I read two excellent whilst differing articles on Sunday, after Arsenal’s limp attacking display at Villa Park. Both were posing questions about Arteta’s strikers and while differing in their conclusions, the consistent message was that perhaps neither Lacazette or Aubameyang are the central striker the manager needs or wants for his team.
Given that the two individuals in question are two of the three highest paid players at the club, and one its captain, and has just signed a lucrative extended deal, this is a cause for consternation. Arteta has dabbled with 433 and 343, the latter bringing the trophy success at the end of last season but has now reverted to the 4231 with which he began. The problem is that neither striker is absolutely suited to the solo role in this formation.
Lacazette is being preferred at present because his hold up play and his link play with the likes of Smith-Rowe and Saka is exemplary at times. The give and goes and neat exchanges in the build-up are often slick and exciting as we witnessed in the first half last week at Wolves. However, what is lacking with the Frenchman is the killer instinct and desire to be on the end of this clever build-up. He either takes the wrong position, fails to find the space for the pull-back or get across the first defender. There are so many occasions where Arsenal’s attacking play is actually extremely good, and the final pass the correct one, but it does not appear so if the intended recipient is not where he should be.
Aubameyang is the opposite, only coming alive close to the opposition goal, but because he offers so little inclination to be involved in the early stages of the build-up which the 4231 requires, his chances of doing what he does best, scoring, are diminished. Perhaps the counter attacking style deployed in the 343, with him on the left spoiled Aubameyang, with the whole team set up to manoeuvre the ball to find him in space on the left to finish or at the least be left one on one. What is frustrating for me is that I know it is in his locker to play the role required as I have seen him do it. The Gabonese can drop and link, be involved in the build-up and then be there finish the move but this season when he has played the central role, he has failed to do so.
Adding to the problem for Arteta, is that his third-choice central striker, Nketiah, whilst having the willingness to lead the line does not have the attributes for it and also, out of the blue, Pepe is showing us that he will offer far more to the team off the left than Aubameyang. The Arsenal skipper, needs, in my view to do some swift soul searching. Does he want to lead the line in the 4231 or play from the left. Whatever he decides he needs to buck his ideas up and apply himself to the agreed role, or he, like the previous highest paid player at the club, might find himself almost unthinkably, out of favour.
I think many fans, myself included, wonder whether Martinelli might be the future in the role and some might be screaming Balogun. Time will tell on both, but what I have seen for the Brazilian speedster to shine centrally the system might need to be tweaked. I see him more as a Mane, Salah style wide forward and this might need Arteta to revert to 433. With Saka and now Smith-Rowe shining and with the addition of Odegaard, I do not see that happening soon.
The strange reality, or time warp I find myself in therefore, is I am about to say now, what I was saying 5 years ago – What we need is Giroud with pace! Arteta needs a player with the finishing ability as well as the hold up and link play so accomplished in the French World Cup Winner. The gap in Giroud’s armoury was his lack of pace, to add the variety offered by the ball over the top, at which Partey is so adept, and to always be on the end of the moves he so often started so brilliantly. Pace was the difference between Giroud being a 25 goal and season legend at Arsenal and a fondly recalled 15 a season man.
So, if Arteta want to persist with 4231, he will have to trade Lazazette and buy the superior model, slightly taller, more tenacious, and far quicker. Either that or he needs to have a heart to heart with his skipper. I fancy Arsenal will trade and invest and will return to Celtic for Odsonne Édouard, who I know Arteta admires. At 23 the Frenchman is the perfect age to blend into a young evolving squad and has all the attributes required. An outside bet might be to consider Lukaku, who knows the league very well and at 27 is approaching his peak years at a striker.
This is my full unedited version of yesterday’s Sun Football Fan’s Column.
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.