Arsenal collected their first points of the Premier League 2018-19 season, as they overcame West Ham United with a 3-1 victory, giving new boss Unai Emery the platform to build and figure out how to properly deploy the likes of Xhaka, Torreira and Ramsey effectively in the middle of the park.
But, the scoreline doesn’t do justice to the way the game was played. Both teams had lost their opening two games and were desparate to get off the mark.
The visitors in Hammers took the lead against the run of play as Marco Arnautovic scored with a neat finish, but his goal was cancelled out by Nacho Monreal, and ultimately in the closing stages, the Gunners took full control and made the scoreline a respectable one, as Danny Welbeck also notched up his name amongst the scorers against West Ham United
But, even after this victory, the Arsenal faithful aren’t impressed, as their defensive fragility is still a cause for concern. Aubameyang and Lacazette combined well after the latter came on in the second half. Emery certainly can find a solution for the front three, but the major talking point here is about the players which sit in front of the backline.
Emery has Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny for the two places, considering Mesut Ozil gets the number 10 role regularly. Elneny is far from the first choice for Emery, and the teenager Guendouzi has impressed in the starting few weeks here at Arsenal.
The Arsenal coach considers Matteo a bright talent, but the West Ham United game showed that he needs time. He struggled to perform his regular midfield duties on Saturday, but one cannot fault him as he has just started and has plenty to learn.
This leaves us with Ramsey, Xhaka and Torreira. Lucas is a proper defensive midfielder who likes to go deep in defence and build attacks and we saw that during the West Ham United game, how he controlled things once he came on as a substitute. He can pass, can tackle, can intercept. And all these abilities make him a perfect fit for the defensive midfield position.
Granit has played there for Arsenal and has been heavily criticised due to his defensive fragilities. If played to his strength, it is difficult to find a player of his ability though. In the first half against West Ham United, Xhaka completed 22 forward passes, but just four in the attacking third, while in the second half, he completed 20 passes of which nine were in the attacking third and one into the penalty area. The Swiss midfielder is responsible for Arsenal’s quick transition from Defense to Attack but is also responsible for leaving spaces behind for a counter-attack.
When Guendouzi came off, Xhaka was awarded the freedom, with Torreira sitting back, and we saw the best of football from the Swiss International. He can easily open up the opponent with a single pass, that is his ability with the ball. This is what, Emery must look forward to, playing Xhaka and Torreira together, but this leaves a decision to be made on Aaron Ramsey, who never fails to enlighten us with his ever-present runs into the box, his eye for goal and his stature of a complete box-to-box midfielder.
Besides, with the announcement of Aaron Ramsey’s contract extension coming soon, Ramsey will certainly require a place in the starting XI regularly since clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United are after the Welshman.
Starting Torreira is a no-brainer, and it remains to be seen whether Ramsey is deployed deep in the three-man midfield with Lucas and Granit, or he is handed the number 10 role, meaning Ozil being dropped to the bench. It’s a massive decision to be made by the manager but must be sorted out quickly to ensure stability in the squad.
I personally believe and think many Gooners will agree to the 4-1-2-1-2 formation for Arsenal, with Torreira sitting behind combined by Ramsey and Xhaka a little forward up the pitch. This will also lay a foundation for Aubameyang and Lacazette to combine with pace and precision having Mesut Ozil behind.
No matter what, it will be interesting to see how Emery sorts out his midfield triangle in the coming few weeks, but a trio of Ramsey, Xhaka and Torreira can work wonders for Arsenal in the near future.