Is Emery brave enough, or foolish enough to play 4-2-3-1 at Anfield?

In the last two fixtures Unai Emery has plumped for a stable 4-2-3-1, with a midfielder in the number 10 role behind the front striker, using two advanced wide forwards either side.

Against Newcastle it was Nelson and Mkhi, with Aubameyang up front. Against Burnley the fit-again Lacazette started up front with Aubameyang switching to the left wing and Nelson on the right.

Substitutions did little to change this formation, up until late on against Burnley when we switched to a back three to shore up and see out the game. When we did it I wondered whether Emery was taking a look at it to see how we performed with an eye on the match at Anfield.

Leno
Monreal
Sokratis
Luiz
Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Guendouzi
Willock
Aubameyang
Ceballos
Nelson
Lazazette

The team above is how we started off against Burnley, with Ceballos in the 10 role, although he often switched positions with Willock to allow him to get on the ball more.

Ceballos is an excellent continuity player, he looks after the ball extremely well and plays progressive balls through the lines to threaten the opposition final third. He likes a shot too and brought a great save out of Pope, as well as doing his defensive work, winning the ball back for Aubameyang to score the second and ultimately match-winning goal.

Will the trip to Anfield be too much for the young Spaniard? I doubt it, but I can see a subtle change in formation to counter Liverpool and allow us to impress our game on Liverpool without leaving us too open.

With Pepé’s ability as an inverted Winger, I expect us to line up a bit like the below. Utilising Pepé and Aubameyang to provide the width and danger via the counter, whilst keeping a solid midfield three. I can see Xhaka returning in place of Willock to add some extra experience, but my heart wants Willock.

Leno
Monreal
Sokratis
Luiz
Ainsley
Aubameyang
Guendouzi
Ceballos
Willock
Pepé
Lacazette

The midfield three will be tasked with matching up against Liverpool and denying the likes of Henderson time on the ball to dictate the play from deep. As dangerous as both sides can be on the counter, it’s the midfield where this battle will be won.

By picking players with such excellent mobility and the ability to progress the ball forward at pace, we are giving ourself a really good shot. But will Emery’s conservative nature take over? I hope not. I’ve always been a “blaze of glory” kind of guy, I’d rather see us persevere with the back four than concede time and space to Liverpool and play a back three.

Last season, playing the back three often turned into a back five, regardless of the opponents. It meant we played the majority of games in our final third/midfield rather than playing on the front foot. Against the top sides you will get punished.

We need to be brave, to believe and to play 4 at the back.

Lets do this Arsenal. Til next time

WG

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