Following Mikes post comparing the class of 2019 to the class of 2017 I thought it would be good to look at how strong we are “on paper” relative to our other top 6 rivals. I say the word “on paper” as I feel it is more of a reflection of the raw materials we have and therefore the potential of the side before factors like shape, balance, attitude, fight and leadership come into the equation.
That next bit of course comes down to how those raw materials are blended and shaped by the manager and coaching staff in order to achieve full potential. The assessment of the raw quality on paper allows us to see our potential relative to our rivals. This in turn allows us to set our expectations on the manager and coaches, not in a spoilt entitled way, but based on genuine reflection of our squad.
In order to do this I have subjectively picked what I believe to be the strongest 11 in each club. My format for this is based on who I believe each manager would (or should in our case) put out in a straight head to head meeting between the big boys, not taking into account injuries, and rotation in other games against smaller clubs where the strongest possible 11 is not always required. The choices I have come up with are open to interpretation of course, and feel free to disagree wherever you want.
There are question marks over a few positions with our other top 6 rivals, but also with our strongest line up, but I have picked the side I believe is our strongest line up and who I would want to face City or Liverpool at this present time to give us a foothold in the game. Considerations on strength in depth are important for the whole campaign but I think as you will see we are particularly strong (maybe City aside) in this over our rivals.
I have also based all teams on a 4-3-3 system (or variation of it) as if you look at the other clubs line ups they all seem to mostly operate in this system. I believe it is also our strongest system for those top table games. Here goes:
Bellerin, Holding, Socrates, Tierney
Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko
B.Silva, Aguero, Sterling
Alexander Arnold, Van Dyke, Matip, Robertson
Salah, Firmino, Mane
Azpilcueta, Zouma, Christensen, Emerson
Pedro, Abraham, Pulisic
Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw
James, Rashford, Martial
Walkers-Peters, Alderweireld, Vertonghan, Rose
Lamela, Kane, Son
So there you have it. Arguably the strongest line-ups for each side in a 4-3-3 (4-1-2-3 really) system.
When I look at the defences, (including the keepers), Liverpool look the stand out defence at present. I think we look better than Chelsea and possibly Utd and are not far off (and possibly match) both Spurs and City. I also feel we have quite decent strength in depth now compared to some of the other sides in players like AMN, Kola, and Chambers. Of course Luiz is another CD that makes us even stronger in depth but I would still prefer him at the base of the midfield.
When I look at the midfield 3 I feel City look to have the edge, but not by too much. Are any of Rodri, Jorginho, Fabinho, McTominay and Ndombele potentially better in the holding midfield role than Luiz? I don’t think so and even feel that if we played him there regularly he could be the stand-out player in that position this season.
The other 2 midfielders look strongest with City, but ours are none too shabby, and I will stick my neck out and say that I believe we are potentially stronger than the others bar City here. Also, from a strength in depth aspect, we still have Willock, Douzi, Ozil, ESR to consider so again across the season we have great cover.
Up front I will consider the front 3’s as a whole functioning unit. City and Liverpool stand out. However, if Pepe finds his feet and our front 3 start to really gel we could have a front 3 the equal of those two, and for me, when looked at as a unit rather than a single individual (i.e Kane), we are stronger than Spurs, Chelsea and Utd. All our front 3 have the potential to hit over 20 goals each this season and are all high assister’s. With exciting young players to cover wing forward positions like Saka, Nelson and Martinelli, again I feel we have strong, albeit precocious, young talent that give us some extra strength in depth.
All in all I feel we look the 3rd strongest on paper, but I will also stick my neck out again and state that, on paper, we are not actually far behind the 2 front runners. If Emery can establish that strongest 11 and get it gelling and firing on all cylinders we could end up a lot closer to those 2 than we would have thought some months ago.
My glass is more than half full with anticipation, but on the flip side my expectations are also quite high. Over to you A.A’ers….. digest, discuss, agree, disagree, and tell me I am living in cloud cuckoo land.