How would Wenger deploy our current squad?

Here’s a little puzzle for a wet and windy morning:

If Arsene Wenger were parachuted in to run the Arsenal team right now, which players would be in his starting eleven and how would he set them up?

One of the biggest differences between the way we play under Unai Emery and the way we played under Arsene is that we are now less effective in attack. These days we typically have fewer attempts on goal than our opponents, something which never happened in any of the Arsene years.

One could argue that our defensive frailty would be just as evident if Monsieur Le Sixpack were calling the shots, but surely we’d be more potent going forward?

Emery’s philosophy, as far as it’s possible to discern one, appears to be about keeping control – of the ball and, therefore, the game. It may have worked in the first part of his tenure in N5, but for whatever reason it’s just not functioning now.

So let’s indulge this thought experiment.

Arsene arrives in time to select the team for this weekend’s game against the Norfolk tractor boys. What’s his approach?

Here’s what I think he’d do: first off, he would be thrilled with the quality of the attackers available to him, so the names “Aubameyang” and “Lacazette” would be the first ones on his team sheet, closely followed by “Ozil”.

He would consider whether he could afford to potentially weaken our defensive spine by adding an attacking wide player to the mix, but his internal debate would last only moments before he would conclude: “Merde, you only live once: let’s go for it!”

He would add Pepe to the team sheet – but only after having a word in his shell-like about how he could be the next Thierry Henry if he followed the advice which Arsene would now give him…

Next, he would need to find the right two midfielders to provide some sort of defensive solidity while also being able to play a possession based game and get the ball to Ozil in good positions. Torreira would be the first pick (the young Uruguayan would be slightly confused by his instructions to screen the back four while also bursting into the opposition box given the opportunity).

After toying with the idea of Guendouzi because of his energy and his general Frenchiness, Arsene would ultimately plump for Willock as a partner for Torreira in midfield, figuring that Willock is a better passer and a more considered player.

In defence, there would be no hesitation in picking Bellerin and Tierney as the fullbacks. For centre halves he would choose Luiz and Chambers (both have ball-playing abilities and would be encouraged to bring the ball out from the back. Luiz also brings tons of experience). Leno is in goal.

So here’s my Arsene Wenger starting line-up for this Sunday’s game:


Bellerin Chambers Luiz Tierney

Torreira Willock


Pepe Aubameyang


We beat Norwich with a classic Arsenal scoreline of 5-2, with a hat trick from Pepe and goals from Laca and Auba. Five assists for Ozil.

Am I right?



61 Responses to How would Wenger deploy our current squad?

  1. RC78 says:

    What a fantastic post 🙂 Thanks

    I think AW would indeed play in the formation you have put together but I think he would play:

    Leno – Bellerin, HOLDING, Luiz, Tierney – Torreira, XHAKA – Pepe, Ozil, Auba – Laca

    Now if we say that Xhaka is not eligible, then AW would play:
    Chambers, Willock as his double pivot.

  2. RockyLives says:

    Thanks RC

    I’m embarrassed to say I completely edited out Xhaka from my thinking when putting this post together.

    You’re right though: on reflection it would probably be Xhaka and Terrier.

    I’m sticking with Chambo-Luiz though. I think Arsene would appreciate Chambers’ better ball-playing abilities compared with Holding.

  3. RockyLives says:

    I wanted to get a Post up before Redders started nagging me 😀

  4. Sue says:

    Wikipedia is saying Nuno is our head coach!

  5. RC78 says:

    The post is very interesting indeed so great y we can discuss AW in charge of this team 👍

  6. RockyLives says:

    Sounds like someone is having some fun at Wiki’s expense…

  7. Sue says:

    I reckon you’re right, Rocky! Probably RA 😂

  8. RA says:

    Good Morning all you lovely sprites of Xmas Future, especially you, Rocky Master, your Supreme Majesty, and may I say that I love the Post.

    AW for 19 of his 21 year reign at the Gunners, managed to get us into the top 4 qualifiers for the CL and he may very well have pondered how to use the somewhat inadequate resources currently available to him, exactly as you have done, with a little tinkering here or there.

    For myself, I would possibly have gone a little more plebeian, as I have a bee in my bonnet about the rubbish tactics deployed by both the present incumbent, and indeed the esteemed Arsene during his time – after the Invincibles defence met their end.

    No – I would have gone for Gorgeous George and his training of the defence using ropes to keep the blighters playing together. I do have a little grimace to myself thinking that when they used the gents loo tied together it might have been a little unhygienic, and the one at the end of the rope would have had to bite his lip to prevent peeing on the outside wall.

    Currently the attack, for all the wonderful players we have, is lopsided, with a bias towards populating the right wing, but that is only a small part of the problem.

    The defence is at the crux of all our poor performances, and George would sort that out.

    Stopping our opponents scoring is key to any improvements in our game, because our forwards will always score, in almost any game — and if they felt confident that the defenders could play without their tongues hanging out inanely, or their eyes rolling in a very disconcerting way, when they simply cannot figure out how opposition strikers get passed them so easily.

    Fix the midfield and the defence and we will be back as potential winners in every game — not just once in a while.

    Your Post is rather more elegant in its thought processes than the above, which is no surprise, but all I can say is DEFENCE, DEFENCE, DEFENCE. 🤠👍

  9. RA says:

    Sue/Rocky, how very dare the pair of you!!

    Mr Nuno Espirito Santo sounds like a Latin prayer, and not to be confused with Arteteteta. 🤪

  10. RockyLives says:

    Well that’s just typical Redders!

    I set up a “what would Arsene do?” conundrum and you turn it into a “what would Gorgeous George do?” one instead!

    For what it’s worth, George would put out the following team:

    One nil to the Arsenal!

  11. RA says:


    Having now caught up with my work load (it seems I need money for Xmas) I read back on my comments yesterday, and realised, yet again, I should not let my spirit of the Id take over when I am trying to finish a project on a tight time table ( I like that alliteration) because my attempts at humour are doomed to failure.

    Regardless, I would like to apologise to you, as my attempt to pull your leg (the ‘Coming to Take Me Away’ ditty which was a song composed as a send up of Napoleon XIV, which I thought you would like) and my reference to ‘imposter’, left the door open to your repost, should you have taken it, that we are all imposters on AA, because who could believe there is someone called Monsieur RC78 living in the deuxieme Arondisement, in Paris, or that Mr RockyLives is standing for Parliament, or that I am the Sun God, RA, and I wear cobras on my shoulder – well, OK, the latter is possible correct, I suppose — certainly Sue believes it!

    In any event returning to my apology, I will try very hard to curb my febrile attempts at humour, and hope you have not taken offence.

    Merci Beaucoup.

  12. RA says:

    Rocky, 🤪

  13. roland says:

    mesut five assists… on

  14. GoonerB says:

    Rocky, a very entertaining post and concept that brings a bit of fun to a dreary period at the club. So let me just bring it down a notch or two 🙂 sorry 🙂 I know this is a bit of tongue in cheek fun as a conversation starter Rocky, that doesn’t necessarily reflect your true viewpoint, but I will answer the question and concept as raised.

    You final bit, the question, my answer would be no. There have been some additions since Arsene left but many key players, the core, are still what he had, and more than this, who he chose to have. I don’t believe the new additions have altered the whole squad landscape so dramatically that it ends up explaining our poor latter years form under the great man, and that he would waltz in now and suddenly play a blinder because everything he didn’t have is now at last there.

    Would he do or be doing better than our current incumbent. I feel the answer to that is yes, and we would get a bounce from the players from the freedom to play that he would allow them. The stats graph on net shots on goal that Rasp put up the other day is most damning in how things were under Wenger compared to Emery.

    The handbrake would undoubtedly be released, and thus our superior attacking players would become far more effective gain, enough to dodge most of the banana skins and secure points where they really should be.

    However, I think (like RA) the defensive stats, across a season, would still be against Arsene enough to hold us below that higher level that we have the potential for. Arsene in the later years didn’t show that he had the ability to firstly drill a proper defence, and secondly to get the balance between that and Attack so that we were strong in all areas, i.e what a title challenging club requires.

    Right now under Emery we have neither, so a dodgy defence with an all out emphasis on attack would be better than what we are currently seeing. Unfortunately 2+2 doesn’t always = 4. If Emery is not right it doesn’t make Arsene right, it just makes him more right than Emery, or rather less wrong.

    If we are assessing Arsene on his latter seasons and Emery as of now then Arsene gets the nod but basically there are better options to both of them in this modern era. We are still looking for the correct one, but really have been since about 2015 at least. I always said that after the glorious period of Arsene, (which did go on maybe 3-4 years too long), that we would maybe need to kiss a few frogs before we found our new prince.

  15. GoonerB says:

    Myself and my camels are no impostor’s RA. We are the genuine stinky, spitting, full of worms real deal. By the way is it impostor or imposter? Or is this a you say Tomaitoe I say Tomartoe thing?

  16. GoonerB says:

    I have a caveat regarding Arsene. It follows a similar line to Mourinho at Utd and now at Spurs, should he prove to be a success.

    Sometimes someone who is by and large up to the job just ends up going down a blind alley that it is too hard to get back from. They have maybe been the best alleyway guide for many years, rarely choosing the wrong one, but just started down this wrong one, and instead of turning back earlier kept going in the hope it would eventually emerge somewhere decent.

    However, remove them from that alley and place them at the start again then maybe they learn from that experience so as not to repeat the mistake of going down that alley.

    It has always been my thought that the the early Arsene and later Arsene were different animals in their outlook and vision and that the later one had either erred from the path of success and / or stopped taking on new concepts necessary for modern success.

    Could Arsene now that he has been removed from the alley to nowhere be a man refreshed that has reflected on what he did not do right or is he still harbouring those same faults in the modern game? It would be a massive risk to bring him back and expect something newer but not necessarily beyond the realms of possibility.

  17. RockyLives says:


    Inarguable logic, as always.

    Your thoughts about whether Arsene, having been relocated back to the start, would find his way to success again have occurred to me too.

    I tend to doubt it (old dogs, new tricks etc) but you never know…

    I still wonder if he might pitch up at ManUre or even somewhere like Newcastle next summer.

  18. John Mathews legend says:

    Cul Rouge,
    absolutely no offence taken!
    I was just explaining why I might make a spelling mistake through inattention when the word is similaire between French and English.
    Maybe RC78 gets that….
    Any road up, the punchline was ‘pédantique’ with a smiley thingy (Wot Sue learned me how to do)

  19. RockyLives says:


    I enjoyed putting that line in 😀

  20. GoonerB says:

    Well Rocky, for me Arsene stopped thinking a Vieira, Petit, and Gilberto type player was that important, and low and behold we get overpowered and out-muscled by teams we are superior to and lose games we shouldn’t.

    Remember how teams used to stand in the tunnel next to our boys and look at them and think “oh s–t, not only are they way above us technically, but they are also way bigger and more physical”.

    Arsene also seemed to stop deeming pacey wide players that could cut in and score goals was important. No more Bobbies and Freddies, just mostly slower technical CM’s played wide, out of position.

    Also he seemed to start to feel that 6′ and under CD’s were the thing. No more 6’3″+ Adams, Keowns, Boulds or Campbells for us, but also, and this is just reading between the lines, the drilling and training of the defence (and the team as a whole) seemed not to be deemed not necessary and the idea that the players could work it out for themselves was in vogue with us. At the same time you heard players of the most successful managers talking about how they left no detail unaddressed.

    Do you think Rocky that if Arsene were to go back and re-address those positions in the team and get better drilling and coaching in place, especially with the defence, that he could have a new and more successful period with us (or someone else)?

  21. RockyLives says:

    In answer to your last question… no.

    I honestly don’t think AW ever really drilled the defence all that much. He inherited a GG defence that was drilled within an inch of its life and there was a lot of continuity from the original back four/five (Adams, Bould, Keown, Winterburn, Dixon) to the Invincibles defenders (Cole, Campbell, Toure, Lauren).

    The latter group learned their trade alongside the Graham originals and maintained the same standards, but as time and personnel moved on those instincts – you might even call them defensive traditions – were gradually diluted until they’d all but disappeared.

    I’m certainly not saying Arsene knew nothing about coaching defence, but I think we all know his real passion was at the pointy end of things.

    As to the physical DM figure, we can certainly credit AW with bringing the wonderful Gilberto into the team. Why the Brazilian was never adequately replaced remains a mystery. At one point it seemed like Alex Song was the natural successor but that never quite worked out.

  22. GoonerB says:

    Rocky, I don’t think there would be an Arsenal fan alive that wouldn’t love the romantic notion of a new refreshed and modern thinking Arsene coming in and taking us back up to those giddy heights, even if just for 2 seasons or so. If I thought it was possible I would be all over it right now.

    I just think most of us feel that would be a pipe dream and the reality is that era was well and truly gone a few years before he left, and that it is not possible to get back again, and that now we need to find a new Arsene.

  23. GoonerB says:

    I think with the defensive training and drilling, it wouldn’t be as much about Arsene doing it himself, more that he sources the top assistant coaches that could but, more importantly, that he lest them get on with it on the training ground.

    This is an area where it has often been touted that Arsene was unwilling to let happen, and that he would prevent coaches from applying the training as they saw fit if it didn’t sit easy with him.

    A lot has changed down the years since Arsene came to us and I genuinely believe that an experienced manager of his age should become a slightly different type.

    Most important is the confidence they give to their players, particularly in the biggest matches against the best opposition, that they are the best, and give them the confidence to play their game freely. I say that with 1 reserve that this doesn’t mean being too casual, as we did see a bit of that as well.

    It is also their position as a figure-head for the club and the draw for top players to play under him that becomes more important. The intricate coaching and drilling is done on the training ground and then this naturally carries into the game when the head coach gives them the psychological confidence to go out and sweep the team in front of them.

    What is it the SAS say? “Train Hard, fight easy”. Get the attention to detail right in training that will carry automatically into match day and then the superior quality will be the difference.

  24. Xi_gunner says:


  25. RockyLives says:

    Fair enough Xi

    So how do you think Arsene would set up the team with the current players?

  26. RC78 says:

    I make spelling mistakes all the time especially when words are so similar in FR and EN…So fully understand the matter 😛

    I have to disappoint some of you in that I don’t live in Paris’ 2nd district nor do I smoke a Gitanes with a beret on while enjoying a glass of rose when it is 16 degrees outside together with some marinated olives at the terrace of my next door coffee shop 😛

    Going back to the post and if AW were still available, I would be ok to ask him to come back as an interim advisor to support Ljungberg until a Head Coach is formally is appointment…

  27. John Mathews legend says:

    Two French paratroopers come to the UK to do special training with the SAS.
    After the first day, they meet up:
    – So, how waz your day?
    – Oh, eet waz terreebel. At Favve o’clock zis morning, zis big serrejent wiz ze big moustache, he wekk me up, he tekk me ousside, he show me zis platteforme…two meeterr high.
    He says to me “You jeump?”
    – So, did you jeump?
    – Non. I says to him “I am a FRENCH paratrooperr. I do not jeump from two meeterr high. It is beneasse ma dignité”
    – So zen what happenn?
    -Zen, he tekk me to anozzer platteforme, Favve meeterr high.
    He says to me “you jeump?”
    -So, did you jeump?
    -Non. I says to him “Monsieur ze serrejent, I am a FRENCH paratrooperr. I do not jeump from favve meeterr high. It is beneasse ma dignité”
    – So, zen what happenn?
    – Zen, he tekk me to anozzer platteforme, sirty favve meeterr high.
    We climb on ze ladder all ze way to ze top. When we get to ze top,
    he openn his trozzerrs, and he show me zis eenormousse dick.
    He says to me “if you do not jeump, I stick zis in you ass”
    – So, did you jeump?
    -Yays, a leetle bit in ze begeening !

  28. RA says:

    JML – 😁😀😀

  29. RA says:


    I am relieved that all is well — et maintenant, je serai aussi silencieux qu’une souris!

    In America we have some very big mice, which is just as well as I am 6′ 7″. 🤪

  30. Sue says:

    Thank you, JML… eet waz hilarious 😉
    Almost as funny as the Sun God and his cobras 😜

  31. RA says:

    By the way, JML, your grasp of English is excellent (are you sure you are not a limey?) and the way you made your joke sound just like the way RC78 speaks is terrific.

    [Sorry, RC, but I have this mental image of you, and I am so disappointed you do not even wear a rope of onions across your back – and not one mention of garlic!! Zut Alors.] 😜

  32. RA says:


    I have just returned from a meeting with a client and I am grinning as he gave me a leetle so I can upgrade my flight at Xmas.

    But to read your comments was better than that — it was just like reading a really good book – well done, sir, and maybe you should try your hand at a book length story recanting your memoirs of ‘Days With Barmy Bastardos on AA’– (you will need to include the camel, or he will get the hump) — I know, I groaned while typing that. 🥺

  33. RA says:


    Bugger — I should explain – he gave me a leetle bonus — not just a leetle — that would be ridiculous.

    Mind you my first attempt at typing that – with a Mexicana accent, ended with “he gave me a beetle”.

    Sheesh – is there no ending to my shame — altho, it might make Sue smile, so that would be worthwhile, I guess.

  34. John Mathews legend says:

    Blimey RA…….Not only am I an ‘Imposteur’ with ze big fake moustache, parading meself as some 70s legend (himself parading himself as an actual footballer at the time) Now I’m French!
    Je suis Jean Mathieu Légendaire!

  35. RA says:


    Just as a matter of curiosity, I always have a feeling for the way other bloggers use syntax, and can often identify a person by their original “Plume de ma tante” 😳 and I am sure we have met elsewhere on a blog.

    Your use of a French expression to translate my original handle (unused for some years) makes me think you fall into that category.

    You do not have to answer that — I am just curious, and after I heard what happened to the cat – perhaps it is best left alone. 🤪

  36. RA says:

    NON — Je suis Jean Mathieu Légendaire!!!!

    I am proude to be heem, mon petit chou.

    Vee must not let Big Rock know zis — as he claims to be heem too!!

  37. John Mathews legend says:

    No problème with a bit of curiosité, Rouge.
    I can assure you that the only blog you have met me on is here.
    No, tell a lie…I once said hello to Goonersorearse for the short time he had a blog, because he lives in Avignon, not far from where I am.
    I first commented on AA about two years ago, answering a call from Chaz to readers that never comment.
    I remember saying in my first post that I’d never be much of a footie analyst, but might chip in with with a few stories from Highbury in the 70s.
    I even had one post published at the time, as the admin were trying to keep up the daily posting during the interlull.
    So yes, a ‘Limey’ born and raised in Islington N7 Lahn-don.
    Moved to France mid-eighties.
    I get to go to maybe one match per season when I’m home.
    Will start looking into a ticket for the Chelsea match at Chrimbo soon.

  38. JML says:

    ps; Rouge,
    I could change my moniker to JML…
    You would still know that I’m Jean Mathieu Légendaire (the one and only…le vrai)

  39. RockyLives says:

    Avignon, Legend?

    What providence brought you to that providential province of Provence?

  40. John Mathews legend says:

    I’m pretty sure I told the story about why I ended up here only a few weeks back on here….was onnabout my old French teacher, Onionhead and ended saying that little did I know that I would later proceed by providence to pull the French barmaid in one of the province of Kentish Town’s finest public houses…..
    I am not actually in Provence. Am about an hour’n’arf drive north of Avignon, a little bit in towards the start of the Alps.
    Prodigal son of the province of Islington.

  41. RC78 says:

    How will it work out for you guys after Brexit? Or have you taken the bold step to become a Napoleonic republican?

    RA – sadly am allergic to onions and not a fan of garlic…so imagine how sad my Ratatouille is? That said, you will not find a more avid fan of aperitif time and cheese 😛

    A Frenchman, A Russian and An Englishman are on a lake.
    The Russian drinks a bottle of vodka and throws half of the bottle in the lake and says “Too much Vodka in Russia. We don’t know what to do with it!”. The Englishman drinks a bottle of whiskey and throws half of it in the lake and says “Too much good whiskey in the UK. We don’t know what to do it!”. The Frenchman looks at the Russian and then pushes the Englishman in the lake and says “Too many Englishmen in France. Don’t know what to do with them” 😛

  42. John Mathews legend says:

    Et ho-hi-hon* RC!
    No idea about how Brexit will work out for me personally.
    I have a right to an Irish passport through my parents, but the waiting list is ridiculement longue (Every Brit and his dog on the planet has discovered an Irish grandfather)
    I am no longer married to a French wife, what with being divorced..
    but apparently, I should be able get French nationality if I summon up l’envie to do so, seeing the number of years I’ve lived here.
    BUT, if I do that…I will tell f*ckin’ NOBODY!!! Ha ha ha

    * French for ‘Ha ha ha’

  43. RC78 says:

    JML : lol

    I am married to a Brit but I can’t become a Brit because I never lived there…what nonsense…M hoping for a very soft Brexit so I don’t have to apply for a visa ever to go visit my in-laws

  44. John Mathews legend says:

    It’s all a load of bolleux RC, Best not to get into politics on a blog though.

  45. John Mathews legend says:

    Well past tea-time back in Blighty….
    Only us Froggies still here RC.
    We do Apéro and fromage down here in La Drôme (26) nice wine too (Hermitage, St Joseph)
    If ever you’re on your way down to morph into fried sausages on the Med beaches, more than welcome to drop by for la dégustation.

  46. John Mathews legend says:

    correction: The French have deserted.
    Historical inevitability one should suppose…..

  47. Sue says:

    You’re still chattering away to yourself, JML?! 😁

  48. John Mathews legend says:

    Nah Sue, playing the guitar now.
    Hopefully will stick my nose in (ooh er missus) before tea-time tomorrow 😁

  49. Sue says:

    Haha ‘before tea-time’ when everyone disappears?! No chance of that tomorrow.. 8pm kick off! No time for strumming then!
    Well, actually, we don’t know which Arsenal will turn up, so I’d keep the guitar out just in case, it may turn ugly!!

  50. John Mathews legend says:

    True enough Sue..match tomorrow night.
    There’ll be life after tea-time yet…!

  51. RA says:

    Est-ce l’heure du thé, mon ami? Vraiment? 🤪

  52. RA says:

    Je suis fatigue. Bonne nuit fais de beaux rêves. 🥺

  53. RA says:

    Legend, vous habitez sur le pont d’Avignon?

  54. RC78 says:

    Le 26…keep safe with all the crazy rainfalls in southern France these past few years…

    I know about the politics but us French sometimes we can’t resist especially after reading all the newspapers.. Or after a glass or two of Viogner and with a cognac in hand after having had a lovely Cendre de brebis de corse 😉

    Bonne nuit la France and good night to our friends on the other side of the pond

  55. Gööner In Exile says:

    So the club have floated Nuno’s name to the press to hi age fan reaction I see.

    As for what Arsène would do, something like the above is undoubtedly right.

  56. RA says:


    I have never been tempted to try the cheese coated in ashes that I have occasionally noticed in France.

    Isn’t it a bit crunchy? 🥺

  57. RC78 says:

    RA – the ashes kindda come off the cheese when you cut your slice. The best is to take sheep cheese from Corsica because they have been doing this ashes thing for ages. It s not crunchy and again most of the ashes part kindda crumbles after you have cut your slice and you can always get rid of more before tasting it. It s not crunchy and can be quite delicious also with a chestnut beer 🍻

  58. RA says:

    Chestnut beer?? You are kidding, right? 😜

    I will try the cheese now you have explained that the ashes are not going to break my teeth!!

  59. RC78 says:

    Try the beer mate, it s quite tasty. It s called Pietra and it goes well with saucissons, olives and cheese.

  60. Great post Rocky, thank you.

  61. We have a New post …………….

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