Tag Archives: Lucas Torreira

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

Matteo Guendouzi is Arsenal’s most complete midfielder

Recently I had a discussion with our friends over on YouAreMyArsenal about who Raul Sanllehi should be targeting to replace Granit Xhaka in the long term.

The produced this fantastic scouting report on Ibrahim Sangare; putting the 21-year-old Ivorian central midfielder as a long term replacement for Xhaka.

Whilst Sangare is a fantastic physical specimen, and would certainly add some power into the middle of the park, his passing is an issue.

Xhaka sees more of the ball than any other player at Arsenal. He is the main receiver in midfield when the ball is with the defence, and he starts most of our attacks.

On average last season in the Premier League, Xhaka averaged 77.4 passes a game. No player averaged more. He completed 85.3% of those passes.

Compare that to Sangare who averages just 49 passes a game, completing just 80.3% of them. Xhaka is completing 27 more passes a game on average than Sangare.

Xhaka’s pass completion has to be considered when we are discussing players to replace him.

Whilst it is easy to think that we need a hulking 6ft 3in monster of a midfielder who can break up play, we need that player to be able to pass the ball as he sees so much of it.

We are The Arsenal, not Stoke. A player’s ability on the ball is more important than his destructive impact. If he can not pass, he is useless for 60% of the time in the majority of our games.

At Arsenal you need to be able to pass the ball. That is highlighted in the pass competition of Arsenal’s other 2 central midfield options last season: Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi.

Last season Torreira averaged 46.8 passes a game, completing 87.4% of them. Guendouzi with 48.4 passes a game at 87.7%.

Both of these players averaged less passes per game than Xhaka, but it has to be taken into account that both came off the bench 10 times in the Premier League last season. Xhaka was averaging more minutes per game.

Xhaka still comes out on top, but the primary reason for this is Unai Emery sets up for the Swiss man to be the 1st receiver off of the defence.

If we are looking at a long term replacement for Granit Xhaka, we should look no further than someone who is already at the club. Matteo Guendouzi.

At just 20-years-old, Guendouzi has quickly established himself as a 1st team regular.

Last season he might have been outpassed by Xhaka, but we have seen him take huge strides forward again this season, including a man of the match performance against Tottenham

This season Guendouzi has completed 88.2% of his passes. A slight improvement but still an improvement.

The Frenchman has still played 2nd fiddle to Xhaka when it comes to how much of the ball they see – Xhaka is averaging an incredible 92 passes per 90 minutes this season.

In terms of his passing, Guendouzi is a more accurate passer than Xhaka, but plays less passes. As his importance to the team continues to grow, expect both of these to grow.

What has been impressive about Guendouzi this season is his defensive shift.

Whilst last season he was bottom of the table defensively, and some rightly labelled him as lazy at times, this season he has stepped up massively.

He is not too far behind Ibrahim Sangare, when it comes to defensive output. And it has to be remembered Sangare plays in a team who do a lot more defending than Arsenal (Toulouse finished 16th last season) – which also explains why Sangare’s total passes is lower.

So in Guendouzi we have a central defender who is over 6ft, whose passing is already amongst the best in the team and getting better, and who has now added a defensive awareness to his game.

Guendouzi could become the complete central midfielder. Capable of being 1st receiver and dictating the play, whilst also putting in the defensive shift of someone less cultured.

The man to replace Granit Xhaka at Arsenal is Matteo Guendouzi.

He is already better defensively than the Swiss midfielder and with time could become a better passer.

Based on the passing statistics, he is not yet ready to take over from Xhaka as 1st receiver, but his pass completion rate does excite me. He gives the ball away less than Xhaka (his biggest criticism).

Xhaka is going nowhere soon. His importance can be seen in those passing statistics. But as Guendouzi’s influence grows, Xhaka’s will naturally shrink.

It will no longer be a question as to “who should replace Xhaka” but “who should partner Guendouzi”. That man could still be Xhaka. It could also be Torreira or Joe Willock.

Guendouzi is very quickly turning into an all round central midfielder, and at 20-years-old will only get better.

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