Torreira and Xhaka – what are their best positions?

August 29, 2019
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:

Mike,

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?

peachesgooner

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Mesut Özil Ate My Hamster …

August 28, 2019

I know, I know, but its a slow Wednesday morning and Sunday seems to be taking forever to arrive so don’t expect too much this morning people. The link, however, is the position that Ozil plays and I am assuming that had he been fit and on form then he would have played at the head of the diamond in place of Ceballos against Liverpool, agreed, or maybe not?

Özil or Ceballos?

This brings me to the link between Ozil and Ceballos and the question of why do we need them both; the answer is that we probably don’t. My guess is that Ozil remains wrapped in cotton wool on the off chance that someone might buy him in the remainder of this Euro transfer window. As a guess as to what is going on behind the scenes with him this is no big deal, pedestrian really, but how the club are going about replacing him is what is fascinating me.

Buying a tried and tested attacking midfielder would probably cost, in wages terms, around four hundred thousand pounds a week, hang on didn’t we have one of those but let him go – Ramsey wasn’t it? You get my drift, they are few and far between, they are expensive and even worse it is still possible to make a massive mistake. There is no better example than the debacle that United are dealing with right now with the “tried and tested” Sanchez — phew, dodged that bullet.

Back to Ceballos. Last week we all would have been happy if he were signed then and there and the name Ozil never mentioned again, this week, mah, not so much. It is also far easier to see why the club didn’t try and push the boat out in an attempt to sign him outright from day one. Cleverly, we get to see him develop all season before we choose to spend the big bucks, the club might want to do that as well but our opinion (we) is far more important of course, lol. It’s a good strategy, it’s a clever strategy and as an attempt to replace Ozil, be it this season or next, I think it is worth pointing out.

Ceballos or Torreira?

And, that believe it or not, brings me to where I wanted to be all along. Mike asked: “If you lose a game does it by definition mean the tactics are flawed?” Certainly not, in my opinion, but with the use of hindsight surely we would have been better off playing Torreira at the head of the diamond instead of Ceballos.

I am not convinced that our five foot, two Uruguayan is the defensive midfielder that we all seem to think he is. Has anyone seen such archetypal DMs such as Kante or Makelele steal inside the box and score goals such as Torreira’s against spuds or against Liverool on the weekend for that matter?

Our pocket rocket can operate well in the box and score goals, the importance of which should never be underestimated; perhaps I can describe him as a Swiss army knife with far more tools available than people are realising or maybe accepting — surely he is better deployed as an attacking midfielder than a rigid DM?

LB


Arsenal Lose … by Trying Not To Lose

August 25, 2019

The starting lineup:

Leno, AMN,Sokratis, Luiz, Monreal, Willock, Guendouzi, Ceballos, Xhaka, Aubameyang and Pepe. This was the side that was going to keep our unbeaten strike alive hmm? I thought Lacazatte not starting a very strange one.

 

First Half

Arsenal started the game nervously making a few defensive errors while trying to pass the ball from the back. We are lined up differently with a back four and diamond in the middle with Ceballos at the tip and xhaka at the base (OH BOY). It seems Emery wanted to win the midfield battle and then release PEA and Pepe. It nearly worked when Pepe was released and Adrian trying to clear the ball gave it to PEA, but his chip went narrowly wide.

The most glaring error came when was Ceballos had dropped deep and then tried to hit a cross ball but instead passed it straight to Mane. Luckily Leno kept it out. There was some good work from Willock on the left nutmegging Arnold and giving the ball to PEA who then feds Pepe whose curling shot was narrowly wide of the post.

Arsenal allowed Liverpool’s FBs to cross the ball far too often. I was extremely nervous of this after last week against Burnley when we missed a lot of headers.

Another chance came when Pepe ran onto a though ball and beat the last defender, but he didn’t get enough power in the shot.

As often happens, we miss a chance and then the opposition scores as they did when Matips then put Liverpool one in front from a corner just before half time.

Poor defending from the corner let us down once again. Why was  Gendouzi marking Matip? The last few time we have visited Anfield the game was all but over by half time so I was pleased we were still in with a fighting chance today at this point.

 

Second Half

Not a great start.

Another lapse in defense this time from our most experienced defender who tugged on Salah’s jersey led to a penalty (what was he even thinking) and it was 2 nil to Liverpool. What was so infuriating about this goal was that it came 46th minute, Luiz shouldn’t be losing his concentration so early into the second half.

In the 51st minute Pepe slipped a ball through to PEA who was clearly offside, but the recovering tackle form Matip was amazing – why don’t we get that type of desire from our defenders. Later Luiz decided to jump out of the way Salah’s way and left the defense exposed and the Egyptian was clinical making it 3-0.

At this point, Emery decided to make a change bringing on Torreira on for Ceballos. I didn’t understand the move because at 3 nil down surely we should be attacking not trying to defend a 3 nil deficit. Liverpool just kept slicing us open and we were lucky not to concede another.

With 10 minutes to go Emery now decided to bring on Lacazette and within four minutes,Torrerira had made it 3-1. With 6 minutes to go there wasn’t enough time for a comeback. The side began to play with more confidence with Lacazette who looked lively and called for a hand ball but wasn’t given. Full Time 3-1

 

Conclusion

I’m still not sure how to feel after this defeat. If PEA or Pepe had taken their chances game might have turned out differently. Today was a real test and what I wanted from it was for us to show that we are improving. If we are going to play anti-football at least do it with some conviction. Should we be even be playing anti-football with our squad we have one of the best front 3’s in football?

Under Emery we seem to lack an identity, one minute we pressing the next we playing defensively. In the Burnley game I saw the passing out from the back worked on just one occasion – we have been practicing this for an entire year. (I watched Norwich today and they seem to be able to pass out from the back way better than we ever do).

 

Ratings

Leno – Little he could do for the goals, didn’t he have a stealer penalty record in Germany hmm … 6

AMN – should have given us some more width but seem he was instructed to defend rather than attack … 5

Sokratis – needs to stop pulling the person he is marking … 6

David Luiz – The reason I didn’t want him to be bought was shown in full effect in second half, was decent in first half … 4

Monreal – Wasn’t able to help the team today, better defending could have stopped the third goal… 5

Guendouzi – made some good dribble to bring the ball out … 6

Wiilock – another good performance … 7

Ceballos – sloppy passing almost leading to a Mane goal … 4

Xhaka – tried some long ball to find the attacker … 5

Aubameyang –  should have scored when mistake was made by Adrian … 5

Pepe – had to great chances unlucky not to covert … 5

 

Subs

Torreira – scored our consolation goal, hopefully he ready to start am sick of xhaka… 6

 

Emery – was guyilty of overthinking things I believe. He lined up today not to lose, rather than to win the game … 3

fred1266

 


Arsenal in The Middle of a Defensive Dilemma

August 16, 2019

Let’s look at the best DM’s around and figure out who we’d take if we had our choice. Then let’s see who we have and what they’re capable of. Then come to a conclusion on how we should best set up.

For me, past best was Busquets. Best now is Kante in my opinion.

A good DM needs the following attributes in this order

1) Positional discipline
2) Ability to win the ball including anticipation and agility
3) Reading the game and opponents in possession
4) Pressure in our defensive third to stop easy balls though and behind the last line
5) Ball distribution
6) Offensive threat and creativity including goals

I think Busquets had 1-4 in spades and 5 was just a Barca thing. Kante has 1-4. Strangely enough Sarri didn’t think that was enough and brought in Georginho who has #1 and 5 but lacks the rest from what I see.

If I could pick a DM for us it would be Kante. His extreme engine makes him better than the rest just because if he is out of position his recovery speed is incredible. Leicester and Chelsea will attest to that.

So what do we have?  No Kante. That’s certain.

Torreira is the closest in my opinion. Probably a little better distribution but definitely the best at winning possession and breaking up play.

Guendouzi has the engine but lacks a little positional discipline and probably not as good a ball winner.

You all probably know how I feel about Xhaka but if not, let me clarify. He has 5 and 6. No clue about 1-4. Probably our least effective DM as far as I can see.

Luiz would be proficient at 2 and 5 and Chambers at 1 and 4.

So for me,Torreira is way ahead and Guendouzi next best. For those of you that think Willock, I’d agree 100% on one contingency. Emery.

And that’s where I see the solution lies. UE needs to act like a manager in control of his team and instruct – no DEMAND that his DM plays the role. I think Joe Willock would happily do the job if he’s given the task and he checks all the boxes. So come on Unai, sort it out and make us solid. Pep, Klopp and Pochettino would. Will you?

Mike M


Do we need to play with a holding midfielder? If so, who?

August 13, 2019

Liam posed this question to GoonerB…

I agree that a Guendouzi/Xhaka midfield pairing isnt likely to work in big games, but what pairing would you prefer moving forward?

This is the response from GoonerB …

Liam, your question earlier about how to set up with the midfield behind our front 3 (assuming that will be Auba, Laca and Pepe as 1st choice). I am not too sure what the best answer is to the midfield 3. I feel the problem is that we haven’t been playing with what I would view as a holding midfielder.

I don’t feel any of Xhaka, Guendouzi, and arguably even Torreira, are actually specialist holding midfielders (that invisible wall) in the way that Gilberto was and say Fernandinho is.

All of them look to be more free roaming box to box or creative defensive midfielders if you like. None of them seem to be that player dedicated to tidying up and being the screen in front of the back 4. Torreira is probably the closest but even he seems to be more suited to being a free roaming defensive midfielder. Willock could also be best suited to the BTB role as well so would join Xhaka, Guondozi and Torreira on the list for that role.

I think that Ozil, Ceballos and Micki are more suited to being ACM’s, so we have a choice of 3 for that role. My feeling is that we need to have a proper holding midfielder, and I wonder if either Chambers or Luiz would make us stronger in that part of the field. Then choose 1 from Torreira, Willock, Xhaka and Douzi for the BTB CM role, and 1 from Ozil, Ceballos and Micki for the ACM position.

I would suggest that while we seem to have a clutch of ‘free roaming box to box defensive midfielders’ who also love to join in the attack there’s needs to be really good on field communication between whoever makes up the two or three in front of the defence to control a defensive screen. I would love to see a midfield that really controls the game.

On to Burnley …………. it will be interesting to see how we set up.

peachesgooner, GoonerB and Liam


Arsenal 2 Napoli 0 – Player Ratings

April 12, 2019

Ramsey and Ozil play together again along with our most prolific goal scorers up front. Wingbacks and three at the back. Mustafi on the bench – no sign of Xhaka.

First Half

A brilliantly constructed opener saw A. M-N set up Rambo for a pass into the far corner.

The second came after Koulibaly had blocked a couple of fine efforts on goal but his third blocking attempt diverted Torreira’s effort beyond Ospina’s replacement.

The BT Sport commentary team with Nobbie Savage and some other moron was so awful, mute was the only sensible option for the second half.

Second Half

The second period saw us have several brilliant chances of stretching our lead even further while also allowing Napoli a couple of sniffs at that important away goal.

Rambo could have had a hat trick in the end, he seems to be revelling in his his desire to win something with us in his last season. Auba’s clinical early season finishing is not there at the moment but he’ll be fine now that the antibiotics are out of his system.

Even the subs were decent, adding extra oomph when needed.

Conclusion

Brilliant result at home – a third goal would have been superb but what’s  better 3-1 or 2-0?

If we score in Naples they will need 4.

It was a fine game of attacking football, so much better than the tepid snorefests dished up by the Champions League this week.

Ratings

Cech – good fisting when required – clean sheet, all good … 8

Sokratis – excellent from Papa – Mustafi will struggle to get back his right side back three position … 8

Koscielny – how good a defender has he become? Ligue 2 defender to world class – who was our Director of Football when he signed? … 9

Monreal – the billy goat came good again even with creaking limbs … 8

Maitland-Niles – really superb tonight – sharp passing, quick to cover, bang up for it … 8

Kolasinac – likewise for Sead – contributed throughout and his passing went up a notch as it did for most of tonight’s team … 8

Torreira – absolutely majestic in the first half, interceptions and successful tackles galore – only understandable that he faded a little near the end … 9

Ramsey – playing like a man possessed – he wanted to leave for the change but wanted to stay because he loves Arsenal – scored one, could have had two more – reborn in midfield … 9

Ozil – everything was good in Mesut-world for tonight’s game – his use of the ball and ability to find space are world-class … 8

Lacazette – another banging performance just lacking that goal to cap it off – maybe one is waiting for him in Naples? … 8

Aubameyang – a few decent sniffs but no goals – what are the odds on both him and Laca scoring in Italy? … 8

Subs

Mkhitaryan – nearly got an assist for the Ramsey chance which was skied – it was the perfect scenario for him to come on with both teams going for it … 7

Iwobi – didn’t let the team down by adding drive and enthusiasm in exchange for tired legs … 7

Elneny – good that his non-performance against Everton has been consigned to the history books … 7

Managers

Emery –  dominated his much-lauded opposition manager – top marks, Unai    … 9

Carlo Wagnerotti – his side came to play football which should be praised, though the early goal forced his hand somewhat … 5

Ref

Alberto Undiano Mallenco – Spanish, so an expert at spotting diving. He has been a full international referee for FIFA since 2004. Undiano is also a part-time sociologist. He was almost invisible which is exactly what’s required from all refs … 9

chas


Who would you pick in Arsenal’s midfield three? – Poll

February 19, 2019

Time for a poll.

This post has been prompted by various discussions on the site with bloggers stating various individual preferences for our midfield line-up – Guendouzi, Mo Elneny, Xhaka in a double pivot or even Ainsley M-N as a box-to-boxer are among the choices/favourites.

For the purposes of today’s poll let’s assume Unai is playing 4 at the back with his first choice players available. Also assume we have three up front, perhaps in a 2 wide and 1 centre forward formation or alternatively a number 10 behind a striking duo.

Here are the runners and riders for a place in that middle three listed in the order they appear on AFC.com (let’s include Alex Iwobi even though he’s down as a striker).

Mo Elneny

An excellent squad player and perhaps a touch underrated, though rarely gets picked as a first choice starter. Why?

from AFC.com

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Often used as part of the front three on the right side to provide some width. Could he be better employed just in front of two DMs?

Aaron Ramsey

Perhaps his best position (well according to his new Juve boss) is just behind a front two and it’s difficult to deny that proposition. Could he still be used in the middle three? When tried before, his natural tendency to be looking to make bursts forward into the box has sometimes left us exposed in midfield.

Mesut Özil

Another whose best position appears to be just behind the striker(s) in a front three. Then again, he often plays wherever he feels he can do the most damage which might be the cause of his contretemps with Señor Emery.

Lucas Torreira

When he first came to the Club and was being gently eased in as a sub, it seemed he was being used as the central DM sweeping across the width of the back four. Now he seems to be established on the right side. Where’s his best posititon?

Celebrating his goal against the spuds

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Mr Versatile means that we’re not sure which is his favoured spot in the team. Could he play in front of a double DM formation where his youth, energy and calmness might be perfect weapons for the position?

Denis Suarez

It’s a bit early in Denis’s Arsenal career to know where he might end up in the team. Does anyone have more of an idea they could share?

Matteo Guendouzi

Still 19, he can’t have imagined he’d play so many games for The Gunners in his first season. Not a natural DM perhaps, but another with a great engine. Maybe he’s also suffered playing in a team which is low on confidence sometimes and others look to him to provide a creative spark.

Granit Xhaka

A marmite player if ever there was one. Usually picked by whatever manager he plays for, so he must be doing something right.  Should Granit get an automatic starting berth?

Alex Iwobi

Another player maybe best suited to a front three position. Has he got the discipline to stay central? Or would he be wasted further back where his dribbling skills might be less useful?

Others

Perhaps one of the Academy lads might be given the opportunity to step up. Smith Rowe and Nelson are on loan, but Joe Willock, in addition to his 2 goals at Blackpool in the FA Cup 3rd round, has had a fine season up to now for Freddie’s u23s .  Robbie Burton and Charlie Gilmour are also getting decent reviews and are names to look out for in the future perhaps.

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Now for the poll. Choose the three you would prefer in your midfield three.

They could be in a 1-2 formation, a 2-1 (double pivot 🙂 ) or any other variation you can think of.  Specify your preference in the comments below.

chas