Atlanta United have themselves a good old-fashioned lineup conundrum once their newest Designated Player, Luiz Araujo, arrives from France in the very near future. Fresh off the heels of the best team performance of the season, optimism is skyrocketing around Five Stripes world, especially considering the team will be adding a potential impact attacking player into the mix.
Without Josef Martinez available due to red card suspension, Rob Valentino trotted out a familiar looking setup in the reinvigorating 3-2 win at Columbus. Below you can see the average passing map that resembles a 3-5-2 formation with two attack-minded central midfielders sitting behind two forwards.
When Araujo is deemed ready to be inserted into the lineup, it opens up several possibilities for Rob Valentino to consider. If he chooses to keep the same shape, it would require some interesting decisions and sacrifices. With the obvious substitution of Josef in for Conway, that leaves the question of what to do with Marcelino Moreno? Araujo seems like a great fit up next to Josef to help stretch the opposing backline with his pace and ability to finish. That move would require Moreno to be pushed back into the shape somewhere. The most obvious thing to do would be to put him in Matheus Rossetto’s role. While that would be a tough call, especially with Rossetto’s brilliant performance against Columbus, there really isn’t another alternative to realistically keep your best players on the field. That would look something like this:
The 4-3-3 (or whatever)
Another possible option to fit your best players on the field at the same time would be to transition back to the four-at-the-back formation with two wide players flanking a striker. Araujo’s natural position seems to be as an inverted right-sided winger always looking to cut inside on his left foot. This type of look would require either Moreno or Ezequiel Barco to shift over to the left wing, a position neither player has thrived at in the past. However, with both players in good form, it might be the time to see if they can get the job done to help the overall comfortability of team.
However, one big sacrifice the team would need to make if it chooses to go this route is which centerback to sit on the bench. The choice would inevitably come down to Anton Walkes or Alan Franco, both of whom have been in really good form for the most part over the past month. While Franco has shown the ability to shine in a natural four-back role, Walkes has barely put a foot wrong all season. It would be an extremely difficult choice for Valentino if they go this way.
While the 3-5-2 worked extremely well against Columbus, it makes sense to get your best players in their natural positions. The 4-3-3/4-2-3-1, whatever you want to label it, seems to be the common sense way to go. When you pay $12 million for a player to galvanize the attack, there’s no reason play him out of position. Ezequiel Barco is finally rounding into form and you just have to trust that putting him in the position he’s played most of his career won’t hurt him. He’ll still have the freedom to tuck in and have Bello overlapping him.
That’s our best guess and what the lineup could look like when Luiz Araujo is ready to start. Have your say below on what you would like to see.