#Today there was an insightful article on Football.london by former Gunnerstown stalwart Kaya Kayak. The piece reported that Gabriel Martinelli has been operating more centrally during Arsenal’s Dubai warm weather break.
After the Winter Transfer Window closed the Arsenal first team squad, without Balogun and more notably Aubameyang, finds itself with only 2 recognised central striking options for the remainder of the Premier League campaign. Both Lacazette and Nketiah, of course are also both leaving in the summer and have hardly been in the goals of late.
Obviously, we anticipate major summer activity in the attacking area and reports today suggest this, but Arteta still needs the team to find enough goals from now until May to secure European Football. Consequently, the reports that the coaching staff are seeking ways to get Martinelli, one of the most accomplished finishers at the club, close to the goal are to be welcomed.
The whole discussion is fascinating, but it could also be a backdrop for another conversation based on something I have suggested previously. Whilst accepting that in the current 4231 we need a Calvert-Lewin style replacement for Lacazette in the summer there might be an alternative to assess between now and then. And what if that structure allowed Martinelli, Sala and Smith Rowe all to play?
Stick with me as I talk through the thoughts. At present, ESR is coming on fresh mid-way through the second half and inflicting damage, but don’t we all want the Croydon de Bruyne in the team from the get-go? I know I do but I equally don’t want Gabi or Martin Odegaard dropped for him and no one is contemplating our team without Bukayo.
The problem, at least on the face of it, is that Martinelli is not the traditional centre-forward anyone envisages in the 4231. We have had the same issue with Aubameyang for years and played him nominally from the left and to win the Cup even switched to 343 to play to the Gabonese’s undeniable strengths. Arteta adjusted tactically in 19/20 to suit his star striker and although that ship has sailed perhaps the time has come to adjust or tweak to accommodate his best natural goal threat again, in Martinelli, It also makes sense to at least see how this may work before heavy summer investment.
Many believe that 442 or styles of the system that brought all Wenger’s early glory are outdated and cannot work in the modern Premier League. I am not convinced that is the case and we have actually witnessed Arteta deploy Aubameyang and Lacazette, with some success this campaign. For it to work, as it did for years for Wenger and indeed Ferguson, you have to have very talented but equally hard-working wide player and a second striker with vision perhaps.
Thierry Henry, like Gabi Martinelli was far from a traditional British style centre forward and yet Wenger’s Arsenal got the best from him as the main goal threat. Henry like Gabi and indeed Aubameyang at his best was most comfortable from the left but given a free role to essentially makes his runs where there was space and where he could inflict the most damage. Is it not worth seeing is we can do this between now and May? Surely it is a worthwhile gamble to see Arteta at least try this option.
Whilst not comparing eras or the ability of individuals, more their roles in the structure of the team, can you see the following? Join me in my fantasy for a moment and imagine that Partey and Xhaka are quite disciplined, or are asked to be, with one sitting at all times. In my dream Smith Rowe and Saka are Pires and Ljungberg. Creative, exciting, with a goal threat but equally willing to work hard for 90 minutes and support their fullback. Odegaard, a through ball maestro, as the withdrawn striker/10 as Bergkamp was and Martinelli as the main striker, with a floating role to find space and run in behind with his electric Henryesque pace and precision finishing.
Surely, we need to see the 4 young stars in the same team from the outset and for me this fluid 4411 is something I hope Arteta tries. It does not prevent the team resetting as the 4231 without the ball but will get best from Odegaard, as a high pressing visionary 10, give Martinelli the perfect role and allow both our homegrown English stars to flourish and play. If the system can work it might change the plans in January or the summer, or the style of striker Edu is charged to find.
In short, I know the modern game is about large squads and rotation, but Odegaard and Smith Rowe are very different players and I see no need for it to be either or with such talented footballers. So come Mikel, give us what we all want for Christmas and try the team with all 4 of our current stars together.
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