In recent columns I have argued that Arsenal Skipper, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, can play the central role, in Arteta’s preferred, though flexible 4231. In my own mind I have been weighing up what he offers in the role and comparing it to what Lacazette offers and, in truth, trying to convince myself that our Gabonese talisman edged it.
Admittedly the thought process will undoubtedly have been influenced by the fact that the club has committed to Aubameyang and him to them, on an extended contract with a high wage attached, whilst Lacazette, seemingly has not been offered a new deal. No Arsenal supporters want to see another Ozil situation on the horizon, so I am sure most would love to see a happy Auba, smiling on the pitch and scoring for fun. However, this is perhaps not the player we have at present.
Against Tottenham and again in the second half comeback at the London Stadium, Lacazette illustrated quite clearly the attributes required of a sole striker in this formation, with excellent hold up play, the ability to bring the three players behind him into play and crucially an incredible work ethic. Aubameyang can do this dirty work, when he puts his mind to it, and he is clearly a more accomplished finisher that his French teammate, but he had not shown that he is willing to do the less glamourous side of the role consistently. Jumping for headers he may not win, chasing down lost causes and leading the press are firmly NOT phrases you would associate with Aubameyang.
Of course, these are not his strengths and the simple answer, and perhaps the answer last season, was to evolve a system, or way of playing that simply played to his attributes. After all we have seen Arteta do this with the lopsided 343 last season to great effect. Graham forged a team designed simply to get the ball to Ian Wright, however unattractive that may have been and Wenger, did it latterly for Henry one might argue. In all cases, setting up the team to service a lethal finisher worked to a degree, but in all cases, it made Arsenal less attractive to watch.
Moreover, something else has changed for Arteta since last season that will have changed his thinking dramatically. In the past for Wenger, Emery and Arteta, it was relatively simple to set the team up to play to Aubameyang and Lacazette’s strengths, by playing the French striker up top and Aubameyang from the left. So, what has changed to prevent Arteta, reverting to this plan, as we saw him do at West Ham?
What has changed is the emergence of Smith Rowe, the arrival of Odegaard, the amazing consistency of Saka and the pressing claims of Pepe. The first three particularly, move the ball quickly around the edge of the opposition area and a striker they can run beyond for a flick around the corner, or a quick give and go, makes Arsenal more effective, so Lacazette works better. Add to this that placing our skipper back on the left, will lose one third of the creativity and vision in the three behind the main striker.
The dilemma for Arteta therefore seems to be how to find a way to fit his captain not the starting 11, without lessoning the effectiveness of the team as an attacking force. He has too many top-class creative influencers to not use them, but can he find a way to get Aubameyang’s goal threat into the team, without impacting the fluidity. Even the simple things that can be easily overlooked, like how Smith Rowe and Saka as inside forwards allow their fullbacks to bomb beyond them are now crucial in how Arteta wants his team to play.
Without doubt our young Spanish deep thinker has some new deep thinking to do in the coming weeks. Either he needs to sit his captain down and explain what more he has to do in either role and make a decision on which, from the left or as the sole striker, or the alternative is the one that would have been unthinkable at the end of last season. Of course, it is not Arteta’s role to negotiate contracts, it is his role to produce a winning team. However, to have the club’s highest earner and captain on the bench as a game changer, so soon after the Ozil debacle is a huge call for a young manager to make. I watch with interest so see how this plays out.
This is the full unedited version of yesterday’s Sun Football Fan’s View
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.