Rocky’s post on Tuesday asked an excellent question with some fine comments (is there one squad player who could be brought into the first team set up to really make a difference?).
It’s a great question but I do struggle to name one player to bring in that I feel will have a seismic impact on our recent performances.
I do like AMN but also like ESR, Willock and Nelson, so maybe I am more in the LBG camp of playing our young players a bit more than we have. I similarly struggle to identify one player not at the club (that we could realistically get) that could also make a massive difference to us if pinged into our current line up at the expense of one other player.
For me the thing that makes the seismic difference is the formation which I look at in two ways: 1) the actual formation, i.e 4-4-2, 3-4-3, 4-3-3 e.t.c and 2) the positions of the players in that formation.
I thought we had a really good transfer window that gave us extra options to progress from what was more of a line up of necessity last season. It served us well at the tail end of last season where we played those tougher opponents.
Not to pick a fight with RC in relation to his comments, but I don’t feel the 3-4-3 should be our go-to formation now and should mainly be reserved for only a couple of opponents.
I like this formation even less when both the wing backs and wing forwards play on the same side as their stronger foot. It reduces our goal threat exponentially and makes all of those wide players more of a delivery player from the flank. However you need different strikers for that to work like a Giroud or Drogba.
The 3-4-3 seems a good formation against a (currently) superior attacking side that will push onto us and play a high defensive line. It is designed for containment and counter attack. It could be made more attacking by having inverted wing backs as well as inverted wing forwards.
For instance if you had Saka and Pepe playing the right flanks and AMN and Auba playing the left you get the option of the overlapping wing back with the wing forward coming infield onto their dangerous foot, or that the wing backs themselves can cut infield to a shooting position and receive the ball on their stronger foot in a role reversal.
We should really though be moving onto something that gets us more on the front foot and increases our goal threat in different positions, and that is the 4-3-3 or a variant on it (most likely 4-2-3-1).
The big key here is we retain the front three but get an extra attacking CM to play between the other two midfielders and the front three.
The bigger question for me is which player should we get to play that position? Willian on the right is a busted flush at this stage with the types of forwards we have not suiting what he can offer from there, but he could be an excellent “experienced” option in the attacking CM role.
Both ESR and Willock could develop really well in the position but my favourite right now would be to try Saka there. We have been struggling with both creativity and goal threat but this doesn’t surprise me with Willian on the right and that missing extra CM to both create for the front three and add an extra central goal threat.
At some point we may find that we need improvements in that creative and goal scoring department, but our recent struggles have more to do with not utilising the players we already have in the right way.
We have reduced our creativity and goal threat ourselves. This line up feels right to me (in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-1-3) which carries goal threat from at least four positions, and creativity, but still with a solid hard-to-break-down look to it: Leno Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney Partey, Ceballos Saka Pepe, Lacazette, Aubamayeng.
I think you could change the Number 9 without too much drama and Saka could also play where Pepe is with someone else in the ACM. If Auba is rested or moved up top then Nelson can drop in to the left side attack (or as a left field suggestion even AMN). Any of Elneny, Xhaka or AMN can partner Partey and it is a question of who partners Gabriel at CB, but Luiz feels the strongest option right now.