That front 4, Xhaka in the middle, Ramsdale impressive, Defence a concern

Ok, it was only West Brom. And not the West Brom that are top of the Championship scoring goals for fun.

Arsenal faced a side which was a mixture of their fringe and youth players; as is the norm for lower league clubs in cup competitions these days. But a 6-0 win is exactly what was needed and there was plenty to be taken out of the game.

Stick with the front 4

Aubameyang down the middle, Pepe right, Saka left and Odegaard in the middle.

That is the front 4 we need to play this season, all being fit and healthy.

I have said countless times, Aubameyang is wasted on the left wing.

His weakest part of his game is his passing. He creates very little from outwide, and this affects our ability to create as a team.

Stick him down the middle where he is devasting.

Yesterday he showed a proper strikers instinct in the box; on his toes ready for a rebound whilst defenders slept.

Pepe, Saka and Odegaard in behind also has a lot of creative and goal scoring balance to hit.

We all know what Saka can do.

He is a busy little bee who likes to buzz outside and inside, looking for pockets of space and to beat a man. He stretches teams.

Odegaard inside is what we have missed. Someone who will link up the play left, right and centre.

When Pepe was on the ball, Odegaard was just inside him. When Saka had it, the Norwegian was close by again. Always available to take the pass and move it on.

And then Pepe.

The Ivorian polarises fans mainly due to his price tag and his tendency to drift in and out of games. But we have seen time and time again that he can be devastating.

He might not have the creativity of the other two, but he is the better goal scorer.

The plan would be easy.

Odegaard and Saka make the play, Aubameyang draws defenders away and Pepe should almost always be open on the right.

We just need them to play more together, in those positions to click.

Granit Xhaka

I blogged recently about how Yves Bissouma was not the right fit for Arsenal at this time.

The blog got some criticism from people who quite frankly, just do not understand football.

The point was a midfield needs balance. A runner and a passer. A defender and an attacker. Someone that sits and someone that presses.

If we played with Bissouma and Partey, we would have 2 runners, 2 players that drive forward and press. Neither would dictate play with the ball at their feet.

Yesterday against West Brom it showed why someone like Xhaka is so important.

He dictated play from the middle of the park. 75 passes in 90 minutes; completing 93.3% of them.

Like with the front 4, Odegaard becomes so important to Xhaka. He was always an option.

Odegaard buzzing around means it is not as easy for teams to press or double up on Xhaka. Make him rush his play or force him into a mistake.

This allows Xhaka to get his head up and pick out a pass. Those wide long balls to Pepe and Saka could be devastating for us this season.

And if it gets on top, Odgaard has likely dropped deeper and is capable of picking up the ball under pressure and playing quickly to a player in space.

If we ever replace Xhaka; it needs to be someone whose strength is passing. Who can disctate play from the middle of the park.

Against WBA the Swiss man showed why that skill set is so important.

Aaron Ramsdale

Looked calm and assured. Some good saves and looked comfortable with the ball at his feet.

One cracking pass along the ground which desiccated WBA’s press and got our attacking facing their defenders was lovely.

A good debut.

The Defence

Only real negative was the defence.

Despite winning 6-0 we did give WBA some chances. Had they taken them when at 0-0 or 1-0 the game might have had a different complexion.

However it was a make shift defence with no Hector Bellerin (we will see him again?), Ben White, Gabriel, Pablo Mari or Kieran Tierney.

White and Gabriel might not be fight for the Man City game but with the international break coming up hopefully neither get selected for their respective nations.

2 weeks training together, learning each others game and hopefully we start building a solid foundation for the next half a decade.

Yes, it was just WBA and Man City will be a completely different prospect. But if you are unhappy with a 6-0 win you will never be happy.

AFC Wimbledon up next…



4 thoughts on “That front 4, Xhaka in the middle, Ramsdale impressive, Defence a concern

  1. Free

    Interesting points , however we still need an upgrade on Xhaka.

    I also don’t agree with you in Bissouma, whilst he may not be exactly what we need he would still add urgency and pressing to our midfield play which is sorely lacking atm.

    We could use both Bissouma and Partey against a Man City or Chelsea and we would not be bullied all over the park.

    This idea that we have to have only the perfect pairs for our team is nonsense. We need a big squad to challenge for the league. Bissouma is a player we should he buying or Bruno who is more progressive with the ball but also has excellent pressing quality and ball winnig. Ability.
    Aurooar can also be brought in to play the Santi role which is what I beleive you are alluding to.

    Still Arteta and Edu both have to go. They are not the solution at all. I have no faith ajymore in them. Their decesions are shockingly naive and are constantly being exposed.


  2. Ben

    Broadly agree but personally, I feel that Saka is typically better than Pepe on the right wing and ESR is better as the left inside forward, especially when KT is playing. He occupies the left side half space, allowing KT space to maraud down the left wing. Saka, Martinelli, Auba – none of them link up with or make the runs needed to support KT quite as well as ESR.

    As such, my starting front 4 would be:
    ESR Odegaard Saka
    KT left-back

    However, Saka will need lots of rest this season to avoid burn out. As such, I anticipate Pepe starting on the right half the time, Saka half the time, with lots of rotation across the front 4 with Pepe, Laca and Martinelli all playing games too.
    If Balogun doesn’t go out on loan, I imagine he’ll only get games in the EFL cup or if there are injuries – not ideal.

    I think the challenge Arteta will face is when Odegaard isn’t fit the only front 4 that seems to function creatively is:
    Pepe ESR Saka

    Pepe is never quite the same on the left wing though.


    1. @TosJ10

      Exactly Bro! Leno will need rest as Ramsdale deputise, Saka will need rest as Pepe deputise, Odegaard need deputy as does ESR. Xhaka needs exact deputy as Lokonga is for Partey.
      no point dragging, Aaron from Norwich be signed to deputise Bellerin.
      we just don’t need to overuse a player in a given position as is almost our culture now.



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