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Picking the best Arsenal 5-a-side team

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If they had a 5-on-5 tournament to decide the season, which Gunners are you picking?

Arsenal FC ‘Iconic’ Archive Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

While the Premier League is apparently committed to finishing the season, each day that passes makes playing all of the remaining games seem increasingly less likely. I think the league is going to try to play a number of games, if only to get Liverpool to a mathematical lock on winning the title (but they’d never admit that was the purpose). But a more likely outcome is some sort of playoff/tournament to determine finishing places.

A few days ago, we had some fun coming up with different ways the Premier League could determine the outcome of the season. They ranged from the realistic, having a tournament with seeds based on current table position, to the absurd, a Silly Walks competition a la Monty Python.

One of the more middle-of-the-road suggestions was a 5-a-side tournament. It’s never going to actually happen, but how AWESOME would it be?! It would be a must-watch TV event that would be talked about for years. A bunch of the other SB Nation team sites are getting in on the fun, so check their posts out too!

Who would be your Arsenal 5? I don’t think it is as simple as picking the best five players from the team. Playing 5-v-5 requires different skill-sets for the small space and the ability to play quickly. The staff made our picks. Let us know what you think and who you’d pick in the comments.

Aaron’s Arsenal All-Stars (AAA)

Lucas Torreira, David Luiz, Dani Ceballos, Mesut Özil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

For my squad, I envision a 2-2-1 setup, with Lucas Torreira dropping into goal when needed. Even though Arsenal have one of the better ball-playing keepers in the league in Bernd Leno, I felt the team needed a bit more bite and tackling ability. In a format where close control and on-ball skill is paramount, it is equally as important to have players capable of dispossessing those dribbling wizards. Lucas Torreira is the best man at the club in that category.

Despite his occasional brain-dead moments, David Luiz is quite good on the ball, especially as a passer, while still being capable defensively. It was close between him and Shkodran Mustafi for the other “defender” place in my lineup.

Mesut Özil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are snap inclusions. Özil for obvious reasons. Aubameyang because he’s really good and underrated on the ball. We spend so much time focusing on his pace, movement, and finishing that we don’t notice how good of a dribbler and passer he is. I went with Ceballos because he has shown both the on-ball skill, passing, and creativity needed to excel in the format with increased defensive ability, especially recently under Mikel Arteta.

Aidan - Wengerball Reborn

Bernd Leno, Dani Ceballos, Héctor Bellerin, Mesut Özil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Five-a-side is about being able to move the ball well, and quickly, but also have versatility. I’ve picked Arsenal’s best passers in small spaces with Ceballos and Özil, and I like Bellerin as opposed to Luiz because of his pace, and carrying ability. Aubameyang needs no introduction. Finally, I chose Leno because he’s fairly decent on the ball, so I don’t mind him becoming a fifth outfield player when my team is in possession. But I like the security of having a goalkeeper, especially one whose weaknesses—catching crosses—are minimized in five-a-side.

Nathan’s North London Army

Bernd Leno, Dani Ceballos, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Setting up this team I knew I wanted Leno in as defensive protection and Aubameyang up top. Based on those set roles I decided to go with a diamond formation in front of Bernd. Not wanting to go with any pure defenders given the inclusion of Leno already, I selected Ceballos as the one to sit back given his passing ability (88.9% in the Premier League this season) and his defensive mindset. From there I opted for two speedy players who could press forward with Auba. Saka has shown the ability to defend sufficiently as the fill-in left-back this season, making him an already quality choice for a 5-a-side team. Who wouldn’t want the energy and excitement Saka and Martinelli would bring to the competition?

Michael - Left side, strong side.

Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka, Lucas Torreira, Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

I was slightly disappointed this was based on current squad players versus all time Arsenal (maybe next week?) as I couldn’t wait to include Tomas Rosicky back into my Arsenal side. Lil Mozart was engineered in a footballing laboratory just for 5-a-side events. Nonetheless this is my squad. It pains me to leave out Hector here, but in 5-a-side, you want goals. Thus, Granit is defacto Sweeper/Keeper, I went with him over Leno for the simple fact of smaller goals and technical quality in addition to Xhakaboom being unleashed when the ball swings from right to left. Saka makes into the side for tekkers alone, along with being the youth player who is obligated to get back and defend after supporting the attack time and time again. Lucas is the heart and soul of the team, also allowing us to play in a box or diamond shape. Mesut is the magician here floating in and out, finding pockets of space for flicks, tricks and Ozil chop finishes. PEA rounds us out as a goalscoring winger or striker. Feed this man chances and there is only one outcome.

Tony - The Banter Boyz

Sead Kolasinac, David Luiz, Matteo Guendouzi, Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Pepe

When this post was brought up, I really wanted to put together an honest five-a-side. Actually, it crossed my mind for a fleeting moment. But then I thought “why not put together the biggest banter squad I could think of,” so here it is.

No keeper? No problem. Luiz can be a proper bastard when necessary, capable of a crunching tackle and certainly enough dirty play to keep attackers frustrated and banged up. And Tank stood down attackers on the streets of London without batting an eye - give me that every day in a street game.

Guendo is a wind-up artist. Sure, he can glide his way through an opposition and pick a brilliant pass, but his best asset is his ability to be a relentless nuisance, all while playing the “who, me?” look to perfection. He is not afraid of contact, but only if he’s the one initiating it. He barrels into the attack with reckless abandon, like a very awkward and hirsute bull in a china shop, and plays defense with all of the grace of...well, a bull in a china shop. Even if it isn’t always pretty, the boy never quits.

Ozil reminds me of that one guy that shows up at every pick-up game and kick-around I’ve ever been to - stellar dribbler, great in the attack, awful at defending, and perpetually pissed at his teammates for not finishing chances. Ozil’s best is well behind him, but he always has a trick up his sleeve and can see dimensions that average humans cannot.

Nicolas Pepe. Man, is this guy equal parts excitement and frustration or what? He has the audacity to dribble at every defender in front of him, regardless of how many there are. When he pulls it off, it’s electric. When he doesn't, it’s tragically bad. High risk, high reward, but always entertaining.

Joe - Give the Corona the Rabona

Bukayo Saka, Mesut Özil, Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli, Folarin Balogun

Having been appointed manager of the side, I’m approaching with my regular level of irrationality and unpredictability.

Xhaka came in a lil sulky. Benched. Hector’s too handsome. Benched. Aubameyang smiling. Benched. This is war, not happy go fancy time.

I was tempted to throw Shkodran Mustafi in here. The King of Blunders would create the kind of instability for fives that my squad would thrive in. Chaos is our starting point. I’ll put him at the front of the bench as the first sub.

So I’ll have Saka at the back. A little more offense than normal for the last man, but defense is for suckers. Mesut controls the outlet with Pepe dribbling his way into nothingness. You think he’s trying to score or pass. In reality, Pepe could just dribble and dribble and stepover ad nauseum until you’re too exhausted to go on and forfeit out of exhaustion. Game, set, match. Gab’s up front with a bit of flair. And I’m calling up Balogun from the academy. Good pace. Good poise. Strong on the ball. And cmon. Tell me a player named Folarin who didn’t develop into a top tier forward.B

Jocelyn - Bellerin’s Boys

Pablo Mari, Hector Bellerin, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

It’s obviously a gamble putting out a team without a keeper. However, with just five a side we’re going for speed and ball control. The idea is to keep putting the ball in the back of the other team’s net and run up a lead that will be impossible to overcome (at least that’s what we’re hoping).

Since defense has not been of Arsenal’s strong points in recent years, the new guy Mari gets the chance to prove himself here. This is the Spaniard’s shot at the big time, so his motivation level will be high.

Mari will make the left side of the defense stronger which will allow for the versatile Saka to have more freedom and space to run at the opponent.

Bellerin has shown this season that he is not only a strong defender, but can operate as a winger, knows how to pick out open teammates, and we know he can occasionally score from open play (ah, the goal against Chelsea).

Martinelli and Aubameyang will be a lethal duo up front. In addition to their goal-scoring prowess, they are not afraid to track back and help out on defense. This along with the pair’s ability to pick out passes will make for a dynamic pairing on offense.