Matchday five was concluded over the weekend in the English Premier League, and the league standing is starting to have some substance. Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur all losing two games in their first five league matches, whilst Liverpool and Chelsea have seen their 100% record thus far claim 15 points on the road.
For Arsenal and Unai Emery, this will be a season they’ll have to get right if they’re to compete in the Champions League next season, as the Gunners aim at playing against Europe’s elite clubs in the competition.
Anyone with a bit of history of Unai Emery’s coaching abilities knows he’s a good coach and manager but a very stubborn one at that – even if the truth taps him by the shoulder. Since the start of the season, it’s been a debate on who should be the Gunners midfield pairing to help balance the team both in the attack and defence.
The signing of Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria has proven pivotal in the balancing of the Gunners midfield. But the main question everyone keeps asking is when will he start a game and which of the other midfield players will partner up with him in the centre of the pack?
Whilst the Uruguayan international awaits his first start for his new team, Gunners manager Unai Emery has gone for the pairing of Xhaka and Guendouzi, with the latter arriving in the summer from FC Lorient. Having won the Gunners player of the month for the month of August, Guendouzi has often times made way for the minutes Torreira has featured for the Gunners.
Although Xhaka is prone to making mistakes at certain times that leaves the team looking flat in their defensive recovery, with the Swiss lack of pace, positional discipline and misplaced passes under pressure have come under fire already by some fan base of the club.
Lucas Torreira, in the few games he’s partnered with Granit Xhaka, has proved to be precise, the type of player that would help shield Xhaka as he looks to take away some of the playmaking duties from Ozil. Torreira is deceptively fast across the ground, snappy in the tackle, a nuisance to play against, relentless in his pursuit, hounding and harassing in his pressing.
Unai Emery has consistently stressed Xhaka’s importance to his team since the Spaniard’s appointment as Arsenal’s head coach during the summer. Although, much of Arsenal’s play goes through Xhaka as the link between defence and midfield, and often thrives when given the opportunity to play through balls to the strikers.
Xhaka’s weakness is Torriera’s strength which will make the duo a good combination for the Gunners, and one that they’ve often lacked since the invincible’s era partnership of Patrick Viera and Gilberto Silva.
Xhaka’s best midfield role is that of a deep-lying playmaker, similar to Santi Carzola; when he was fit for the Gunners as he had Francis Coquelin doing the dirty tackling and protection of the defence which enabled Carzola to go further up the pitch and dictate play for his team.
Without a tough tackler pairing Xhaka, the Swiss international lacks the freedom to play forward. This is the kind of assurance Xhaka lacks in order to fully thrive in an Arsenal shirt. Matteo Guendouzi is primed to be a deep midfielder, but not a tough-tackling enforcer like Lucas Torreira.