Arsenal face Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday as both sides look to maintain their 100% records this season. In an attempt to get something out of the game, Unai Emery should make a key formation change, with David Luiz particularly in mind.
In both games against the Reds last season, the Gunners played with a 4-2-3-1 formation. In the first game, at home, they were able to get a 1-1 draw, but in the return fixture at Anfield they were easily dispatched 4-1.
On the whole, last season was a disappointment from an Arsenal point of view. They finished fifth in the Premier League and were easily second-best in the Europa League final against Chelsea. There were a host of new signings during the summer, including Luiz, who signed from west London. And his arrival could allow his manager to make a key formation change that would help the Gunners this weekend.
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4-2-3-1 formation was used in both games against the European champions last season, and it was Emery’s favourite formation throughout the campaign. However, he did choose to play three central defenders on 18 occasions and the Gunners did well, claiming 13 victories. That included wins against Napoli, Valencia and Tottenham.
So clearly it was a formation that worked, and now it could be even more effective with Luiz. Since returning to Stamford Bridge from PSG in 2016, his best term was when he played as part of a trio under Antonio Conte. During that first season back in London in 16/17, Chelsea won the Premier League with an impressive haul of 93 points.
That set-up allows the former Benfica man to take risks whilst being covered by two teammates. His passing capabilities are well-known to fans in England and abroad – since 2015, he has registered a pass of accuracy of below 85% in just one season – and this line-up allows him to be slightly more adventurous.
A back three will also help combat Liverpool’s attacking threat. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino scored 68 goals in all competitions between them last year, but with an extra defender, Arsenal may just be a little harder to break down – eating up the central space Salah and Mane like to ghost into.
Three centre-backs may not be Emery’s preference, but it could help him get a result against Jurgen Klopp and co, and Luiz would be vital to its success.