Brighton Preview: Torreira Is Not The Only Risk

I remember the days when Boxing Day was almost as sacrosanct as the day before. When the sales were still twenty-four hours away and football was just about the only thing working. None of the games was live on TV so only Police instructions changed kick-off to unmentionable o’clock. There was no rail service. It prepared us for the arrival of the Southern Railway franchise; we just didn’t know it at the time.

Unai Emery answered the burning question of the day: Lucas Torreira plays. It’s a loaded answer; one booking and he is out of the trip to Anfield on Saturday.

The Spaniard is having none of it:

In my career, I never made these decisions. We are going to play the next match in Brighton and we are going to play full – not with considered options or playing with more caution.

The same three points are in Brighton that are in Liverpool and we are going to play first in Brighton. It’s a tough match and we will need every player with 100% focus to do everything on the pitch to win.

I don’t know whether Torreira would even be able to play cautiously but I don’t want him to think about the possibility of a suspension for one yellow card.

It’s hard to disagree with his logic but I’d certainly take the opposite decision. Ramsey and Guendouzi alongside Xhaka is a midfield trio capable of winning this match; it isn’t one I’d feel confident of taking to Anfield. Less so if we’ve got a makeshift defence.

But that it is to get too far ahead of myself. Brighton is the three points at stake and Emery has to look at them without considering the remainder of the festive programme. It’s a marginal call and he’s made it.

Not Tonight, Josephine

Laurent Koscielny declared “not today” when Emery asked him about playing against Burnley which is understandable after two matches in a week. Better, in any case, for him to be fit for two away games than what proved to be a comfortable home win.

Christmas Eve wasn’t full of good cheer with injury news pointing to other risks having to be taken. Mustafi is potentially fit which may give us a back three comprising three centre-backs for the first time since Noah began his boatbuilding apprenticeship.

The midfield battle will be key to winning. Torreira is likely to feature alongside Mateo Guendouzi, who came in for praise from Emery:

I am very happy with Matteo and he is improving a lot. He is helping us and he gives a lot of moments with the combinations, the quality and the possibility to play with our style. He needs to improve more and needs to continue his progress with us, but I think he’s very young.

Youthful exuberance is Guendouzi’s trademark; the energy which defines his game is as important as Torreira’s tenacity. The trio has a nice balance; Xhaka’s range of passing, Torreira’s defensive mindset and Guendouzi falling between the two. His motivation on receiving the ball is finding the best pass to use as a springboard to increase pressure on opponents.

The decision to release Aaron Ramsey is founded on many factors, not least of which is money. However, Guendouzi is one of those as is the prospect of Emile Smith Rowe delivering on his promise.

There are others for whom this is a big afternoon. Mesut Özil returned to the fold last weekend, rightly receiving the plaudits; we need the same as we return to the scene of one of last season’s numerous horror shows.

XI at the Ready

There is a sense, however, that Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s injury saved Özil’s bacon. Away from home, it’s hard to envisage Emery playing both Lacazette and Aubameyang; more likely was Iwobi and the Aremenian on the flanks. Now, it’s Özil and Iwobi with Lacazette a second-half substitute.

It leaves the XI as:

Leno; Sokratis, Koscielny, Mustafi/Monreal/Xhaka; Lichtsteiner, Torreira, Xhaka/Guendouzi, Kolasinac; Iwobi, Aubameyang, Özil

If I’m honest, I’d almost prefer Emery to go with a 4-2-3-1 if Monreal or Mustafi isn’t fit but the Spaniard likes to conjure a back-three out of nowhere. He’s still looking for the key element that stops our silk purse becoming a pig’s ear.

Nonetheless, three points is most definitely on the cards this afternoon but we need to up our game from the performance at Southampton. It’s these games which will define whether we challenge for a top four place or make an incremental improvement to fifth.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

62 thoughts on “Brighton Preview: Torreira Is Not The Only Risk

  1. 3 points is the tale of the day.

    Might save Ozil and Aubameyang for Liverpool and start Lacazette with Ramsey.

    Actually, if Mustafi is fit enough I would go back with:

    Leno
    Lichtsteiner—Mustafi—Sokaritis—-Nacho
    ——-Xhaka——Elneny—–Ramsey
    Iwobi—–Lacazette—-Nketiah

  2. C,

    It’s interesting to see these different contending XI.
    With CBs available it shows that the rest of the park has options.
    I’m with The Boss aka YW, Smash BHA with everything, maybe get ahead earlier….it IS Christmas after all!…. and then end with an XI like yours. Saving legs for the Pool.
    We go in undergunned, and risk getting bogged down with a lack of threat, and give them licence to attack us. We go for less than emphatic 3 points today, and the Pool result is too important. Most teams will be lucky to take anything from that fixture. Sadly ,they are quite good.
    COYG
    Auba for another brace . Ozil and Iwobi causing problems. Solid defence from the remainder. Leech or AMN on RWB?

  3. Wow, so now we’re gifting them goals. As if it wasn’t hard enough.

    We must be one of the most generous teams in the league😥.

    Imagine Emery must be fairly nauseous after conceding a goal from our corner?

  4. The fact that BOTH Lichtsteiner and Guendouzi last mena and the Brighton players getting behind them is quite simply poor defending.

  5. Ok, Ozil off, no more special terms and Iwobi on.

    I think that makes us more robust and harder to break down. Also Iwobi should play after his goal which may have done him a world of good.

  6. Welsh corgi cardigan,

    Interesting thing is Iwobi makes us more robust but we were creating chances with Ozil.

    Have to say, Brighton’s sort of route 1 futbol is causing Guendouzi, Xhaka and our CB’s problems which is strange given we just dealt with that against Burnley.

  7. Noon Gunner,

    Whenour CB’s, coupled with Xhaka and Guendouzi are stuggling to make simple passes and defending like school boys and can’t get it to our forwards…..it feels like it.

  8. Not for nothing but it feels like Brighton have started to boss the midfield more with Ozil now off.

    Ramsey coming on.

  9. Aubameyang and Lacazette are SOOOOO isolated right now with Ozil going off.

    Lacazette coming off for Ramsey….should of been Guendouzi.

  10. Noon Gunner,

    Think its about losing the midfield.

    Personally feel like we need to get back to a front four of Iwobi/Ozil/Aubameyang/Lacazette rhat aas the driving force between our unbeaten run and then subs coming on when necessary.

  11. Shows just how important Bellerin has been for us providing width down the right to compliment our width down the left.

    No chances created without Ozil thus far, a couple good moves and chances with 🤔

  12. C,

    You’re right about supply being poor from our defense through to attack. SO MUCH hesitation! TV angles don’t allow me to see our forward movement, but the hesitation suggests they aren’t moving into space well enough.

  13. C,

    Well, Iwobi is a physical player. He’s quite strong and not easy to reposess. Also fairly aware of space and his positioning in defense.

    Özil on the other hand, well maybe not.

  14. Maybe its just me but it just feels like we need either need Iwobi to regain his bursting confident form driving and running at people or we need an optio behind Ozil that can link and create behing him. No offense to Ramsey but he gets on the end of the moves instead of linking and then creating.

  15. Noon Gunner,

    Exactly and sure Ozil doesn’t provide the defenaive work but he is IMHO the best at finding the required space and exploiting it. Ramsey is good in the box and Iwobi on the flanks but Ozil does it in the center of the park even if its finding a yard and then creating more space for others.

  16. Welsh corgi cardigans,

    He might not be but I habe never been one to care about phyaicality because futboling brain beats physicality 10/10. I mean Xavi/Inesta/Busquets DOMINATED world futbol as have MANY brazilians without physicality.

    I mean, loom at Pep’s Citeh, they lack physicality because their futboling brain is simply quicker than the physical players.

    Is it a coincidence we have lacked creativity and any sort of link in the final third since Ozil went off at half tme….

  17. WE HAVE NO CREATIVITY AT ALL with both Lacazette and Ozil off. Aubameyang is getting no service at all.

    Need more from Ramsey and Iwobi.

  18. TV showing Emery and his #1 and they are begging for more creativity and movement from Ramsey and Iwobi when they have the ball.

  19. I’m not sure what it’s going to take for the manager (and others), to learn the very simple rule: no creativity = no chances = no goals = draws and losses instead of wins.

    The players can run around like headless chickens and throw themselves into as many tackles to give the pundits and commentators hard-ons for a month, it won’t create chances for them very often.

    We can have the best scorers on the planet up,front, but no service = no chances = no goals etc etc.

  20. C,

    Well, yes, then it’s only application I’d guess. I agree with your notion. It’s not all about physicality in football, it’s a skill set and how you apply them.

    That sort applies that Özil could maybe apply himself more?

  21. Some of the ” tactical” decisions seem very poor and appear equatable to the lack of insight so prevalent amongst some supporters.

  22. Say what you want but its CRYSTAL CLEAR we have has less chances and have been way less creative since Ozil went off. Iwobi and Ramsey offered fuck all.

  23. Welsh corgi cardigans,

    Possibly Ozil could apply himself more but indirectly or directly he was helping us to create in the firat half and in the second……well literally nothing.

    Look, I adore Ozil and his skill set and sure he seems to could offer more but he was helping both directly and indirectly on and off the ball to create and in the 2nd half we literally hung on like a bottom 6 side.

  24. MikeSA,

    Spot on. Ozil might not give the graft that many people want but his creatice genius, along with Lacazette is what we have lacked since Wolves.

    People tend to forget that during that unbeaten run, Ozil and/or Lacazette were key figures match in and match out.

  25. I would say we’re well set up now for either a thrashing at Anfield or – much less likely, but this is football and one can dream – a waking up and re-focusing on what we do best…but how will UE set up?

  26. I suspect I should revert to my start of season perspective, which was that if we just tread water this season it’ll be a good start.

    It’s just a pity that I think we could be better off if Emery wasn’t so fixated on some of his ideas that have now been clearly shown to have failed on several occasions.

    Wenger was stubborn and kept on doing the same thing over and over, it was bizarre.

    I’m beginning to worry that Emery is starting to do the same thing.

  27. C,

    Let’s hope Unai and his guys can work this one out in time. It does look pretty plain to the watching fan.

  28. MikeSA

    From a statistical standpoint Ozil has been useless as a creator this season. I think he has 1 total assist in our league games. The thing that always made him special when he was younger was his ability to create assists with special magical moments. He rarely does that anymore and he has not been doing it for a couple seasons. The idea that he has now reinvented himself as a player who does other important things that do not show up on the score sheet is certainly grasping for straws. If he really was doing all these important things to influence the game but most other fans are not sophisticated enough to recognize then you would certainly think that Emery and his coaching staff who watch thousands of hours of film would be smart enough to understand his positive influence.

    I think the bottom line is we did great without getting much from our creative #10 for most of this season but if you really believe we need more creativity then we need to buy someone because neither Ozil or Mkhitaryan have been the answer and neither of them is going to get any better as they move into their 30’s. Ramsey is most likely leaving and he is probably not the answer even if he was staying.

  29. Noon Gunner,

    Maybe, just maybe we get back to the midfield that was key to our run: Torriera/Xhaka/Ozil. Its a complete midfield with Xhaka and Torriera sitting behind Ozil doing the midfield bossing witb Ozil doing his thjng pressing and creating in the final third!

    Not questioning Emery because I have admired him, aling with Birdkamp, for YEARS, but sometimes you simply build and build and build and can forget the base that started and built the new Arsenal. For instance, people talk about the Bournemouth and Ozil thing but forget that right before that Ozil was magical aginst Leicester and was superb against Liverpool who are MUCH more tactical and physically demanding a match than Bournemouth.

  30. Not sure why we did in the second. But we were horrible. Did not see that last 45 coming. We’ve been pretty awesome last 45s😳.

  31. Bill,

    Sorry Bill, you’re just wrong.

    Ozil contributes in many ways on the pitch, including just being there to ensure defenders have to mark him closely.

    It’s not a coincidence that when he’s been off the pitch we have been totally toothless.

    Just in this game we had several very good chances in the first half and in the second it looked like we had no idea where the goal was.

  32. I understand that we all thought Arsene had lost it during the last few years but I think Emery would be smart enough to understand what is happening if Ozil was really doing something important that only you and C are only fans smart enough to figure out

    I think the reality is we played over our head during the unbeaten run and now we are regressing to the norm. We start with a suboptimal defense who concede a lot of goals. We have an average midfield and Lacazette is no longer scoring so we only have 1 player in our squad who is a legitimate threat to score. We struggle if PEA does not score enough to overcome our defensive weakness

  33. Bill,

    Wenger had lost it, he was fixated on showing that he knew what he was doing when he didn’t.

    Emery has shown some good stuff, but he’s also human and also has baggage (Neymar), which impacts his thought processes, sometimes detrimentally.

    Btw, it’s not just C and myself who happen to see this particular problem, there are many footballing people I chat to fairly often (pro and ex pro footballers), who also know what they’re talking about and have and continue to make similar observations.

    However, there is a small but very shouty contingent who lack insight and football knowledge who like to cause ructions and stir the sheep up.

    There is a reason for having a midfield, both defensive and attacking, and I don’t mean the kind of egotistical shit Ramsey provides.

    No creativity means very few goals, it’s really very very simple, so I have a lot of trouble understanding the perspective of those to whom this very very obvious truth seems unclear.

    Yes, we do have defensive issues as well, which you’d have thought Emery would have made some progress on by now surely?

    So yes, he’s very very good, but he’s not flawless, and his blindness around the creative requirements are part of that.

  34. MikeSA

    I can’t believe Emery is blind to a need for creativity. However it was not a problem when we were getting it from all over the park when we were playing above our talent level during the unbeaten run. We didn’t have one specific player who was bringing the creativity. Now that we are coming back to our talent baseline we don’t have any specific players Emery can count on to give us that creativity you crave. Again I have to believe that Emery would be smart enough to understand if ozil was doing special that most fans don’t recognize.

  35. Bill,

    Think about this mate, against Leicester if we won 1-0 and Ozil made ‘that’ defense splitting pass that literally took out the whole Leicester team that Bellerin immediatwly squared to Aubameyang for the assist; is that not Ozil making a game changing pass? How about Burnley and that BRILLIANT pass that even had Keown drooling to Sead who immediately cutback to Aubameyang who buried it….is that not Ozil providing creativity and the matching changing pass?

    Stats in futbol don’t always tell rhe story. Even in the match today for our goal, Ozil flicked it to Lacazette and sure jr was intercepted but it led to Lacazette immediately winning the ball back, passing it to Aubameyang (Ozil by the way realized Aubameyang was in a better position to score so ignored the pass) who buried it. Futbol while black and white, is also very grey for non defenders and goal scorers.

  36. If Emery is struggling to fix the defense and he has a blind spot for the importance of creativity and he can’t understand the positive contributions he is getting from his highest paid most recognizable player then we have a very big problem.

  37. Still wrong Bill.

    Emery has a few blind spots, including the defense, but the creative side provided by Ozil, and in a very different way, by Mikitaryn and Xhaka too for that matter, is another.

    Go and look at the matches again.

    All the matches where we were toothless and drew when we should have won, were games where creativity (and more specifically, Ozil), was missing.

    Our above par peformances were when we had creativity on the pitch.

    Just like Emery doesn’t seem to be learning his lessons about our defense, he seems equally blind to the value of the creative midfield.

    He is not infallible, and if you look around, you’ll see others see the same issues as C and I do, we’re not unique in our perspective on this (and I don’t take any notice of the 12 year olds on twatter, the combined IQ on there doesn’t hit triple figures on most days).

    In terms of the pundits on TV, one of our local political commentators (max du Preez), made an observation about the media on a totally different topic but which resonates with a lot of what we see regarding the EPL, he stated that the media have lost perspective on what constitutes news and what constitutes click-baiting sensationalism.

    It’s become a national sport for idiots to find things to blame on Ozil.

    I have an inkling suspicion there’s an agenda against him over the Germany thing as well.

    If he plays, goals scored against us will be blamed on him.

    If he doesn’t play then he’s a distraction in the dressing room, receiving special treatment, or being taught a lesson.

    Other players get injured and suffer relapses, but Ozil is never “really” injured, it’s always a conspiracy theory.

    Take Keown for a prime example.

    You’d swear Ozil ran over his dog or screwed his wife or something the way he carries on.

    I remember Keown as a midfielder in George Graham’s side.

    He was fucking awful!

    As a CB under Wenger he was great, but he knows absolutely fuck all about midfield (and he played as a defensive midfielder on the of of four btw).

    In terms of age, Bergkamp played well into his thirties, as have many other creative players.

    Ozil is not like Walcott, who had speed and very little else, and who was always going to struggle nice his speed started leaving him.

    In terms of what a creative midfielder brings to the game: it’s a game of attrition, not continual wonder moves.

    By constantly causing doubt n the opposition defense, constantly pulling them out of position, tiring them out, making them make mistakes, and having the vision to see the passes that destroy their positioning, a player like Ozil either creates chances himself, or provides the space for others to do so too.

  38. Just look at the unbeaten run (and the end of it).

    Which games did we struggle to score in and looked toothless, and which ones did we perform better than the sum of our parts?

    It’s a very clear pattern.

  39. C

    Stats may not tell the whole story but you can’t use anecdotal evidence such as focusing on a good play in the Leicester game and then conveniently forget about the 99% of the time when the player is not contributing or is invisible.

    Again I have to go back to the main question, if what you think you see is true then why hasn’t Emery who has a whole coaching staff thousands of hours of film to help him figured out the reality of what happening?

  40. C

    If you are actually going to try and make a case that ozil played a part in the goal we scored today then you are clearly searching much to hard to find a straw to grasp.

    We were playing well during the unbeaten run because the whole team was playing as more then the sum of its parts and we were getting more thenenough creativity from all over the pitch and Lacazette was scoring goals and we had enough firepower to compensate for our defensive weakness. Now the difference is the whole team has come down to a more normal level. If you are trying to make a case that ozil was doing critical things that changed games or was the creativity that sparked us during the unbeaten run then like C I think you are trying too hard to find a straw to grasp. The fact that the boss had knocked Mesut down the pecking order says it better then I can.

  41. It looked to me like the goal today was a result of a defender poking the ball away from Lacazette and it just happened to fall for PEA. Credit to PEA for being clinical enough to score the goal. Without him we wouid probably be somewhere behind ManU and fighting to keep a Europa league spot

  42. The goal we scored today was the result of our hard work to close down their defenders a poor job of clearing the ball by the opponent followed by a dose of luck that the ball ended up a PEA’s foot and then full credit for a clinical finish by a very good striker. To suggest that our “creativity” was an important part of scoring that goal is no where close to being on target.

  43. So Emery tells us he made a “tactical” change at half time becuase he “needed something to change”.

    Well, he sure got “something” changing, we had one shot at goal in the second half.

    I have a tiny suspicion that’s not really the “something” he had in mind.

    How many times is he going to have to learn the same lesson before it registers?

    All the noise from the idiots also clouds the situation.

    Apparently their goal had nothing to do with Lichtensteiner joining in on their attack and 3 v 4 into a 4 v 3.

    No, apparently Ozil (who according to his critics is slow – he isn’t), is now a top sprinter and should have tracked and caught a guy who had a 5m head start on him and anticipated the Lichsteiner manouvre to know that the defender v attacker balance would instantly change when Lichsteiner swapped shirts for a second.

    So basically the “pundits” have found a way to blame Ozil for the goal.

    Never mind the defenders who were back or other players who were better placed, it was his fault.

    That is just the most desperate and pathetic thing I’ve heard in a long long time (and we have Jacob Zuma and his fellow thieves over hear constantly coming up with “the dog ate my homework” excuses, so you really have to go some to beat that for punting an agenda, but they’ve succeeded against tough competition).

    Sm fucking h.

  44. That was pretty awful. Players and coach not on it. Both carry responsibility for this unhappy draw. Poor subs and tactics. Players jaded and unfocused. Injuries at the back really taking a toll. I think the muscle pills look like the intensity and running we love as fans is already taxing the squad perhaps.

    AMN looks lost and confused. Lichtensteiner is a dressing room presence not a pitch presence. We miss Bellerin so much. I love Guendouzi but he should be apprenticing rather than starting so regularly—he just doesn’t have defensive positioning down yet and takes a lot more touches carrying the ball than we need. He’ll be a player—the talent is there. But there is a reason our results record when he starts is lower percentage, I think.

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