Torreira and Xhaka – what are their best positions?

This week there has been a lot of discussion about how our collection of mid-fielders fit into different systems and what our best combination could be. The following comments formed part of that discussion a couple of days ago.
Mike M says:

FGG. Here’s a question that I don’t know the answer to, mostly because I didn’t really know anything about him before we signed him but what role do you think we signed Torreira for?

I really though he’d be our anchor DM along with Xhaka. Indeed when we signed Xhaka I thought that’s what he was too !! Now I understand interchanging so if LT or XG go forward, someone covers them but without the ball, shouldn’t they be our deep lying midfielder and if we lose the ball, be busting a gut to get back in front of the defence centrally? Or is it that the roles are changing in the PL?

fatgingergooner says:


I have to say that they’ve both baffled me a little as well. I think roles have changed a little in that clubs now realise you can get more from a HM player than just tackling, so in that respect these 2 could be perfect modern day players as they both offer more (Xhaka with his long passing and Torreira with his attacking play) but the problem seems to be that neither does the defensive part well enough in the first place!

I can’t answer your question about why they were bought, but what I would say is that there are a couple of things to ponder when looking at the signings. Firstly, they were bought by different managers who have different ideas about what our midfield should look like, and secondly, and probably more importantly, they were both bought within a certain budget limitation.

What I mean by that is sometimes when you don’t have infinite financial backing, you have to compromise a little bit on a players skill set and hope that you can develop him as you want, which is always a bit of a gamble. Maybe both managers saw tenacious, tough tackling players and thought they could mould them into a HM type, but actually when they’ve had them on the training ground, it’s turned out that they don’t quite have the discipline or the ability to read the game as they had hoped.

Xhaka just seems to lack the ability to sniff danger before it’s happened, whereas Torreira doesn’t quite have the positional discipline required and seems to enjoy getting involved in the attack a little more than expected. I wonder if both were bought with that HM position in mind but it just hasn’t worked out.

I actually think they were our best partnership last season and their skill sets complimented each other fairly well. I’d like to see them get another crack as a pair or maybe even as a 3 with Willock behind 3 attacking players.

It seems to me that we have been collecting mid-fielders in the hope that some turn out to be the players we require in the positions we need them. If Emery is going to find the right combination, how long is it going to take?



47 Responses to Torreira and Xhaka – what are their best positions?

  1. SammyNelsonsPants says:

    Xhaka’s best position? Defensive midfield……in the Spurs team.

  2. Gooner4life says:

    Xhaka does not have the speed or mobility or tackling technique to manage box to box or efficiently screen accross the midfield to stifle or delay oncoming opposition
    Willock has certainly come to the fore and Ghendouzi works tirelessly and will improve(both players are still eligible for u23)
    How about Chambers or Luiz for holding role when Holding is fit

  3. Sean says:

    I say we sell Xhaka asap and work with Torreira; he at least hustles and sniffs out passes. Everyone lauds about Xhaka´s long passing prowess, but 95% of his passes are sideways and backwards. This is the PL, how many teams are going to allow him 3.5 seconds to pick out a pass down the pitch?

  4. RA says:

    Morning fellas, 😁

    Straight in, and there are 3 comments that I totally agree with.

  5. VP of Oz says:

    I thought their best positions were in midfield?
    Is this a trick question?

    Just want to say that the quality of the comments and analysis these last few days has been very superior. I’m ready to jump in and lower the standard at any time. This was my first attempt.

  6. LBG says:

    Xhaka…..sorry….in another team!
    Terrier…centrally in a second midfield line ahead of Luiz. Willock to his right and Ouzi or Dani to his left.
    This, as I do realise means against most Premier League opposition, and contrary to most perhaps on here, I would play two upfront. Normally Aubang and Laca, with Pepe as the exocet substitution after 60mins.
    Question – How many more seasons will we get from a 30+ Aubang?

  7. fatgingergooner says:


    It’s a really interesting point you bring up actually, as we have a strike force and a goalkeeper that are ready to win big right now, but the midfield is at the start of its development, and the defence is a work in progress (praying Saliba and Holding bring it up a couple of levels). As much as we analyse and assess the squad and how to get the best out of it, it’s probably going to be that a future successful Arsenal side doesn’t contain the likes of Auba, Laca and Özil as the midfield and defence just isn’t good enough right now.
    It’s so frustrating to see such a powerful forward line going to waste because we don’t quite have it right behind, and even more frustrating to think that by the time we do get the mid and def right it will be too late!

    Being a manager must be hard! 😂

  8. fatgingergooner says:


    Just wanted to pick up on a point you made on the previous post. You said that Emery is reactionary as a coach and tinkers too much. You are probably correct in that assessment as he seems to be someone who will take into account the opposition and set his game plan up around that, meaning we have different set up in every game and our tactics vary a lot week to week. What I find interesting though is that our previous manager was accused of doing the exact opposite to this, and that was used as a stick to beat him by many (myself included). Wenger never took into account who we were playing or how they set up and had complete faith in his players to go out and impose their own game on the opposition.

    I wonder why neither of these opposing ideas seems to be working effectively? Well, it brings me back to a point made earlier, that the players have to be good enough regardless of tactics. We can change managers all day and bring in different ideas and tweak systems, but if the players aren’t up to scratch then you end up with the same situation that Man Utd have found. Multiple managers, all with different ideas and personalities, but ultimately, all using players that just weren’t good enough. I’d hate for our club to end up changing managers and coaches every year, so it’s vital that we get the recruitment and development side of the squad right. Thankfully, that is one area the club have tried to improve in recent seasons and the early signs are promising. With another couple of windows like the last one, and with some success stories from the youth team, then maybe even me and you could put out a decent looking Arsenal team!!!! 😂

  9. RC78 says:

    Xhaka best position is on the bench or in another team…

    But since he is here, he can play as a deep lying playmaker or CM. He s got a good passing range (although he s not great at and a decent shot but he is slow, erratic and defensively unsound so it s better to play him further up the pitch and have someone who is better at defending. Xhaka can score from outside the box but he is playing as DM now, a role he can’t master.

    As for Torreira, he is a BTB for me and I think that Willock as well. Guendouzi could also be a BTB but am hoping that he will be asked to basically become our HM in the future because I think he has a real future in this position.

    As of now, our best combination in midfield could be: Torreira, Chambers, Willock or Torreira, Luiz, Willock

    If we must play with Ceballos, then he would take Willock s spot above. None of these include Xhaka but all of them include Torreira

  10. fatgingergooner says:

    Oh no. Smalling on his way to Roma which probably means Mustafi isn’t!!!

  11. RA says:

    Hi FGG,

    You asked a question regarding two managers who, on the face of it, had/have tactical ideas completely opposite to each other, in Embers and AW.

    You then neatly went on to answer the question by saying that the quality of the players, or their lack of quality negated either tactic.

    I have mentioned this obvious cause and effect many times, but it is not sexy, as the default for most fans’ is to defend their team and wear blinkers if they are apparently criticised, not that evaluating a player’s skills is necessarily a criticism.

    Take Guardiola, and now Klopp, and it is accepted that they are terrific managers, but frankly they both have top class players in their team, perhaps because of their skill in coaching them, and that ensures they are successful and get the plaudits.

    But if they swapped their current teams for the Arsenal (hypothetically, of course) would they be so successful? I think not.

    If Emery went t’other way, would he be successful? Well, perhaps not as successful as the two current managers — but he would have the tools necessary to compete for the EPL and the CL in a way that he cannot with the present Arsenal team.

    In summary: I agree with you. 🤪

  12. Sue says:

    Thanks a bloody lot, Chris Smalling 🤪

  13. RA says:


    Roma are not daft!

  14. RC78 says:

    @Aaron and FGG
    – I think we indeed still need improvements in our squad to have more tactical options or impose our style (Emery does not have a set footprint in terms of formation or style, he just has a philosophy about pressing high and countering so we may have to wait once he leaves to have a definite Arsenal style again and I am sure he will get a 1 year extension so in another 3 years maybe).
    – The key areas for me are: RB, CB, DM, ST and among those the priority ones are CB and DM. Let us hope that Saliba solves our CB issue, we are still in a conundrum for DM unless Chambers or Luiz can be given the chance to performance in this position.
    – Why did I put RB? AMN is a good soldier but his strength is further up the pitch when he goes against defenders not when he is trying to breach defensively.
    – Why did I put ST? I think that Nketiah will come back stronger from his loan at Leeds but I still think that we d benefit from having a player like Giroud/Llorente that can be a real aerial threat but is good with link up plays.

    I think this season we are going to take a step in a good direction in terms of being more solid and having more options but to take the next step to challenge for titles, we need more quality.

    Based on the above, the most sound line up for me for this season and based on the assumptions that Mustafi and Monreal are leaving:

    Team A: Leno – Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Tierney – Torreira, Chambers, Willock – Pepe, Auba – Laca

    Team B: Martinez – AMN, Sokratis, Mavropanos, Kola – Guendouzi, Xhaka, Ceballos – ESR – RN, Jules

    We still have Macey, Medley, Martinelli, Saka that can/could be used.

  15. allezkev says:

    Roma not daft?

    I’m not sure about that Red, there’s a cigarette paper between Smalling and Mustafi when it’s comes to defensive competence and reliability.

    Hobsons choice…

  16. pbarany says:

    Let’s not get carried away too much. Especially with this year, where Newcastle and Burnley should have been defeated (with Emery, with Wenger or even with me as the coach), while we should have been defeated by Liverpool at Anfield (with Emery, with Wenger or even with me as the coach). So far there is not much worth analyzing.

    Last year is a different story. Which is fairly simple: when Xhaka and Torreira have been paired together we played well and won games, where Guendouzi was playing we were much worse and lost plenty of points.

    Of course Matteo is a year older now so don’t take the above stated FACTS static, but as far as I am concerned I would field Xhaka, Torreira and Ceballos as the central midfield trio on away games, and replace one of them with Özil at home.

    Willock and Guendouzi should be substitutes in PL games and regular starters at cup fixtures. The same applies to Nelson.

  17. fatgingergooner says:

    England’s Right Back depth is ridiculous:

    Kyle Walker
    Trent Alexander-Arnold
    Aaron Wan-Bissaka
    Kieron Tripper

    Not bad is it!? 😂

  18. RC78 says:

    @pb – agree with you on all except Xhaka. I think that he should really give way to Luiz or Chambers in midfield. Torreira is a starter and I d play him next to Chambers or Luiz so that leaves us with one more spot in a midfield 3. I d give that spot to Willock away and to Ceballos as home. For me, unfortunately because I really like to see him play, Ozil does not start except maybe in Cup games including Europa league, same goes for Mkhy but even then, I d rather work on giving time to RN, ESR, Martinelli, Willock, Guendouzi, Saka…

    Anyways – for sure, Torreira is a starter. Now, who is best suited to partner with him is another question and it seems that there are some diverging views on that matter.

  19. RC78 says:

    FGG – At this point, I believe that England is ridiculously good at producing quality full backs.

    On the right, you have listed them but on the left, it s not bad either: Chilwell, Rose, Shaw…

    In terms of talent,

    your defense is actually impressive even at CB: Stones, Gomes, Maguire, Keane, Tarkowski..

    your wingers and forwar options are also amazing with Kane, Rashford, Sterling, Sancho, Wilson, Hudsoi-Odoi, Lingard…

    I think your GK and Midfield is where you could be better and Pickford is not bad while you have quality midfielders but it seems that Gareth is still struggling in finding the right combo (sounds like Arsenal…lol). I d play Henderson, Winks, Alli

    Pickford – Walker, Stones, Gomes, Chilwell – Henderson, Winks – Allis – Sancho, Kane, Sterling


    Pickford – Walker, Stones, Gomes, Chilwell – Henderson, Winks, Barkley – Alli, Sterling – Kane

  20. LBG says:

    Happy Birthday Ainsley.
    I let it go first time, but as you raised it!
    Surely Dick showed on Saturday with his diamond-shaped midfield he is, on occasions, both proactive AND reactive! We have our own opinions as to whether that approach was the right one, but it was certainly considered.
    Certainly, as I’ve said before, I choose any kind of “active”, rather than pick the team and let them get on with it, ( including expecting players to correct major failings themselves on the field. Possible with a TA or Frank McLintock or PV on the field, but not with a lack of “character” in the squad for last five years!!) anytime.

  21. Mike M says:

    LBG – I saw a little snippet of Steve Nichol lambasting Arsenal along with Craig Burley and neither think we’re very good, especially away, which of course is true but it’s hard to make a judgement for this season if you’re factoring losing at Anfield. However, Shaka Hislop (of whom I’m not a great fan either) points out that Arsenal’s main problem, especially away, is lack of leadership. So it’s interesting that you make the point because I truly think if Xhaka or Ozil were in any way leaders, I would cut them more slack. Admittedly I’m not sure I see that in any of our current crop, which is why I want 100% commitment from all of our players – in part to at least make up for it.

  22. Mike M says:

    As far as Xhaka and Torreira, both should be holding or defensive midfielders IMO. However Xhaka just isn’t athletic enough or disciplined enough to play there at the top level but doesn’t have the pace or agility to play anywhere else. As FGG says, he’s a mid to low level PL player. Torreira could and imo should anchor our midfield. If you look at Willock and Ceballos, they have the skill and explosiveness to launch counter attacks. I’m not sure Torreira has the same qualities although I’d be open for debate. Even Gwen seems to be able to create more space with his ability to draw opponents and change direction. I know LT has popped up with a couple of goals but I’m not sure that’s the best way to use him. Again ‘though I’m not really sure and maybe I need to see a little more of him. As has also been pointed out (can’t remember who – sorry !!) he may also be a little physically lightweight for that role.

  23. fatgingergooner says:


    Can’t disagree with that. He certainly seems proactive in that he’s always looking at ways to improve for each match, hence all the video watching he reportedly does, but at the same time his tactics sometimes feel reactive as he himself admits to looking at ways to stop the opposition first before considering how we can impose our game and hurt them.

    I quite like his methods and I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to earn the right to play against every opponent, so I like that he gives the opposition the respect they deserve. If, as a side, we can win those early battles in matches, and his tactics help with that, then we will be more successful. I guess where some people have issue with him is that they feel he gives some of the bigger sides too much respect and his tactics don’t allow us to get after them, but I think that’s a difficult balance due to the fact, as has already been discussed, we don’t have the same quality of player as some of the big boys. Some people will perceive us being outplayed as us standing off and giving the opposition too much space, thus placing the blame on tactics.

  24. VCC says:

    Nice post Peaches.

    can’t help but put my one liner in……

    My choice would be the same as SammyNelsonsPants. No brainer.

  25. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Peaches

    I agree with most of the comments on here but still feel a 4-3-3 or variation on it is our strongest line up. It seems to be the strongest line up for most top sides and really we are recruiting and promoting with players that fit this system.

    It would be a waste not to try our potential world beating front 3 while we have them all in their prime and in addition to those 3, we will likely have Nketieh coming back stronger as another number 9. We have Saka for the right side of that front 3, Nelson for the left and Martinelli for the left or up front.

    We simply need to develop our front 3 partnerships with good back up options. The midfield 3 behind this is important and I have not hidden that my preference is for a HM like Luiz or Chambers with 2 others. We can make it more attacking or defensive depending on which 2 others we pick.

    My one thing is that Xhaka doesn’t feature for me. It is not that I totally dislike him and feel he is decent but suits another league or level better, and we have too many other good options.

    He is not dynamic enough for the EPL and I feel whichever position you look to place him in he needs accommodating by asking another player to cover certain deficiencies. That weakens us somewhat and you really can only afford to accommodate the supreme game changers and winners in world football like Messi or Ronaldo.

    Interesting debate starter from FGG picked up by RA about the slight polar opposites in UE and AW and does this tell us something else about factors external to the manager. I would add one other consideration in that maybe neither of them have got it right in their approach and both were / are at 2 more extreme ends of management style.

    That is not meant to be spiteful to either manager, and I want to see more of how Emery does things this season before making a full judgement, but it is possible that AW wasn’t the right elite coach anymore in his latter years but conversely that UE isn’t quite the elite coach we will need longer term.

  26. GoonerB says:

    As mentioned yesterday I will happily bow to some sort of pivot shift deeper midfield if it can be shown to work. Right now I still cant see it and dont like how it kind if ties up 2 players in one role or contains them both largely in the same area of the pitch but it may work despite my reservations.

    I have to say though… please…no more compressed diamonds for me. It is a system that I cant see being decent at any level in the modern game never mind against the top sides

  27. Fatgingergooner says:

    I see Tyrone Mings has been called into the England squad. I saw him a few years ago playing at Elland Road for Ipswich and he was the best player on the park by a mile at left back. He was only young and I was hoping we were going to sign him when he moved to Bournemouth. We should definitely be keeping an eye on his progress as he’s excellent on the ball and has all the physical attributes needed. Could be questions about fitness after an injury-hit spell at Bournemouth, but if Villa were to go down, there is no doubt the big clubs would be circling for his signature and it would be nice if we could be at the front of the queue.

  28. fatgingergooner says:

    Spurs, Liverpool and City will be pleased with the CL draw. Chelsea got it a bit tougher.

  29. SammyNelsonsPants says:

    One liners apart, xhakas lack of mobility and the rarity of the great long passes and shots of which he’s capable, but doesn’t pull off often enough, makes him a non starter for me… It may be confirmation bias for me at this point but I’ve kept a close eye on him for a while and he loses possession all the time. Can happen to anyone now and again, but it seems to me that when he has the ball, we end up losing almost 50/50.

    We’re going to end up giving away a whole load of free kicks etc etc under VAR too, if we don’t sort Papa out. The man needs to keep his hands to himself. I quite like him as a player otherwise, but the grabbing and shirt pulling is just embarrassing. Like watching an Italian defender from the 70s.

    I’d go 4-3-3 with Torreira anchoring Ceballos plus Gendouzi or Willock, and I’d like a look at chambers and holding together at CB. I like Callum, and think his roasting at Man U a while back really knocked him back, confidence wise. I’d love to see him succeed at CB.

    Personally I’ve lost patience with Ozil.

    PAL upfront, all day, everyday.

  30. Sue says:

    Jammy bloody Liverpool….. oh god please no, that trophy had better not end up at Anfield again 😬

  31. fred1266 says:

    Ramsey lifting it this year

  32. Sue says:

    I’d much rather that, Fred 😁

  33. kelsey says:

    I am not technical enough to answer the question Peaches but I know that Xhaka was a liability before we bought him and still is and never has a hair out of place as he walks around the pitch,can’t tackle and yet Emery wants him to be one of his 5 captains.
    Torreira is being used a super sub so that leaves me to believe Emery doesn’t rate him so highly,I do.

  34. Mike M says:

    @SammyNelson – is your name anything to do with the legendary Sammy Nelson scoring against the Villa at Highbury @ 1977ish, dropping his shorts and shuffling across the walkway behing the goal mooning the North Bank the whole time??!! I was there. Still makes me cry laughing to this day!!!!!!!!!!

  35. LB says:

    Oh, Kelsey, noooooo

    Torreira is just getting back to fitness.

    He should start on the weekend, I am sure you agree.

  36. LB says:

    Sammy Nelson, makes me smile just thinking of him

  37. VP of Oz says:

    loved goals 3 and 4

  38. LB says:

    Yep, 3 and 4, start as we mean to go on…………..


  39. fred1266 says:

    Tomorrow draw I just want a good city to go to

  40. Sue says:

    I hope we get Celtic, Fred 😁

  41. fred1266 says:

    Hmm is Scotland a nice place, hoping for French German or Spanish side

  42. fred1266 says:

    Sweden also heard there nice

  43. Sue says:

    I’ve not been to Scotland, Fred. With a bit of luck, you’ll get your wish!

  44. fred1266 says:

    Yea once it not a Ukrainian Russian etc lol

  45. SammyNelsonsPants says:

    @Mike M and @LB…. Yes, of course =)

    One of my first games, and chose this name in rememberance. We had some characters around the place back then, eh?

  46. Rasp says:

    Morning all, today’s post is from the archives. It brings a tear to our eyes .. you’ll understand if you have the time to read …

    … New post …

  47. kelsey says:

    I do agree,LB.
    Worried if we sell Monreal and Tierney and Bellerin won’t be match fit until mid/late October and the counter attack often kills us as our wing backs are still up the field.

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