How Will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fit into Arsenal’s Starting XI?

It took some time, but Arsenal have finally completed the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund for a club record £56 million fee. The 28-year-old joins the Gunners with a reputation as one of the deadliest forwards in Europe, having scored a whopping 141 goals in all competitions for Dortmund since signing in 2013. Aubameyang’s goalscoring prowess and bonafide star status makes him an ideal replacement for Alexis Sanchez, who joined Manchester United last week in a swap deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan sign for Arsenal.

In replacing his most productive player with two attackers that previously combined for 56 goal contributions in a single league season (see Borussia Dortmund 2015-16), Arsene Wenger has come out of a sticky situation with some credit. Now, Le Professeur must figure out how to fit his two shiny new signings into a lineup that already contains Mesut Özil and previous club record signing, Alexandre Lacazette. Here are a few different tactical setups Wenger might go for as he aims to please his star players and maximize Arsenal’s attacking output.

 

4 – 2 – 2 – 2

Arsenal - Football tactics and formations

A formation that is as exciting as it is unlikely for Wenger to try, the 4-2-2-2 would see Arsenal essentially field a front four of their attacking talent. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Özil take up free roles on either wing, cutting inside to combine with the two forwards while the wing-backs overlap to provide width.

Although he hasn’t been as prolific as fans anticipated, Alexandre Lacazette has proven that he is more than just a poacher, showing excellent holdup play and ability to keep the ball in tight areas around the box. The Frenchman plays slightly behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who thrives as the team’s target man and would benefit from another forward to keep defenders occupied.

The overwhelming amount of attacking impetus could potentially unbalance Arsenal’s shape, meaning the midfield pairing would need to be positionally disciplined and defensively aware. Mohammed Elneny may be Arsenal’s least exciting midfielder, but he could be the key to this formation succeeding. The Egyptian international excelled in a defensive midfield role in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup semifinal win over Chelsea, and would take up the same responsibilities in a 4-2-2-2. One of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, or Granit Xhaka would partner him in the middle of the park to keep things ticking and link midfield to attack. If the Gunners are particularly struggling to retain possession in midfield, Mesut Özil could tuck in from the right side to work some of his German magic.

While the 4-2-2-2 may appear to be top-heavy on paper, it could get the most out of Arsenal’s attackers if executed properly. Arsene Wenger is unlikely to revert to what is essentially a modified 4-4-2, but his recent tactical versatility could mean we’re in for a surprise.

 

4 – 3 – 3

Arsenal - Football tactics and formations

Arsene Wenger might not have to switch from his beloved 4-3-3 to fit his two new signings into the starting lineup.

Again, Mkhitaryan plays on the left wing, the position Thomas Tuchel used him in during his remarkable 2015-16 campaign with Dortmund. The Armenian notched up 21 goals and 26 assists in all competitions that season, and Wenger will hope he can regain that form by playing in his favored position in a team that suits his playing style.

There is one notable difference between this setup and a classic 4-3-3, and that’s the right wing position. Here, Aubameyang will be less of a traditional right winger and more of a right-sided shadow striker, making runs off of Lacazette and drifting into dangerous positions. As he will provide little support for Hector Bellerin on the right flank, Mohammed Elneny (or the equally mobile Ainsley Maitland-Niles) is again key as he will be tasked with protecting the right-back.

In theory, this formation could work, but playing your new record-signing striker on the wing—albeit not in a traditional winger’s role—could definitely be an issue. That said, it wouldn’t be unlike Arsene Wenger to stick to his system and ask players to adjust their positions to suit it—watch this space.

 

3 – 5 – 2

Arsenal - Football tactics and formations

For the first time in basically forever, Arsene Wenger is showing a willingness to switch his formation on a match-by-match basis based on the opposition. At long last, Arsenal (sort of) does tactics!

Earlier this season Wenger tended to play a 3-4-3, especially when he thought his side needed extra defensive support which, in the case of Arsenal, is just about every match. Recently, however, he has opted for his trusty 4-3-3—but the need to accommodate two forwards could see a three-at-the-back formation used more regularly.

A 3-5-2, for example, would look similar to the previously used 3-4-3, but with an attacking midfielder playing behind two strikers rather than two attacking midfielders behind one striker. The prospect of Mesut Özil pinging through balls to Lacazette and Aubameyang is enough to make Arsenal fans quickly forget about that strange Chilean who loved his dogs a bit too much. Mkhitaryan, then, can take up a position in midfield where he’s able to combine with Özil and burst forward when the opportunity arises. He’ll have to be a bit more disciplined, though, as Wenger said he sees the 29-year-old as a potential “box-to-box player.”

Although the prospect of Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, and Özil in the same lineup is truly tantalizing, Arsene Wenger faces a genuine challenge in fitting all four of them into a functional starting eleven. It’s a good headache to have, and if the Frenchman gets it right he may just have the scariest attack in the Premier League. In what’s turning out to be an increasingly grim season, things might be a little less depressing if the club is at least fun to watch. After all, isn’t that the whole point?

 

Follow me on Twitter @MattCelly

 

Arsenal eye double swoop to cushion Alexis’ exit

According to various reports, Arsenal could be set to launch a double swoop for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Girondins Bordeaux’s Malcom, as Alexis Sanchez nears the Emirates exits.

The Gunners are believed to have eyed a move for 20-year-old Malcom throughout the month of January, but with Alexis’ move to rivals Manchester United thought to be imminent, Arsène Wenger is now also ready to add Aubameyang to his winter shopping list.

Dortmund’s misfit, who has seen his name flirt with big-money moves before, was last night left out of his club’s 0-0 draw to Wolfsburg due to “disciplinary reasons”, as stated by the Bundesliga club’s boss, Peter Stöger.

Such run-ins were also present in Thomas Tuchel’s time at the club and stretch to the most recent reign of Peter Bosz in Dortmund, with the Germans reported to be ready to finally pull the plug on Aubameyang’s chapter at the club.

According to Sky Sports’ resident La Liga expert, Guillem Balague, Arsenal are “optimistic” that they can counter the loss of Sanchez with a €60 million (£53 million) deal for the want-away Gabonese forward, who was also linked to the Gunners earlier this month by Sky Italia.

“Arsenal have a few signings they want to confirm in the next few days,” Balague said, with Aubameyang being one of them.

“They are willing to pay 60 million euros, so they hope Dortmund accepts and are very optimistic that this could be the case. There are other clubs interested. Arsenal are ahead of them, but nothing has been finalised yet.”

Also within the North Londoners’ eye-sight is Malcom, who could cost the Emirates outfit up to £45 million from Bordeaux.

MalcomAFC

The Brazilian right winger’s seven goals and six assists in France this season has alerted the interest of numerous clubs, particularly Arsenal, who appear willing to fork the cash out for the ex-Corinthians man.

As per various outlets, including the Evening Standard, Malcom’s representatives were in London late last week to hold talks with the Gunners, as Wenger remained coy on Sanchez’s widely-tipped replacement.

Bordeaux’s owner, Nicolas de Tavernost, told today’s edition of L’Équipe that Malcom wouldn’t leave this month, as the Ligue 1 outfit await an official bid for their player, but comments from the club’s manager have begun to fall out of line with the Ligue 1 outfit’s bold stance.

Jocelyn Gourvennec had recently been quoted as saying that he cannot see Malcom departing, but recent comments see him declaring that “if he leaves, he will be replaced,” as he takes the transfer window “day-by-day”.

Should Arsenal land Malcom, they’ll have to silence the interest coming from Bayern Munich and local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, as United switch their attentions to Sanchez.

Yesterday afternoon, Wenger had already admitted that a decision would be made official regarding Sanchez’s future within the next 48 hours, after the Chilean missed Arsenal’s trip to Bournemouth.

The Gunners are thought to be holding out for a £35 million bid, as well as exploring the option of receiving players as part of the deal, with United out in front to sign the contract rebel.

Sanchez had been heavily linked to Manchester City in the lead-up to 2018, but United’s willingness to reach Arsenal’s valuation, on top of offering the forward a salary north of £300,000-a-week, has swayed the deal.

According to the Independent, that deal could be concluded as early as today, with Arsenal looking to crack on with their own targets over the coming days.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

WILSHERE LOANED TO BOURNEMOUTH

Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere has completed his loan move to AFC Bournemouth, the Premier League club has announced, as the midfielder searches for first-team football.

With Arsenal adding new signing Granit Xhaka to the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin this summer, Wilshere’s route to the first team has been complicated further.

The 24-year-old was reportedly loan listed by the Gunners yesterday, as he held talks with both Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, meanwhile Serie A giants AS Roma and A.C. Milan also came in contact with Arsenal regarding a move, Sky Sports News reports.

Despite Roma’s strong interest, the north Londoners are thought to have pushed back the Italians’ offer due to their conduct in an apparent pursuit for Greek defender Kostas Manolas this summer.

Subsequently, both the Gunners and Wilshere agreed to the Englishman’s season-long loan to Bournemouth, which will see the midfielder reunited with ex-Arsenal academy player Benik Afobe, who joined the Cherries last season for £11.3 million in January 2015.

Wilshere made just 14 appearances in an injury-ravaged 2015/16 season, meanwhile the England international has since made two substitute appearances since the start of the new campaign.

MUSTAFI COMPLETES ARSENAL MOVE

Arsenal have confirmed the capture of Valencia centre back Skhodran Mustafi, a deal thought to be in the region of £35 million, as Calum Chambers agrees to join Premier League club Middlesbrough on loan.

The Gunners have been searching for a central defender more openly ever since the injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista, with Mustafi identified as the club’s primary target.

Under habitual circumstances, no details of the deal that takes the Germany international to the Emirates Stadium have been disclosed officially by the club as of yet, but outlets such as the Daily Mirror have moved to claim the so-often reported £35 million as his price tag.

Mustafi appeared 64 times in La Liga for Valencia during his two-year-spell in Spain, having joined from Italian club Sampdoria in the summer of 2014 for £6.8 million.

Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger had the following to say about his new signing: “He is at the right age. He has good experience. He is a very focused player who can play with the ball as well. We have taken a great player but have prepared well for the future.”

Mustafi joins the likes of Lucas Pérez, who also signed for the Gunners today, Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding, Takuma Asano and Kelechi Nwakali as the sixth signing made by the club this summer, meanwhile Chambers becomes the latest to leave north London in the past hour.

With first-team opportunities now limited further by Mustafi’s arrival, Arsenal have announced the completion of Chambers’ loan deal to newly-promoted Middlesbrough, a move that’ll see the 21-year-old play under Aitor Karanka’s side for the remainder of the season.

ARSENAL LAND LUCAS SIGNING

Arsenal have announced the signing of Deportivo de La Coruña forward Lucas Pérez, with no official word being made by the club on the details of the deal.

As per various reports last week, the Gunners were prepared to pay the Spaniard’s £17.1 million release clause to capture his services, as they beat Everton to the 27-year-old’s signature.

Lucas joins Arsenal on the back of a goal in Deportivo’s opening clash against Eibar in La Liga, whereas he was on target 17 times last season for the Galician outfit.

Arsenal’s latest recruit also matched Bebeto’s 22-year-old club record for goals in consecutive games, finding the back of the net against the likes of Barcelona and Atlético Madrid throughout his run of seven goals in as many games last season.

Gunners boss Arsène Wenger offered his description of the forward, stating: “He’s not only a goalscorer, he’s a guy who combines well with partners, who can give a final ball and makes good runs. He’s got a good eye for goal and had an outstanding season last year.”

The signing of Lucas is widely-expected to be followed by the capture of Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi, meanwhile the likes of Calum Chambers, Jack Wilshere and Serge Gnabry all reportedly brace themselves for new surroundings.

ARSENAL CLOSE IN ON DOUBLE SWOOP

Arsenal look set to complete the transfers of Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Pérez from Deportivo de La Coruña, with the two due in for medicals today, according to BBC Sport.

After weeks of to and fro, it appears Arsenal have finally agreed terms with Valencia over Mustafi, as the Gunners prepare to pay up in excess of £35 million for the Germany international.

Deportivo forward Pérez should also follow the World Cup-winning centre back to the Emirates Stadium, despite suggestions in the Spanish press yesterday that Arsenal had failed in a bid to pay the Spaniard’s release clause in two separate instalments.

Pérez will cost the Gunners £17.1 million, the overall price of his release clause, which would take Arsenal’s total spending for this summer close to £100 million.

Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger admitted today in his press conference prior to the away clash versus Watford that the north Londoners are “working on deals” and that he was “99% confident” on their conclusions.

ARSENAL’S LUCAS PÉREZ BID REJECTED

Arsenal’s bid for Deportivo de La Coruña’s Lucas Pérez has been rejected, according to Cadena Ser (via the Daily Mail), as the Gunners join Everton in the race to sign the centre foward.

The north Londoners are believed to have offered to pay Lucas’ £17.1 million release clause in two instalments; an offer deemed as “unnacceptable” by Deportivo who want the complete figure.

Arsenal have thus far missed out on reported targets such as Álvaro Morata, Jamie Vardy and Alexandre Lacazette this summer, as the club’s search to bolster their attack continues.

Reports from Marca and El Confidencial today claimed there was “total agreement” between Arsenal and Deportivo on the prospect of Lucas’ sale, with more bold statements revealing a deal will “almost certainly” take place.

BBC Sport understands Arsenal are indeed interested in signing Lucas, meanwhile Everton and Valencia are also in the hunt.

However, the 27-year-old, according to Sky Sports News, is thought to favour Champions League football, as the Spanish press move to place Arsenal as favourites to land him.

As per Spanish paper AS, Lucas holds a great deal of gratitude towards Deportivo, partially responsible for his recent rise to prominence, and the striker will only look to leave the La Liga club for a “big project”.

Everton aren’t thought to be deemed by Lucas and his camp as the talked about “project”, despite talks regarding a move to the Toffees being at a more advanced stage.

Negotiations between Arsenal and the Galician club are still in its initial stages, however.

Lucas hit 17 La Liga goals last season, attracting reported interest from Leicester City, West Bromwich Albion and even Barcelona this summer.

CAMPBELL JOINS SPORTING ON LOAN

Arsenal forward Joel Campbell has joined Sporting on a season-long-loan, following confirmation made by both clubs this afternoon.

Campbell, who hasn’t featured in any of Arsenal’s matchday squads in the Premier League this season, arrived in Lisbon over the weekend to complete the deal, with there being no indication as of yet of a buy-option.

Sporting’s reported interest in Campbell, who can also play as a winger, dates back to the 2014 season, with current boss Jorge Jesus, then manager of rivals Benfica, also being associated with a move for the Arsenal man.

In that time, the Costa Rica international has found his path to the Arsenal first team blocked by the likes of Alexis Sánchez, Alex Iwobi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott.

Having joined the Gunners back in the summer of 2011 from Saprissa, Campbell was forced to spend three consecutive seasons out on loan to Lorient, Olympiacos and Real Betis, due to work permit issues.

His return to north London was intersected by another loan spell, this time with Villarreal in La Liga during the 2014/15 season, making his most recent adventure with Sporting his fifth loan move since signing for Arsenal.

Campbell did, however, play 30 times for Arsène Wenger’s side last season, as he scored four times in the 2015/16 season.

MUSTAFI AGREES TO JOIN ARSENAL

The agent of Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi, Ali Bulut, has confirmed to the German press that the defender has agreed a deal in principle to join Arsenal, although the Gunners are yet to make an official bid for the player.

Bulut, in an interview given to German website Spox, revealed that Mustafi has agreed to join the north London club, currently without defenders Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista for a long period of time.

Mustafi’s compatriot will be sidelined for up to four months, whereas Gabriel will be out of action for half of that period to leave Arsenal’s defence depleted versus Liverpool for their opening game of the Premier League season.

The start of the season comes too soon for Mustafi’s deal and the player is yet to sign anything official, but the defender’s agent does add that “it now just remains for the teams to come to an agreement over the fee,” with Sky Germany having a similar scoop of the story.

Valencia are thought to value the Germany international at €30 million, despite a €50 million release clause, and are currently under pressure to adhere to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

ARSENAL BID €41M FOR MAHREZ

Arsenal have made an offer worth €41 million for Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, L’Equipe claims, as the winger prepares to force his way out of the club.

Sky Sports News, via their sources, earlier denied an offer of £30 million being made by Arsenal, thus far the only recognised offer for Mahrez to be reported in France of late.

However, L’Equipe have now placed Mahrez back on Arsenal’s radar in today’s edition of their publication, claiming that the Gunners have launched a fresh bid in the region of €41 million (£35.2 million) in hope of landing the 25-year-old.

Initial information suggests Leicester, most recently linked with a £23 million move for Santos forward Gabriel Barbosa, feel they have little time left in the transfer market to sign an eventual replacement, hence their refusal.

Mahrez, who’s so far rejected a new deal to keep him at the King Power Stadium, is believed to have been very accepting of those circumstances in a meeting with Leicester’s director of football, Jon Rudkin, but the winger’s mood is now rumoured to have changed.

L’Equipe believe Mahrez is willing to clash with the Foxes in order to join a team of Arsenal’s stature, whereas RMC Sport journalist Mohamed Bouhafsi has echoed reports on the Leicester man’s wishes to move to a bigger club.