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
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?