It was quite interesting that we saw so much focus on the Arsenal of the future and the signing of so many young players this season, but in the past few weeks the most prominent signing of the summer has played a small role.
I don’t necessarily agree with all of the arguments about our team selection at Anfield on Saturday that give us a chance to see what the new guys can do because the reality is that most of them are now first choice players anyway. Aaron Ramsdale is our number one goalkeeper; Takehiro Tomiyasu is first choice on right-back and Ben White is the same in the middle half. In midfield it was Albert Sambi Lokonga, whose future is assured, ahead of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, about whom there are still doubts.
As a left-back, Nuno Tavares was preferred over Kieran Tierney and maybe it was a decision to judge what he’s made of in a big game, but I think it was more that he performed well and didn’t “deserve” had dropped. I thought he was fine, but the mistakes and the resulting impact on him were a by-product of his inexperience. While I think it was a game too far for him, there is no doubt that he has an exciting outlook. The errors displayed shouldn’t take too long to iron out his game, so he shouldn’t be criticized. I just think Tierney is the better option right now.
In the last few weeks, Alexandre Lacazette jumped ahead of Martin Odegaard in the pecking order. The Frenchman hadn’t played much until the Crystal Palace game where he was substituted on, really adding something to the hectic finals and getting a late, late equalizer to get something out of the game. Since then he has started every Premier League game and banished the Norwegian to the bench.
When you pay Real Madrid £ 35m for a playmaker, creative, attacking midfielder and someone with a real reputation, you expect that player to be on the team almost immediately. However, it’s fair to say we haven’t seen the best of Odegaard this season. I don’t know if there was an injury mistake or something behind the scenes, but other than his game-winning free kick against Burnley, he didn’t reach the level I expected.
It’s still the beginning of the season with only 12 Premier League games played and there will be a lot of football by May. There is a short term nature in football analysis these days that is actually quite funny. The situation in Tavares / Tierney is a case in point. After the Portuguese came in and played some good games, they couldn’t win for the “Is this the end for Tierney?” Things, and after Tavares had a difficult night at Anfield it was too, ‘Doesn’t that show Tierney is the real King ?!’ Things.
It’s understandable because while soccer clubs, managers, technical directors, plans and strategies can all be part of a medium / long term cause, soccer itself exists in the short term. In 90 minutes everything positive in the world can be turned into negative and vice versa. It can be hard to part with, take a step back and look at things objectively.
So if we are building a team for the future – what is the plan we all believe will be implemented at Arsenal – is it time to really embrace it? Do we have more of it when Martin Odegaard is on the pitch than Alexandre Lacazette? Obviously, the manager likes the connection between Laca and Aubameyang, two great friends who have a relationship and understanding. There’s also no doubt that Lacazette brings some physicality to this role behind the striker and uses his body well to win free kicks.
But I don’t think it’s enough for a player in this position. This role is important for connectivity and allows attack movements to continue / flow when we reach that area of the opposing half. He can do a lot on the ball – he played the night’s best pass at Anfield on Saturday to give Auba a chance – but I think he doesn’t have enough craftsmanship. For example, against Watford, a game we dominated in terms of possession (61% possession), he only made 12 passes out of 19 attempts.
There are also fitness problems. In the four starts he played 68, 58 ′, 69 ′ and 67. Odegaard was his replacement in every game and for me he had an influential role in the game at Leicester by helping to ease the pressure in the second half and against Watford he would have made the game with a really nice goal, if it weren’t for Aubameyang’s stupid desire to catch up on his missed penalty.
The bottom line for me is that Lacazette hasn’t scored or assisted in the four starts he’s made lately (he won a penalty but we can’t give a striker the stupidity of Danny Rose in wrestling ascribing). I’m not saying he didn’t help but this is a team that is low on chances and goals and in that respect he did not make the impact one would want a player in that role to have. So if we play Newcastle on Saturday and really have to recover from our Anfield defeat, I hope we can give Odegaard the job. Again, he’s not been great this season, but he’s 22 and we’ve invested in him over the next five years; Lacazette is about to be out of contract and will be leaving next summer.
There is still football for him, if Auba joins AFCON he will be the obvious replacement but he has had a chance in the past few weeks and has done well. Nothing more than that for me. As a team I think we need more and if we were convinced we were going to pay Real Madrid £ 35m for Odegaard after having had plenty of time to get to know him last season, he is the obvious choice. He’s got to step up and do more, no doubt about it, but if we really want to embrace the future, we’re doing it completely, not a little, because we stumbled upon something that was only usable by a couple of games.
Well, let’s leave it at that for now. Your opinions / comments are of course always welcome in the ass. I suspect this might be a busy one today!
Catch yourself tomorrow.