by Tony Attwood
I have been writing a few rambling pieces of late about the defence, reflecting the arrival of our new men. My general point is that playing four at the back we have a wide choice of players – enough to cover for injuries, and to put out a different but still very experienced team, in the cups.
Given that our manager has shown himself to be an absolute cup expert both in winning the Europa League and in winning the French Cup and French League Cup twice, I think we can take it that he knows how to change the side and play for cup wins.
So I think we are going to play four at the back, and then have in front of those four one or two defensive midfielders, depending on who we are playing (is it a club with a modest attack or a highly offensive side, and are we at home or away).
Which means we have the keeper, plus four, plus one or two, meaning six or seven players defending, leaving obviously four or five more attack minded players.
If it is four attack minded players that means one midfielder and three forwards. Obviously with five attack minded players (for example against a team in the lower reaches of the league playing at the Arsenal Stadium), we have two in midfield, and the three up top.
The obvious midfielder always to pick is Ramsey, because he can defend and attack from midfield positions. For the second attacking midfielder, the number 10, I would have Ozil. In other words where possible I’d have Ramsey and Ozil playing in most games, with Ramsey playing a more defensive role where the situation demands, but heading forwards where we are already several goals to the good, or playing at home against any but the most powerful opposition.
I still rate Xhaka very highly, and I see Elneny as the obvious Cup and injury replacement midfielder. So for difficult games I’d play
and for games where we are going more positive I’d play
But what about Torreira? This is where it gets difficult. If as everyone says, he is signing for us, where do we play him? We could obviously play him next to Xhaka but then we need to drop one of Ramsey or Ozil. Maybe it really is a case of always choosing three from Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil. Unless Ozil goes back to the wing on occasions.
Which takes me onto the front line: three from Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Iwobi, Welbeck, plus perhaps Ozil. The obvious choice for me for as many games as possible is
Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, Aubameyang
And of course I know Aubameyang is a centre forward, but as I have noted before, playing on the wing he can cause chaos to defences as no one knows where he is going to end up. This is particularly the case where he can come in from the wing as a second centre forward while being replaced on the wing for a moment by Ozil.
When it comes to playing cup matches and covering for injured players we have Iwobi and Welbeck, plus one player who I have not slotted in anywhere: Maitland Niles. We have seen him play in several places on the pitch and I suspect that central midfield is his ideal position.
But this still leaves us looking a little light if we really are going to replace much of the team for certain cup games. We have plenty of spare capacity in defence, but for midfield and attack thus far we have
Elneny Maitland-Niles ???
Iwobi Welbeck ???
If you are a regular reader of my wild ravings (as some consider these pieces – I prefer to call them ramblings, but you can choose), you may recall my excitement at watching Eddie Nketiah playing for England in the Toulon tournament this summer. Personally I would play him at centre forward and put Danny on the wing.
And in the under 23 ranks we have Nelson, Willock and Dasilva all of whom have looked to me to be worth giving more time to.
Now putting one of these three guys in the lineup for a game is hardly a risk, because we are talking about cup matches against lesser opposition and we clearly do have a multiplicity of defenders to give solidity behind them. So my midfield and forward line for such cup matches, and as a way of giving experience to the youngsters and keeping the backup players on their toes to cover in the eventuality of injury I would play
Elneny Maitland-Niles Nelson
Iwobi Nketiah Welbeck
Of course I have not considered the keeper and I don’t know what the club plans to do, but we have three first team keepers in Leno, Cech and Ospina, and then three backups in the under 21s in terms of Virginia, Iliev and Macey. Even if one of the first three leaves we still have plenty of cover.
So we actually have a surfeit of players if Torreira plays. But I think this will be sorted out by going all out for the three cups and recognising that without a total implosion at Manchester City, given their money they are going to be very hard to overtake for a while. Just as Bayern, Barcelona, PSG, Celtic, and Juventus have all already won their leagues, so I suspect Man City have won the Premier League. That’s not our fault, but it is going to be very hard to do much about it.
Unless of course those underground peat fires currently circling Manchester find a route to under the stadium us tax payers paid to build, when Man C ply their trade. Although I wouldn’t want anyone hurt along the way.
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