4231? 343? Smith Rowe or Pepe? Auba v Lacazette? – What are Mikel Arteta’s options

So that is the transfer window shut. Some highs and lows. Probably the right players bought, but not really the right players sold. But that is another blog for another day.

With the players we still have at the club, how will Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal line up (with everyone fit?):

Most Logical – 4231

4231 is the most logical line-up with the players we have.

I have excluded the keeper on all of these as I do not want the Leno v Ramsdale debate to side track the discussion of the 10 outfield players.

On that, Bernd Leno will be first choice this season with Aaron Ramsdale given some game time in the cups.

This would be Arteta’s most balanced side.

A proper back 4 with all playing in a natural position. Balance in midfield between Thomas Partey’s power and pressing alongside Granit Xhaka’s passing and control.

Further forward we have the creativity of Martin Odegaard in the middle with Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka either side; and upfront Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Whilst it is not the perfect XI, and will create a debate over Pepe and Xhaka (see Alterative XI), this is the time that I feel Arteta will play if all fit.

Alternative XI – 4231

The 2 debates over the most logical XI is Pepe and Xhaka.

Had business gone as we wanted this summer, Xhaka would no longer be with the club and would have been replaced. But no significant bids came in and he ended up staying, getting a new contract and getting the captains armband in the opening game.

Some will argue that Albert-Sambi Lokonga should start ahead of him. I am against this for 2 reasons.

The first is that Sambi is just a youngster. It is clearly too early for him to come in and be expected to play week in week out. Let him develop and get up to Premier League standard.

Secondly I think a midfield of Partey and Lokonga will lack any real control.

Both are power and pressing; neither are great passers. You need a Xhaka in there to maintain the balance.

The second change is moving Saka over to the right and playing Smith Rowe on the left.

I have seen a lot of XI’s produced with the pair in the team ahead of Pepe.

Whilst it does excite me, I do question if an attacking midfield of Saka Odegaard Smith Rowe will have enough goals in it.

Last season in the Premier League, Pepe scored 10 goals. Saka, Smith Rowe and Odegaard scored 8 between them.

Taking into account scoring was a huge issue for us last season, removing our highest scoring midfielder will only compound the problem.

We would need a drastic improvement from Saka, Smith Rowe and Odegaard in the goals department, and I am nut sure if any of them have it in them.

A Complete Change – 343

If Arteta decides to implement a complete change and move to the 343 that saw us lift the FA Cup, he would have plenty of selection headaches.

343 would see new right back Takehiro Tomiyasu slot into the right hand side of defence with Ben White and Gabriel making up the back 3. But would this be our best line-up?

As I write this I wonder if Rob Holding would be best off playing in the centre of the 3 with White to his right; therefore ensuring our best header of the ball is on the pitch and in the middle of the back 3.

So then what was the point of signing Tomiyasu if he would not play in what is perhaps his best position on the right hand side of a 3.

Cast aside Ainsley Maitland-Niles also returns. He is our best wing back and his defensive frailties are not exposed with a back 3 behind him. Tierney would start left.

In the middle we have Xhaka and Partey. Read the debate above about Lokonga if you wished to play the Belgium over Xhaka.

The front 3 was a headache.

You have no natural number 10; so Odegaard would either have to play deeper in the midfield 2 or out wide. Neither of these positions suit him.

Would Odegaard be better out wide then Pepe, Smith Rowe or Saka? I think not. So why sign him?

You also have the Aubameyang / Alex Lacazette factor that we have not yet discussed.

Aubameyang looked deadly in a 343 when we played it; so does he come on the left with Lacazette in middle? But this then leaves just one Saka, Pepe or Smith Rowe playing on the right hand side.

I think if we went down this route, we would see Pepe, Aubameyang and Saka in the forward 3 positions.

I think we will see 4231 with everyone fit.

Hopefully Arteta works out his best team and sticks with it.

One issue under Arteta has been the chopping and changing of personnel and tactics. This leads to lack of continuity in play.

Pick your tactics, your best XI, and play them.

Keenos

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