Saka to be the Alternative Internal Creative Solution to Houssem Aouar

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A creative solution within?

I wrote this on Sunday morning, but it has been on my mind for ages. Those who chat to me privately will know that I was never overly concerned about the signing of Houssem Aouar, not because I don’t admire him, more that I don’t see the pressing need. Yes, I acknowledge the lack of creativity, but I always felt that once Arteta had signed Partey, he would revert to a back four and the creative slot would be restored in the structure.

It is here I differ from most because I want the creative role to be taken by Saka or Willian, or ideally shared by both. I think a 4213 or 4231 allows this or equally I would be comfortable with Saka on the left on a 433 with Partey on the right and Xhaka or Ceballos sitting as deep playmaker. If Saka is advanced Partey can tuck in etc. I have long considered that Saka has the attributes to play an attacking midfield role and post lockdown, I think it was Brighton we saw Arteta play Bukayo there. The reversion to a back three for solidity served a purpose but sidelined one of our finest talents.


I Midfield 3 v Brighton in June

Those who follow my ramblings will know I have long harboured a desire to see a different style of CAM/10 to Ozil. I loved the German’s vision and passing but the modern equivalent needs to be able to beat a man and play in tight spaces around the opposition box. Saka has these attributes, and his display against West Ham only the other week illustrated this perfectly.

My concern would be the responsibility on one so young but I feel Willian, who has long wanted to play centrally (and did so yesterday with aplomb,) could rotate and that would not only allow Pepe to get the run he needs but also I suspect leave him less isolated than he has he has been  of late. (Sort of saw this in last 30 mins yesterday.) One could also add that both Wilshere and to a lesser degree Ramsey carried responsibility at 19. Those who wanted Aouar so badly will acknowledge the role I describe and believe the Frenchman was the man for that role. He may still be by 11pm tonight.


Can Saka fulfill Aouar role?

I have watched Aouar a bit in the Champions League and obviously watched the compilations but I confess I don’t watch Ligue 1 weekly so I will have to rely on experts who do.  What I mean by this is rely on the stats from WhoScored and I don’t mean just as simplistically as goals and assists.


2019/20 League Season Aouar Saka
Age 22 19
Minutes 1963 1755
Goals 3 1
Assists 4 5
Key Passes per game 1 0.8
Dispossessed per game 1.6 0.8
Miss controls per game 2.1 1.5
Key Passes per game 1 0.8
Tackles per game 1.1 1.4
Pass % 85 81
MOTM 1 3
Season Rating 7.02 6.65


Interesting to consider the analysis in which Aouar comes out marginally ahead overall and in some key areas according to the Who Scored analysis. However, given that the French technician played all season in his preferred position and Saka played a whole variety of roles including defensive ones, the comparison is actually quite compelling and makes positive reading if you believe as I do that Saka can take on the creative midfield role.

He is dispossessed less, which is key, his passing is almost as accurate and his key passes only marginally lower than Aouar, which one might expect as he played wider in the main. Saka’s control is tighter on average and if assists and man of the match displays are anything to go by, he has taken the game by the scruff of the neck more often, something Cesc used to do at that age. (We saw another MOTM display yesterday.) Saka also loses possession less which in the final third is important and judging by his superior tackling is likely to win possession back more, higher up the pitch, vital in the modern Arteta plan.

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MOTM today (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth – Pool/Getty Images)

I have only included the direct top-flight league comparison as the two players obviously played at different levels in Europe. However, Saka out-controlled, out-assisted and according to WhoScored outscored Aouar with respective overall ratings of 7.88 to 7.55. Of course, the Champions League is a far superior competition to the Europa, and this is to take nothing away from the young Frenchman’s exploits on Lyon’s superb run in the top table competition. This is not at all about proving that we have not been unfortunate to miss out on Aouar if that is indeed the case, more to suggest we do have a viable alternative option as a creative midfielder, which I hope I have done?

All this is however dependent on the signing of Thomas Partey, so fingers crossed for today!

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3 Responses to Saka to be the Alternative Internal Creative Solution to Houssem Aouar

  1. Blave October 6, 2020 at 7:21 am #

    Great post. I too have been wanting to see Saka more involved as his ability to beat guys 1 v 1 is so useful in generating chances. Obviously, you must be delighted with the Partey signing

  2. allezkev October 6, 2020 at 4:11 pm #

    Agree about Aouar and I’m saying this not in hindsight because I always saw Partey as the best option for what this team needed and I’m absolutely delighted that we’ve got him. Good post…

    Saka was alongside Aubameyang our most important signing this year, he is a wonderful footballer and he’ll now get the minutes he needs to fully develop rather than be stifled by sitting behind an expensive signing.
    It also opens up opportunities for Nelson to maybe get more exposure in the near future even if he still does go out on loan and long term there is Matt Smith who is really developing at Swindon whilst on loan who must now see more of an avenue for himself at the club.

    • Dave Seager October 7, 2020 at 11:48 am #

      My man Kev

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