Projecting Arsenal’s Starting XI for 2018-2019
Good morning everyone. It has been a lovely summer off but like many of you, we have been buoyed by seeing the Arsenal take the pitch this past Saturday and we feel a tinge of excitement about the forthcoming season.
We’ve had a bit of summer off, with the World Cup and other personal matters consuming our time, but we’re happy to be back and with this new look Arsenal taking shape, what better time to pick up our writing than just before we head off onto our pre-season Asian tour.
Over the next few weeks we suspect that there will be a lot of speculation about how we might wind up playing. Sure enough after the Boreham Wood friendly there was a little of it but really, until we have gotten some of these more challenging friendlies under our belt, we won’t have much of a sense at all how we will line up.
That however, is not going to stop us from speculating just the same. Come on, it’s what any sensible Gunner would do. If you haven’t played armchair manager yet, you’re behind the times my friends.
The first thing we have to do is figure out a formation. To do that we’ve looked back over Emery’s time at PSG and Sevilla. At PSG he ran predominantly with a 4-3-3 this past year. At Sevilla it was a 4-2-3-1 but in principle they both acted in similar fashions and we’ll draw that out here. For the purposes of our speculation we’ve landed on a 4-3-3.
The 4-3-3 is a ball hungry philosophy that employs fullbacks in an attacking manner. The midfielders aren’t used for width and the 6 is used as a true defensive midfielder to act as a pivot in possession and block in defense.
The forwards play rotationally, with the CF looking to be strong against opposing centre backs and the wide forwards tucking in a little to open space behind them for the fullbacks to overlap on. Defensively, they act as first defenders putting pressure on the CBs with the ball and create turnovers up high.
If you’ve watched any of Emery’s teams these are trademarks of their play.
Of course the problem becomes the lineup. Some positions are solid locks. For the defensive midfielder role, we should expect that when he is playing fit, Lucas Torreira will be the starting player in that role.
Watching him for Uruguay in the World Cup, you saw a player very comfortable, sitting deep breaking up play and acting as the initial transition to the attackers in front of him. Slotting alongside him the midfield is Aaron Ramsey. Emery seems to really like the Welshman as a box to box midfielder and based on comments so far will likely feature extensively.
The only other easy guaranteed starter is Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. I am convinced that the man is going to challenge for the Golden Boot this year. In his short time at Arsenal he is already averaging a goal a game. With a full season ahead of him and a better understanding of how his teammates play, PEA should blow open the Premier League doors this year.
As for the rest of the lot, I think we can make some safe assumptions but none of them strike me as guarantees like the other 3.
At the back I’ve selected Bernd Leno and for any other reason than they just signed a GK with a big contract for 5 years and as much as I like Cech, he just didn’t seem to be the confident back stopper we’ve had. That being said with a new GK coach, he may get a lease on life and challenge for the starting spot. For now however, we’re going with Leno.
In the back line, we’re going with Bellerin as the right FB and Monreal on the left. In between them we’re speculating Mustafi and Sokratis. Of the 4 two are question marks. Mustafi could be sold. Again with new coaching you never want to discount any one player but every time I watch him I have issues with his positional awareness especially in 1v1 situations. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go but for the purpose of right now ( and the lack of any credible rumors he could be leaving) we’ll start him alongside new signing Sokratis.
The other question mark is Monreal. Not because I think he is a poor player but because he is advancing in years and you wonder how long he can keep it up. Kolasinac is younger and stronger. He is not without issues but that has to begin to factor into decision making. That being said, Monreal was our most consistent player last year and if any deserves a chance to be a number 1 in the slot it’s the Nacho man.
In the midfield we’ve already discussed Ramsey and Torreira. On pure speculation I think you have to think that Xhaka will be the 3 MF in the 4-3-3. What gives Xhaka the advantage here over say an Ainsley Maitland-Niles is not only his experience but his range of passing.
The front three is where the questions really arrive. We already talked about PEA being an automatic selection. Mesut Özil is likely another safe bet but there are some questions about his ability to have the extensive work rate in a high pressing system that Emery likes to use. But he is Mesut Özil and if anyone can make PEA shine it’s the master deliverer himself.
That leaves one spot left – that spot is a battle between Henrikh Mkhitarayan and Alexandre Lacazette. In my eye Mkhi edges out the French forward. Why? Hopefully you will see more in our next piece but when we are off the ball, Emery likes to have his front three come in a little deeper to retrieve the ball from his midfielder and he likes them to dribble into space attacking the opposition back line.
If Emery keeps to this in his playing philosophy it has to be Mkhi because flat out he is infinitely better at dribbling with the ball and attacking players than Lacazette. Lacazette is his strength running off the ball. That wouldn’t in my opinion fit here.
Again all of this is speculative. There are so many things we don’t know. Like the system of play. Or has Emery seen something in the Premier League and the players he has on hand to completely alter his preferred style of play. Also what is he seeing from his players in training – does he see something that we don’t see and which would change things up in a position completely altogether?
Give us your thoughts. Who do you think will make up Arsenal’s regular Starting XI?