flanks. It’s a bit lopsided and hampers us. Hey but we won FA with this formation. So cheers mate I just want us to win this game and keep a clean sheet if possible.

  • Because of the importance of the game and the obvious weakness that we have at left back and centre forward I wonder if Arteta will throw Tierney and Lacazette back into the starting line up?

    That would free up Xhaka and Saka for their more usual tasks in the team and allow Arteta to go with his favoured attack of Laca at the apex supported by Saka, Smudge and Ode.

    He would then have the option of having the cavalry on the bench in Aubameyang, Martinelli and Pepe.

  • No 3 at the back please. No conflation of roles. Leave no doubt. Xhaka in midfield where he belongs, and just attack. Pace, intelligent movement and expression.

    Spare a thought for Unai as well. Horrible treatment from the press and he acted with a large amount of grace and restraint. I’m not surprised he’s found his way back to the semis of this competition. He’s an ace at it, that’s certain. Not up to the job, but quite suited for La Liga.

  • Eris – I’m missing your predictions for this weekend – It’s so close and I don’t want you to miss a week.

  • 4-2-3-1
    Leno in goal, Pepe front, Xhaka at LB, Party & Ceballos the engine, Saka-Ode-ESR in support. And a hell Lot of firepower on the bench.

  • Strange and funny theories on the formation.
    Based on the names I predicted the good old 4-2-3-1 with Odegaard at #10 and Pepe as the lone striker.
    According to the introduction in BT Sport 3 Arsenal seems to play in 3-5-1-1 putting Xhaka back to midfield and Odegaard as a secondary striker. And the commentators suspect a formation with no center forwards, Pepe on the wing and ESR as a false 9.
    We’ll see. But the tactical opportunities are aplenty.

  • A bit unfortunate to be two down but all to play for. I predict we will score two goals in second half, but they may score one or two more as well. Formation is not working at all. Arteta has got a job to do…

  • Half time.
    Villarreal leads by 2:0.
    The fair score would have been 0:0, this is a visually unappealing game so far between 2 careful teams, but the hosts are clearly luckier than us. (I’m not standing in the Leno OUT! crowd, and wouldn’t be fair to blame the second on him, but for the record, a goalkeeper being confident and comfortable leaving the line – like Ryan or Martinez – would have probably caught the ball flying from the corner before it became an easy tap-in.)

    There is not much to be happy about, minimal creativity from Arsenal. I’m satisfied with Odegaard and maybe with Holding, Pepe had a few good moments, but Saka and ESR play disappointing (which is somewhat expected).
    I don’t see we’ll be conceding more, but I didn’t see those 2 coming either. But I don’t see us scoring, unless we get a soft penalty.
    A 2:1 defeat would make the 2nd leg manageable, but so far our chances to reach the final are below 50%.

  • I am not second guessing here but I had been thinking if it would be wise to keep Dani on with that yellow but did not expect to see that red so early. We could be dead in the water here. I had hoped that Gabi would start he comes. I think we played with a false nine but really there was just no focal point without Laca upfront.

  • its amazing how much Bukayo is targeted in every game no matter if its domestic or in Euro games. I mean i hardly see other wingers taking so many fouls in other games i watch.

  • A bit better in the second half and, we are still in the tie. Red for Dani was a joke but pen seemed soft too.

    The boys fought hard but Mikel’s tactics in first half were below par.

  • The good: we didn’t suffer a major defeat. When Tierney will be back in the squad Arsenal will be less vulnerable at the back, and the Partey-Xhaka tandem will boss the midfield again.
    The bad: we were mostly harmless throughout the game. The home ground will likely provide some light support to that, but we have to score there, and cannot speculate on another penalty.
    The ugly: I still don’t understand why did we have to wait until the 85th minute for the 2nd substitution, and the 95th for the 3rd/4th in a game where 5 substitutions are allowed, and fresh legs can always bring more pressing (not to mention the formation and tactics that were sub-optimal to say the least).

  • Only silver lining, Dani cannot play in the second game. What a poor performance. It’s amazing that we are still in the tie goes to show why you have to play tight and put in a shift. All this tactical nous Arteta is trying to get smart by half. Enough of this trying to ape Pep, pls do it somewhere else not in my club. Anyways ManU is going to smash anyone who comes to finals. Unbelievable result for them against Roma.

  • I thought the ref was very fair, equally bad decisions for both teams.

    Our false nine was so false I think he was back at the hotel. Ps that isn’t aimed at anyone in particular.

    Credit to Pepe for taking the pen but it wasn’t brilliant. If the keeper hadn’t cut his toenails he might have saved it.

    Arsenal played like Arteta arsenal in the 1st half and Villareal played like Emery’s Arsenal in the 2nd half.

    The thing that annoyed me the most was when they went down to 10 , we just sat back. United scored about 3 goals in that time.

    If Martinelli doesn’t play next week…. sack him… Arteta that isg

    Sorry to moan

  • Disappointed with our defence, probably the worst performance I’ve seen from Mari and Holding as a pair, but in the end I thought we could have got a draw.

    Emery looked so gutted at the end and maybe that revealed what this game actually means to him despite his best efforts to hide his emotions and maybe those same emotions will ultimately work in our favour in the 2nd leg?

    I’m really not sure about Arteta and his substitutions because it seems to me a worrying weakness in his armoury, why leave it so long to bring on Martinelli, I’m scratching my head?

  • Hi, GN5, I had my predictions on the previous thread.

    My predictions follow:

    Brighton v Leeds – H
    Chelsea v Fulham – H
    Everton v Aston Villa – H
    Newcastle v Arsenal – A
    Manchester United v Liverpool – D
    Rangers v Celtic – H

  • The disappointment is palpable on here today, we are lucky to still be in the hunt and we have Leno to thank for that I reckon.

    The reluctance to use Martinelli is becoming an issue now, I hope it’s not an ego thing whereby the manager won’t change tack and It’s odd how much better we looked after Ceballos got sent off.

    Looking ahead, Man United look in ominous form…

  • Wow, that was another hard watch. I cannot repeat what I said when I saw how we lined up at the start. Their first goal had an air of inevitability to it. Although he made some good passes going forward playing Dani in that formation did not make sense. Defensively he is poor and that was shown again last night. I was surprised that Arteta didn’t ask ESR to move into a different role once it became blindingly obvious that we had serious problems on our left flank. The role he had been asked to do wasn’t working out anyway.

    I have been a bit critical of Leno recently but he kept us in the game and wasn’t at fault for their goals.

    I agree with Kev that Arteta’s recent substitutions are becoming a concern. He’s leaving things longer than Wenger. We could see that Dani’s red card was likely after his yellow.

    We are still in it though and it was good to see Auba looking lively when he was eventually brought on. I actually thought we should have got another goal. As a result of their red card we took a very good free kick which seemed to be one off the training ground. Play was stopped, just as it seemed we would score, for a push on one of their defenders but it looked to me as if two of their defenders collided when jumping to defend their lines.

  • Certainly not one of our better performances yesterday but by the fortune of an “iffy” penalty we came away with the bonus of the magic away goal. Strangely enough I feel confident that the away goal will work in our favour at home but as Kev said United look to be in ominous form.

  • I can’t help myself but feel that Arteta is relying his future on Saka and Smith-Rowe. Which might be a good call if you have to depend on somebody specific, but the idea of playing your most suitable and most in-form players every (important) game is at least 50 years old, probably more. So I cannot imagine any other reason behind Martinelli not getting more playing time as well as why Pepe cannot play with Auba at the same time is because the team sheet MUST start with Saka and ESR – and if fit Odegaard follows. Which is not a bad approach at all, but unfortunately both Bukayo and Emile are in a poor to mediocre form at the moment.

    In fact the last PL game Bukayo had a WhoScored OR FootballCritic rating at least 7.0 was our defeat against Aston Villa on the 6th of February, and for Smith-Rowe the last good PL games came against Tottenham (14/03) and Leeds (14/02). To be fair, they both had a fine game in Prague, and Saka had an exceptional performance against Benfica, but it’s difficult to argue that they are not in a good form. Which might have been enough against Olympiacos or Slavia, but usually not enough against a solid PL opponent. As a matter of fact when we won against Sheffield or Leicester in a convincing manner those weren’t because of Saka or Smith Rowe, but generally because of Lacazette, Pepe, Partey and Xhaka (plus Martinelli vs Sheffield and Willian against Leicester), so the team could offset the sub-par performance from our youngsters.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not roasting or blaming the boys. They have every reason to be exhausted, and anyway, nobody needs a specific justification for a poor run of form, that’s part of the game, it affects everybody from Mané to Auba. They deserve our support, and I hope these critics from me don’t seem like foul-mouthing, just stating the facts. The only reason I brought it up because in the PL – and against Villarreal, our first PL-level opponent in Europe – the margins are so small that we suffer when not playing with the best players and with the best tactics. And while Saka might be our best and most valuable player (of which I don’t agree, but it seems to be the common understanding) he is definitely not in form. He made no key pass yesterday (to be fair, the whole team made a pitiful 5, even though we were a man short for only 19 minutes), and he wasn’t defensively active either (1 tackle, no interception and 1 clearance). His main contribution was him being fouled 4 times (pitch high) resulting a red card and a penalty. And I don’t want to underestimate the impact of those, but it should be a (positive) side-effect of ones game, not the main deliverable. And when getting fouled becomes enough to be a standout performer, that is a quite sad manifest of a game or a whole team.

    It would be better for everyone – for the boys, for us supporters and for the team in general, to give them a day off, and let Martinelli, Auba, Willian (not to mention Nketiah, Nelson, Balogun) get some minutes and form to be able to add value from the bench. Because it is nonsense that we must play full games with a single substitution, especially with out of form (key) players.

  • I agree with PB about giving ESR and Saka a rest aND ABOUT THE SUBSTITUTIONS. The weekend game for instance! In Saka’s defence though last night he was being consistently fouled last night and in order to make a key pass, he needs other players to be making the right runs at the right time too.

  • OX10, Saka to be protected and there are no protective enforcers on the team – except the yellow card prone Xhaka, and he gets none from the referee’s.

  • We’ve checked-in with our medical team ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against Newcastle United.

    Alex Lacazette
    Left hamstring. Alex is responding well to treatment and is starting to integrate back into full training. Alex will be unavailable for Sunday’s match, but will continue to work hard with the aim of being in contention for Thursday’s match against Villarreal.

    David Luiz
    Right knee. David is now back in full training and is in contention to be involved in Sunday’s match.

    Kieran Tierney
    Left knee. Kieran continues to make good progress and is now integrating back into full training. Kieran will be assessed regarding his availability for Sunday’s match.

    There were no further health or injury issues from Thursday’s match against Villarreal. All other players in the men’s first-team squad are currently available for selection.

    As part of Premier League protocol, all members of our first-team squad and support staff continue to be regularly tested for COVID-19.

    Copyright 2021 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source.

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