Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Arsenal have officially signed Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but questions remain over which system manager Arsene Wenger will deploy to get the most out of the pair.
The Frenchman has lined up with a back four for almost the entire duration of his time in north London but switched to a three-man defence after his team’s 3-0 defeat by Crystal Palace in April. Following the change, Arsenal went on to win the FA Cup with a 3-4-3 formation, overcoming Manchester City in the last four and then Chelsea in the final.
Wenger admitted last month that his preference is to play with four at the back. “It is my preferred system,” he said after last month’s 6-0 win over BATE Borisov in the Europa League. “But I adjust always what suits the players, the quality of the players, the balance of the team.”
With his squad bolstered by two wonderful attacking talents, Wenger now has an array of options available to him.
Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan formed a formidable partnership during Mkhitaryan’s spell at Signal Iduna Park, scoring a combined 62 goals during the 2015-16 season. Wenger could decide to play the Armenian in the inside-right position, with Mesut Ozil playing in his favoured No.10 role behind Aubameyang.
Alexandre Lacazette is able to play on the left side of a forward line and his intelligent runs down the flanks could see him interchange or even play alongside Aubameyang.
In central midfield, Wenger has said Ainsley Maitland-Niles has a future as a defensive midfielder but it appears more likely that he will continue with the Granit Xhaka-Aaron Ramsey pivot which worked well earlier in the season.
Wenger has a tough decision on his hands when it comes to central midfield, though, with Jack Wilshere, Ramsey and Xhaka able to play in the same area.
The limited defensive protection in midfield could see Ramsey drop deep, although his best performances for Arsenal this season have come when he’s playing in a more advanced role slightly ahead of Xhaka.
Aubameyang and Lacazette could find themselves up front together, which would surely guarantee goals, given the fantastically created Ozil would be sitting just behind them.
Mkhitaryan, meanwhile, could play in a midfield three ahead of Ramsey and Xhaka. Wenger hasn’t used a consistent 4-3-3 since the days of Gervinho, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott over five years ago, but the arrivals of Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang could see him revert to the attack-minded formation.
The likes of Lacazette and Mkhitaryan supporting Aubameyang, with Ozil in the No.10 role, may give Wilshere and Ramsey the freedom to sit deep, although doubts persist over whether the two can form a solid partnership in midfield.
There also remains a possibility that Xhaka could come into the midfield, replacing Lacazette in the XI, with Ozil able to play as part of a front three.
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