Morning all, hope you are grand and dandy and you have woken up to a Thursday in which great things can happen?
Alternatively it could just be a regular run-of-the-mill Thursday in which you get to the end of your day and wonder what you have actually achieved. Life, eh?
Arsène will do his press conferencely thing at some stage today ahead of the North London Derby and it’s in lead up to games like this when you wonder how strong a first team we’ll be able to put out. And what does the best actual eleven players at the club look like?
I always do this to myself. I’m a master of the ‘yeah but what if?’ and find myself constantly wishing for that magical gifts – that of hindsight.
What if I’d have known we’d go invincible? I’d have chilled waaaay out that season.
What if I’d have known Leicester would win the league?
I’d drive to London Colney before some of the key games and write letter after letter telling Arsène what to do at key points. Eventually after the 986th letter posted through the gates he’d read one and bring me into his inner circle?
Anyway, I torture myself with these things I thought I’d do the same to you today, dear reader. With a selection of the “yeah but what if every single player was fit and every player at the club was playing in the form of his life?” Chris select XI.
So essentially my rules around this are that every player is at their peak. They are playing brilliant and to their ‘ceiling’, if you will, thereby removing any considerations based on where we are this season. What I am simply asking is:
Who are the best XI players at Arsenal in their position?
For clarity and consistency, I’ve picked a 4-2-3-1. Mainly because I think that’s the formation which gets the best players in the team. So here we go:
Cech – bit of an obvious one but even though he’s looked ropey at times this season and last, he’s just a better ‘keeper all round than Ospina, because he commands his box, knows what it takes to win competitions, can still pull off great saves, but also is a better talker. There’s also the whole ‘not standing behind the line’ thing. Kinda good when you’ve got a ‘keeper that does that.
Bellerin – when he’s fully fit he’s fast both offensively but also defensively. I don’t think he’s been fully fit for a couple of years though because we just haven’t seen that ‘get out of jail’ pace that saved us a couple of times a few seasons back. He also operates well with the formation as an overlapping auxiliary winger and despite the fact we have nobody else he is still a good option. When fully fit. Which he’s not because we have nobody else to effectively rotate. **rolls eyes**
Koscielny – he’s been wobbly of late but he’s still the best defender at the club and I’d still put him in the top ten in the whole league. The problem is the lack of an effective partnership that has been able to build up and I do think that has hampered him. The changing of formation probably doesn’t help either. He’s a guy who I feel works better in a back four and unlike Mustafi, Chambers, Monreal and Holding, I feel like he looks better in a back four.
It’s for that reason that I haven’t chosen a back three as the formation for the ‘best player XI’ because he is the best defender and we should be making sure we make the best of him. There’s also the fact that we have a better forward line that needs more players accommodating.
Mustafi – he has a ceiling which I think can make him the best defender at the club and with his age profile he certainly should be. I have a feeling however that unless something changes from a tactical and coaching perspective, we’re going to continue to get the erratic defender we’ve witnessed in the last season and a half. He’s better in a three but if Koscielny is in form in this team then he has somebody who can mop up behind him when he presses higher to win the ball.
Monreal – another obvious one. I think Kolasinac shouldn’t be on the scrap heap just yet because he just needs a bit of work to do defensively and that’s not with the Wenger regime, but as Nacho starts to decline given his age we should see a natural passing of the baton. If Kolasinac was to iron out the defensive kinks I think he’d be a better player than Monreal, so this was a tougher decision to pick Nacho. And I LOVE Nacho right now.
Maitland-Niles – in the team as a holding midfielder because I just think it works. He has energy, he has pace, he can win balls, he’s got a decent drive up the pitch, I think Maitland-Niles is the one player in the Arsenal squad who we haven’t seen enough of in a natural position and one who has the highest potential at the club. I can’t put Xhaka in this position with this formation because we need an all-energy, all-running, ‘can actually tackle’ player in this team. We don’t have the need for a deep lying playmaker with vision because the movement and skill set of the players further forward that I’ve picked dictate that there simply isn’t room for a player like Xhaka. It’s a shame because at times I’ve loved watching him play but in the position and team that he is deployed in, he just doesn’t make it. Even when playing on top form.
Wilshere – sitting alongside Ainsley with the instructions to take the ball from deep, Jack is my ‘drive through opposition lines’ player. He feels like the perfect transition player from back to front for me. I can envisage the ball turning over in our half and Maitland-Niles driving forward before releasing to Jack, who carries the ball past a midfield line to open up space for one of the forward-lying players. All of which will be rotating just behind the main striker which opens up space for other players to pull the opposition about.
Mkhitaryan – we haven’t seen enough of him just yet I know, but I’m basing this on the player we saw at Dortmund, the potential realised we saw last weekend, as well as the fact that he has some world class players around him and they will play every week.
For me, I would play Mkhi on the left of an attacking three, because I think Arsenal are best with inverted wingers. Mkhitaryan cutting inside and finding a man, or attempting a shot like one he took that just went outside the box against Everton, works in our team. But also he is dynamic. The best Arsenal teams rely on quick interchanges of one-touch football and he has the technical ability to do that, but also the movement. His position on the pitch – much like another guy in my team who you will obviously have guessed – is almost an irrelevance if I’m honest because when you have players whose game is reliant on mobility and movement, you can’t really expect them to just remain in a rigid ‘zone’ of the pitch. That’s why I suspect he didn’t work as well in Mourinho’s team. Mourinho is a man who wants structure. He is not a fan of ‘organised chaos’ and as a result the ‘Mkhitaryan at United’ project was probably always doomed to fail. But at Arsenal he will get that licence. Not only that, but we have the players in that position who also have similar licence to move around the pitch and pop up in spaces everywhere. Which brings me nicely to…
Özil – magicalMesut, the diamond in the crown, somebody who is just delicious to watch and who we have the privilege to watch for a few more years yet. He is the best player at the club when in full form and fitness and him and Mkhitaryan feels like a perfect match. Mesut will drift into space and dictate the flow of a game, but where teams have been isolating him and overloading his space at times, the arrival of Mkhi gives another dimension. Everyone is talking about how Aubameyang will benefit from the partnership with Mkhitaryan, but actually I’m thinking it might see the best of Mesut Özil. He will drift across the pitch, find spaces where Mkhi isn’t and vice-versa. I’m genuinely excited to see if the arrival of the Armenian lifts Özil up another level further.
Ramsey – in the middle of the three but as I’ve already said, it’s kind of irrelevant because all of the three players behind the striker need to be given licence to roam. Ramsey is energy, he is a space-coverer, he will arrive late and attempt shots, he will dig in deeper when we haven’t got the ball and need more bodies in our defensive third. And by playing him in the middle we’d be saying “here you go lad, do your thing”. No shunting out wide left or right, no deep-lying worries because that is dealt with by Maitland-Niles and Wilshere, just be the same free spirit, moving across the whole pitch, that we know you can be Aaron. Oh and please, just stay fit…
Aubameyang – at the top of the tree and needing to shine the brightest at times, Auba should be relishing the thought of so many moving parts behind him, because it should pull opponents apart and drag defenders and defensive midfielders away so that he can find those runs in behind. And he’s a killer in front of goal, as witnessed from last weekend, so we should expect to see more from him as he learns the strengths of each player.
That formation with that collective of players feels exciting to me. It feels like one which has a bit more defensive stability at the expense of Xhaka, more mobility in the middle and final third at the expense of Iwobi, plus the next level upon terms of clinical finisher, at the expense of Lacazette. And I do feel a bit sorry for Lacazette because I think he works better than he has done in the team before it was assembled this January. I think he gets plenty of goals with a mobile back three behind him and I think he should have a big part to play in Arsenal’s future. But I worry about his long term future with the arrival of Aubameyang.
I guess if we’re going to be a bit more clinical in our analysis of the players though, we need to think about the best players in the best position and the arrival of Aubameyang is one of the best players in that position. He will get us goals for fun and ultimately that’s what we all want to see.
Right, that was a longer one than I thought so I’ll quit my yabberin’ and catch you all tomorrow.