While Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners over Lazio in their final friendly before the start of the season, there was a more profound implication at play. This is no longer the great Arsene Wenger’s team. Though many of the players from the Wenger era remain, this is now truly Emery’s team. And like all managers in the modern era, he will live or die by the sword depending on how the team performs when the Premier League starts.
When Stephan Lichtsteiner cleaned Senad Lulic out in the third minute, you could feel that the mantle has been passed down to Emery. Later on in the game when Lulic and Lichtsteiner had to be separated, you could see how much the Arsenal fans had missed these kinds of moments if you just glanced a peek on Arsenal twitter. While not the Arsenal of George Graham, Emery has undoubtedly laid his marks on the team. Although most of Arsenal’s dealings have gone under the radar, you have to be a fool to think that there has been no pattern behind the recent transfer acquisitions.
While it was mainly Stephan Lichtsteiner who showed his nasty side against Lazio, players like Lucas Torreira and Sokratis Papastathopoulos has been made of the same mould. Emery would be hoping that the players he has bought will gel before the hellish two opening games of the Premier League season in Man City and Chelsea.
Emery as a coach is calculating and measured in every approach. Think of him as the anti Jurgen Klopp. While Klopp prefers the Gegenpressing, Emery likes the calculative way of pushing forward with the ball. The Spaniard prefers the 4-2-3-1, and that is precisely what we will get at Arsenal. Here at The 4th Official, we take a look at how Emery can lineup with his strongest team.
Deciding who will be the goalkeeper is not as straightforward as it seems. While Bernd Leno is undoubtedly a supremely talented goalkeeper, the veteran Petr Cech has been in fine form this pre-season. However, it will indeed be baffling to see Arsenal spend £22.5m on a goalkeeper, only not to play him. Leno wins out for us.
With Koscielny injured, the task of choosing the starting centre-backs becomes easier. We will go with Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos here. Monreal should start as the left back, but the question remains as to who would be the better fit at right back? Hector Bellerin, who has been at Arsenal for quite a while now, or the new signing Stephan Lichtsteiner? Lichtsteiner is now 34 and fast approaching the twilight of his career, but we must not forget that this is the man who has won seven Serie A titles. And if anyone had any concerns about his desire, that would surely have been put to rest in today’s encounter. A tough one to decide for sure but for now we are going with Lichtsteiner here.
While Xhaka has played at the base of midfield for quite a while now, you get the feeling that he would be more comfortable in an advanced role in midfield. We expect Torreira to start in Xhaka’s place and Ramsey to play a little higher up the pitch. For all of Mesut Ozil’s faults, the German has to start in the No. 10 position.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan would be a certainty to start given Arsenal’s limited options on the wings. While Ozil can sometimes play on the flanks, leaving Aaron Ramsey to play the No. 10 role and Torreira and Xhaka starting behind the Welshman, we do not expect this to be the case in most situations. Alex Iwobi would be the most logical choice to start on the other flank in such an instance.
This would be a straightforward battle between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. While there have been many fantasies of seeing the duo play together in the same team, that is unlikely to happen from the very start. We have to give the nod to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang here.
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