Tag Archives: joe willock

Doesn’t score, doesn’t create, can’t defend: What does the Arsenal midfield actually do?

What exactly does the Arsenal midfield do?

One thing they do not do is score goals.

Mesut Ozil (1) and Lucas Torreira (1) are the only midfielders who have contributed a league goal this season.

Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Joe Willock have all yet to score a league this season.

The problem with Arsenal’s midfield is what else are they actually doing?

Liverpool are running away with the league this season and their midfield contribute little in terms of goals.

Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson have 3 each, as does Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whilst Fabinho has just one league goal. They are certainly not putting in Frank Lampard of Steven Gerrard type figures.

But there job in the team is not to get forward and score goals.

Jurgen Klopp as a hard working midfield that covers a lot of ground, limiting the opponents chances. They have conceded just 21 goals this season.

A big threat for Liverpool is their full backs.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has 12 in the league this season (2nd most), whilst Andrew Roberston has 7 (9th).

Liverpool use their midfielders to cover the full backs as the bomb forward.

Henderson and Fabinho are often found at right or left back during an attack, whilst Alexander-Arnold is putting in a cross which leads to a goal.

But Arsenal’s midfield does not provide much defensive cover.

Too often this season (and previous seasons) it has been too easy to cut through Arsenal’s midfield, to get at the defence. And when was the last time a midfielder covered his full back when bombing forward? It just does not happen.

So at Arsenal, the midfield does not protect the defence, it also does not score goals.

Barcelona’s peak team that had Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta in it did not provide much cover for the defence, and did not score too many goals.

Between them they average a goal every 13 games for Barcelona.

But what they did is create a lot.

There role in the time was to pass the ball in tight spaces until a gap appeared, which lead to goals for Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, David Villa or Neymar. It did not matter that they did not score many when they created so much.

Take Ozil, Xhaka, Torreira, Ceballos, Guendouzi & Willock as a collective.

In 8217 minutes of football, they have scored 2 goals and assisted 7.

That is a goal or assist every 913 minutes.

With 41 goals conceded in 30 games (8th highest), they are clearly also not providing much defensive cover.

So what exactly does Arsenal’s midfield do?

Keenos

Time for Unai Emery to “Dump the Kids”

The most enjoyable part of this season so far as been watching the continued development of the kids in the Europa League.

From home grown talents like Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe to imports such as Gabriel Martinelli. Add in Matteo Guendouzi who is now a fixture in the 1st team and the future for Arsenal looks bright.

The likes of Saka and Willock have both stepped up into the 1st team recently following good performances and injuries to others. Whilst this is credit to the pair, it is time for Unai Emery to make the tough decision and relegate both to the bench.

I am reluctant to use the word “dropped” as that is too strong a word; however that is what needs to happen.

Emery needs to get back to playing his strongest team. There is no room for sentiment.

Against Sheffield United, it was an odd decision to play Willock ahead of Dani Ceballos. It was a mistake. The 1st half passed the Englishman by resulting in him being taken off at half time.

Saka likewise failed to influence the game.

His only action of note was his yellow card for going down under a challenge which Mike Dean deemed to be a dive.

Both players have bright futures but need to be taken out of the 1st team in Arsenal’s present.

Some might say relegating both players to the bench could shatter their confidence. That should not be a concern.

If they do not have the mental strength to cope with being “dropped” then neither will make it to the top level. It should motivate them to work harder on their games and fight to get back into the 1st team. Become better players.

Against Crystal Palace tomorrow we need to see Ceballos (or even Ozil) return. Alexandre Lacazette (if fully fit) must also play upfront with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang playing on the left hand side.

If Lacazette is not fully fit then it should see Ceballos play left hand side (where he performs for Spain) and Ozil inside him.

There can also be the case made that Lucas Torreira should come in for Matteo Guendouzi. Many will also say he should come in for Granit Xhaka.

It is time for Emery to play his strongest XI

Leno

Bellerin Holding Luiz Tierney

Xhaka Torreira

Pepe Ceballos Aubameyang

Lacazette

Return Saka and Willock to the midweek team playing in the Europa League and League Cup. A half way step between the U23’s and Premier League

Keenos

Nelson and Willock set to be dropped as Pepe in line for first start

Arsenal will look to continue their 1 game unbeaten run in the Premier League this weekend against Burnley.

Having beaten Newcastle 1-0 at St James’ Park, Unai Emery has a bit of a selection headache.

Does he stick with the players who defended well, but created little for the match against Burnley; or does he bring in some of the fit again senior pro’s, including a couple of new signings.

Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson, Matteo Guendouzi and Calum Chambers all performed well against Newcastle and probably do not deserve to be dropped. However Emery will know how important it is to play the best team available, even if it ruffles a few feathers.

David Luiz sat patiently on the bench against Newcastle following his deadline day arrival. He had a full pre-season with Chelsea and is ready to play. Will Emery pick Luiz over Chambers or Sokratis? My bet is Emery might just reward Sokratis and Chambers with a fine 1st display and keep the pair in defence.

With Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac all out for one reason or another, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Nacho Monreal will be the full backs.

Moving to the middle of the park, the axis of Granit Xhaka and Guendouzi provided good cover for the defence. But at home against an average side, do we need to play 2 defensive midfielders? Could Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos come in for one? Giving the side a more creative option for deep.

And what for Lucas Torreira?

The Uruguayan midfielder played next to no part in pre-season (just 4 minutes against Barcelona) due to only returning to training on 1st August after the summers Copa America. Taking into account Xhaka and Guendouzi played a full part, I would not expect him to start against Burnley – he did not even get off the bench against Newcastle.

If Arsenal are winning comfortably, I expect Torreira to come off the bench and be given 20 minutes as he regains full match fitness.

That leaves Xhaka, Guendouzi and Ceballos fighting it out for the central midfield positions.

I actually think we might see all 3 start, with Ceballos replacing Joe Willock as creator in chief.

Willock had an OK game against Newcastle, but his performance is more remembered for a tackle than anything he created. He is a hard working talented footballer and I see his career actually being a little deeper than playing Number 10.

At home against Burnley we do not have to worry as much defensively, so it might be a better option to play the more attack minded Ceballos with Willock relegated to the bench.

On the wings, record signing Nicolas Pepe looked fairly sharp on Sunday despite only recently returning to training following playing in the African Cup of Nations and the stress of his big move.

Games like Liverpool away is why Pepe was bought. His pace and power key on the break. For that reason I expect him to start against Burnley on the right hand side, replacing Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Pepe to be substituted off on 60 minutes will be a bank bet if he starts.

The left wing is an interesting conundrum.

Nelson had a solid game against Burnley and you also have the aforementioned Mkhitaryan. Alexandre Lacazette is also available which gives Emery the option of playing Aubameyang wide left.

With one eye on that Liverpool game, I have a hunch that Emery might plumb for Lacazette up top and Aubameyang on the left. That will give 60 minutes to his 1st choice front 3 – Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe.

It might be harsh on Willock and Nelson, but football is not a business of compassion. We ned to play the best team we can. That means an exciting front 4 of Ceballos, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.

Expect Willock and Nelson to come off the bench (if we are not chasing the game) as well as Lucas Torreira.

It is exciting to actually have so many options.

Expected starting XI:

Leno

AMN Chambers Sokratis Monreal

Xhaka Guendouzi

Pepe Ceballos Aubameyang

Lacazette

Keenos