Arsenal’s recent 3-1 win over West Ham did a lot to dissipate some woes surrounding the club. It was only Freddie Ljungberg’s first win as the club’s interim boss, but it was something more than that. It was a sign of the side regaining confidence. While Lucas Torreira had a key role, Matteo Guendozi came on from the bench.
It was Granit Xhaka who was starting above Guendozi alongside Torreira. The Swiss played as the anchor-man, with Torreira operating as the box-to-box player. But the former Borussia Monchengladbach man had a poor game. He was giving away lose balls and was at fault for Angelo Ogbonna’s goal.
Xhaka was dispossessed once, getting dribbled past once as well. It wasn’t exactly a performance to be proud of, as Guendozi came on late in the game. That gave the look of the midfield that a lot of Arsenal fans want to see.
During his time at Sampdoria, Torreira was playing as the deepest midfielder in Marco Giampolo’s 4-3-1-2 shape, with two more technical midfielders around him. He was that fierce ball-winner, who had that tigerish tenacity about him.
He won 2.8 tackles per game in the 2017-18 campaign, making 2 interceptions per game too. Since then, he has not played in the defensive midfield position too much by Arsenal. He is now unfairly seen as a box-to-box midfielder.
He isn’t that creative player who can carve out openings. That link between the midfield and attack is Guendozi himself.
The French youngster carries the ball into attacking areas with purpose. In the Premier League this season, he is completing 1.5 dribbles per game. He has also played 0.8 key-passes per game. He gets dispossessed just once per game.
These numbers show how good the former Lorient man can be on the ball. The average passing percentage of 88 percent is a very promising number too. But Guendozi isn’t as proficient a ball-winner as Torreira, winning 1.6 tackles per game only.
Xhaka, on the other hand, is more prone to losing the ball than Guendozi. Last night shows that. The atmosphere around the player hasn’t been the best in recent games. He is still capable of coming up with moments that lead to goals. At one point earlier this year, he had made the highest number of errors leading to goal in the Premier League.
And for a club that has two seemingly better midfielders in the side, it would be strange to not give Torreira and Guendozi a chance together.
Like Emery, Ljungberg seems to be relying on the 4-2-3-1 shape. That is the style the Gunners have been playing in the last three games. Playing Torreira and Guendozi behind Mesut Ozil will get the German to play at his best. Having Torreira in his perfect position will take burden off others to win the ball back and do the dirty work.
Ozil will have Guendozi- someone who can be that link to pass the ball to him from the midfield areas.
The last time both the Frenchman and Uruguayan started together, Arsenal drew 2-2 against Southampton. Ozil was enjoying himself, as he came up with four key-passes, completing four dribbles. He also had 68 touches of the ball- more than any other Arsenal attacking player.
That is the freedom that a player like Ozil needs to thrive. It also takes the weight off flair players like Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. More than that, it gets the midfielders to play in their original positions. Going forward, this should be Ljungberg’s plan to get the most out of this current bunch of players.