I finished yesterday’s newspaper column, discussing what Arteta needs to revert to 433 next season, with an off-the-cuff suggestion of Said Benrahma. The reason I would describe the suggestion as off-the-cuff, or left field is because the article was considering the creative central player Arsenal need, and the Algerian, predominantly plays on the wing for Brentford. However, I have given the idea some more thought…..
The 24-year-old, and this will be argued of course, is one of the most skillful footballers playing today. One headline (as I recall in the Guardian) described him as ‘the player who could nutmeg a mermaid’. The player Arteta wants is patently not the Ozil type as wonderous passing and vision are not enough for the progressive 8 role, which also requires the box-to-box attributes of a Ramsey as well as the ball retention skills and ability to beat a man (if the pass is not on) of a Cazorla.
In the same way that Santi flourished as a central attacking midfielder, a wider attacking midfielder and latterly in a more conventional central midfield role, I am wondering is Said Benrahma, could do the same? Of course, Arsenal under Wenger, had too many such players, trying to emulate Barcelona and packing his team with compact skillful artists – but Arteta needs just two. As Wenger latterly had Cazorla and Rosicky – whom he knew could occupy any creative position, whilst offering work rate and defensive discipline – Arteta needs the same.
When I say Arteta needs two, or even perhaps three, it is for the squad, for all competitions and for rotation but he of course needs his go-to player as a central creator. As I explained yesterday, he simply does not have a creative enough third man to play with a combination of Xhaka, Ceballos and Torreira. Therefore, he is playing 343 and thrusting creative pressure on wing-backs and wide forwards, but my belief is this is a short-term fix and as we saw at Villa, does not work against an organised defensive low block.
So, what he needs is the progressive 8 for a 433, who indeed, could also play as a different style of 10 to Ozil and he might have two such players in Saka and Smith-Rowe, but he needs an experienced first choice. (I know many see Saka as a wide left player and I am not disagreeing, but Arteta has utilised him as the progressive CM in a three so we cannot ignore this.)
Could Said Benrahma be the man?
If Brentford, having faltered in front of an open goal of automatic promotion, do not make it up through the play-offs, Benrahma will not be the only Bee buzzing in the Premier League in 2020/21, but where is likely to end up? Well – Chelsea have been heavily linked, and I feel that may be if they do not land Havertz. The German is someone many Arsenal fans would love to see at the Emirates, but he is not in our price range nor can we offer him Champions League football. The Algerian, more likely to be £25-30m might just be within our budget after sales and Benrahma has much to commend him.
As I admitted at the outset, the tricky Algerian has predominantly played a freer wider role, but he comes in off the flank and much of his best creative work (and indeed his goals) come from central positions. I believe Arteta would relish working with such a player to make him the ‘8’ or indeed new style ‘10’ we desperately need. He has been linked to Arsenal and the player is flattered by the links and – whilst he would sooner play in the top flight with Brentford – if they are not able to win the play offs, I am confident he will not be a Bee next season.
Here are a few quotes from Benrahma, who whilst Algerian, moved to France aged 11 and grew up watching his heroes at Arsenal:
I used to watch when Cristiano [Ronaldo], Thierry Henry and Hatem Ben Arfa at Newcastle were playing.
Samir Nasri at Arsenal, too. Since I was a kid, I always wanted to play in England.
Here is a player, potentially in our price bracket, with 2 years thriving in the most frenetic and demanding league in Europe, who has scored 27 goals and notched 22 assists in two seasons at Brentford.
If you are not familiar with his talent have a watch and note there is much good work from central positions:
Can Arteta convert him to a more central player? Yes, to my mind he can because he has all the attributes to play there and it would be a freer role if there were 2 physical, disciplined CMs with him, which there would be. He is skillful, with a low centre of gravity, retains the ball effectively, used it wisely and can beat a man with ease if the situation suggests it. It is the latter quality we have missed. It is what Cazorla gave us, Jack initially promised , and Ox flattered to offer.
Best of all our Little Maestro, Santi, Benrahma is two footed, which is a rare (crazily) but hugely valuable asset in the role.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.