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By Bulldog Drummond
It used to seem so easy, trying to work out what team we’d put out. After all with Mr Wenger having been at the club far longer than many of the little opposition groups who rallied behind “4th is not a trophy” slogan before having to change that to “the FA Cup is not a trophy,” we got the feeling of what he was going to do.
Not that this meant I usually managed to predict the team ok, but even so, it was not that hard to get much of the lineup correct, and make a fair stab at the beach.
But now it is all different. One of the most obvious issues is Torreira. He’s 22, so with his best years ahead of him. He’s been playing regularly for Sampdoria (36 games last season and 35 the season before) so he’s got a lot of experience in first team football, and having broken into the Uruguay team he played eight games for them this year. It all looks like a player very much on the way up.
The manager said, “In Lucas Torreira, we have signed a young player who is a very bright talent in the game. A midfielder with great quality, I have enjoyed watching his performances for Sampdoria in the past two seasons, and we all saw him do very well for Uruguay in the World Cup. He is a young player already with good experience, but who wants to keep on growing.”
He is described as a “baseline player” – a protector of the back four – but also a player who can make exactly the right passes through to the front line at exactly the right moment. Which suggests he is something rather special – and all that in a player who is 5 feet 6 inches tall. Blimey, someone who is shorter than me!
So it seems very unlikely that Torreira does not start today. And if he does come in and makes a really good show of holding up the pressure from Chelsea that certainly would cement his position in the team from here on.
But what does that mean for everyone else? Last weekend Ramsey was played in a very high position, Özil seemed to be playing much further back than normal.
Then we have Matteo Guendouzi – only 19 but who has continued in each match through the warm up games and last weekend to put in the workload without failing. Yes he makes mistakes but it is very few 19 year olds who don’t. I am still wondering how he came to us at such a low price.
And for those of us who thought Danny Welbeck was very obviously in the departure lounge, the Guardian is now suggesting he could be used as a wide player in a pressing game today.
Put all these things together and the question begins to arise – just how radical is our new manager willing to be? Can players who he talks up as being central to his plans (like Ramsey or Xhaka) be dropped? Or how about Torreira with Xhaka and Guendouzi playing together as a midfield?
The role of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Özil were both questioned last weekend – as of course was Petr Cech and much depends on two questions the answer to which I have no idea about:
Is our new manager a person who is likely to pick a team for each occasion rather than have a set first team and then change them around only because of injury or loss of form?
Is Mr Emery a man who has a broad plan and who recognises it takes players a while to get used to playing in his style, and so he needs to give certain players as many games as possible to get them used to this approach irrespective of their form?
One suggests a changed line up game by game, the other suggests sticking with players even when they have had a poor match in the game before.
Either way, in one sense an opening two matches against Manchester City and Chelsea could be an ideal. We were expected to find these two games tough, and even if we lose today against Chelsea there are hardly going to be the first chants of Emery Out. (Actually I Express will do that, and maybe the Mirror, and the Star and… ok there will be calls for him to go and a lot of mud slinging and muck raking in the press, but in the more sensible sections of society, it will be seen as a chance to experiment before matches against clubs outside the top six of last season are to be played.)
Throughout this pre-season I have felt our attacking line up ought to be
Mkhitaryan Lacazette Aubameyang
and today I suspect the choice is going to be between giving this selection a chance to keep worrying Chelsea at the back, especially after breakaways by Chelsea, with quick balls through to that front four, or whether the need to solidify at the back is going to change this front four.
The defence behind those four could be
Monreal Sokratis Mustafi Bellerin
which does indeed leave Ramsey on the beach. If Monreal is not fit then it will have to be Lichtsteiner at left back.
The only other way I can see of doing this is to play Ramsey alongside Torreira with either Guendouzi or Xhaka completing a midfield three behind Ozil
But as usual I suspect I shall be quite wrong.
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