The post Arsene Wenger era is well and truly underway at Arsenal. New manager Unai Emery has already made four new signings for the Gunners, with a common theme: improving defensive solidity.
Goalkeeper Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), center back Sokratis (Borussia Dortmund), wing back Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), and holding midfielder Lucas Toreira (Sampdoria) have all been acquired to shore up a leaky defense that conceded 51 goals last season, the most of any side in the Top 6.
Now that the dust has somewhat settled on Arsenal’s transfer business this summer, let’s take a look at how Emery’s Arsenal will line up this season.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest Arsenal play in a similar system to Gareth Southgate’s England side at the World Cup: The 3-5-2. It has been the preferred set up for clubs seeking an added defensive stability with some flexibility going forward. A feature Southgate has utilized to navigate England to the semifinals for the first time since 1990.
Three central defenders, two wing backs, that support both the attacking players and the center backs, three central midfielders, and 2 forwards. Pretty straightforward, right?
Arsenal’s starting eleven in the 3-5-2
Goalkeeper: Bernd Leno
This one should be a no brainer. Petr Cech is a Premier League legend, but at 36 years old, he has clearly lost a step, and is nowhere near as effective as he used to be. David Ospina is a serviceable number two, but shouldn’t sniff the starting XI.
Leno had 10 clean sheets in 33 Bundesliga starts for Bayer Leverkusen last year, and has a nice blend of frame and reflexes. He was brought in for this role: to wear the number one shirt.
Right Wing Back: Hector Bellerin
Also a no brainer. Barring a potential sale, Hector Bellerin is a must in any Arsenal team. He is lightning quick, serviceable going forward, and has been a mainstay at the club for nearly four seasons.
While he has the tendency to push forward a bit too much at times, his pace also makes up for his strolls up the pitch.
Left Wing Back: Stephan Lichtsteiner
A toss up between the former Juventus player and Sead Kolasinac, but Lichsteiner’s experience and veteran savvy gives him the edge. Kolasinac is an explosive option off the bench, but the Swiss international reads the game better and is more stable.
Center Backs: Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis
Rob Holding offers a decent shout at this position, but the three veterans get the nod here. Koscielny has been Arsenal’s standout defender for years, and once he heals from an ankle injury, he should be set to go as the teams captain and defensive anchor.
Sokratis, who has been among the Bundesliga’s best defenders for years, will join him, as will Mustafi, who hasn’t lived up to his hefty price tag, but has the quality to do so. Playing with Sokratis and Koscielny should alleviate pressure and prevent him from making stupid mistakes in the back.
Holding Midfielder: Lucas Toreira
Arsenal’s marquee summer signing is none other than Lucas Toreira, who has drawn comparisons to Sergio Busquets, Marco Verratti, and Santi Cazorla.
Toreira is a perfect blend of defensive anchor and deep lying playmaker. He can protect a back line, disrupt build up play, and clog passing lanes.
He can also dictate play from deep, pick out a pass, and spring counter attacks.
Essentially, he’s exactly what Arsenal have been missing. He was terrific for Sampdoria last season, and should provide Arsenal with some much needed graft in the midfield.
Central Midfielders: Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey
Ramsey was Arsenal’s player of the season in 2017-18, and Ozil is still their most talented player. It is important to design a system that gets the best out of Ozil, and this system would allow him to roam free, with Toreira and Ramsey providing defensive support.
After a disappointing World Cup, Ozil has a lot to prove– especially now that he’s finally secured the number 10 shirt. We’ll see if this system brings out the best in his individual talent.
Strikers: Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang
Two strikers that showed promise on the pitch together last season, nothing much will change on the front line.
Options off the Bench
Danny Welbeck up front, Alex Iwobi’s pace, Henrikh Mhkitaryan’s creativity, Mohamed Elneny’s defensive steel in midfield, Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding in defense, and Petr Cech in goal.
How would you want to see Arsenal line up? Comment below!