The One Player To Solve Arsenal’s ‘Creativity Dilemma’

With the arrival of Partey, Arteta has options as per my previous post. I would like to hear bloggers’ views regarding a thought I have been having re ‘our creativity dilemma’. I am a firm believer in sharing the key passes, pre-assists and assists between the team, but I can also see that one or two players are required who have a natural tendency and gift to produce the gem of a through ball, cross or lob that will break the deadlock, crack the defensive walls and make us whoop with joy.

It is quite possible that Mikel will go for a solid DM base with Xhaka and Partey forming that movable yet impenetrable wall that protects the defence and shores up our attack. The back up players would be Elneny and Ceballos, but both AMN and Willock will also have a chance to play in these positions at some point I reckon.

Say we go for a solid 4-2-3-1 to get the best out of the squad. I would like Arteta to try this and it may well happen, but we will have to see. The key and exciting question for me is who will play in the three behind the CF? And especially the one in the middle of the three is pivotal in terms of adding creativity.

There are three senior options right now, as I believe ESR or Willock not to be ready yet for this key position:

Auba on the left seems a given, even though I would also like to see him as our sole CF. Back up is Saka or, once he is fit again, Martinelli. Nelson can do a job there as well, and even Willian can play there. Plenty of options.

Pepe and Willian can play on the right, and so can Nelson. Once again, plenty of options.

But who to play in the middle of the three? A player with an eye for goal, work rate to support the ‘DMs’ in central midfield and the touch of silk in their boot? We all know that Ozil has not convinced Arteta to be in this team any more and I think we have to move on now.

For me the main options are (in no particular order):

  1. Ceballos
  2. Saka
  3. Willian

I would like to see Ceballos tried in that position. I think it is the one he wants most. He has the work rate and passing range, would be a good support to Xhaka and Partey and could make those vital blocks that lead to quick turnovers. Goals and assists are a work in progress for Dani so that’s a challenge. But he has that drive and desire to do well and will give his all till he falls over.

See the source image

Saka, oh Bukayo you play billiards with the ball at times. We are all so excited about this super talent, but where will we get the best from him? The man can do anything it seems. He has the workrate and stamina to help out the central midfielders, sublime passer of the ball and has started to score goals from inside and just outside the box. He can also take on a player and put in a peach of a cross.

Willian has all of the above mentioned qualities but offers experience on top of it all. And not just any experience… PL and CL winning experience, so a very strong candidate for the position if you ask me.

See the source image

I am torn between the three to be honest. What are your thoughts?

By TotalArsenal.

40 thoughts on “The One Player To Solve Arsenal’s ‘Creativity Dilemma’

  • The only genuinely creative player we have is Ozil. But we know that is not going to fly.
    If you watch the Sheff. Utd game you will see the type of game we are going to face when ‘lesser’ teams pack their formations, thus forcing us to be ‘patient’ and move the ball quickly from side to side. It is in these games we need genuine creativity. In other games against ‘pool or CIteh we adopt the role of the lesser team and absorb pressure before countering at speed. That part of our game is getting better and better, as results show. However its the Sheffield type games, especially away, where we will come unstuck. Even against Sheffield we nearly came unstuck when Luiz got caught by Burke.

    The good part of the first Sheffield goal was the movement of Elneny whose movement into the box at the right time (luck?) broke their lines and led directly to the goal. Question that time will answer is this a fluke or will midfielders/forwards be able to keep making these kinds of line-breaking movements. Ozil is a natural at this but its a rare skill – breaking lines with your movement and when you do not have the ball.

    My nightmare scenario is that Ozil leaves us in Jan for Shite H Lane – Mourinho and he still have a strong relationship I fear; a motivated Ozil working under a coach who ‘appreciates’ him in a decent team would be a nightmarish scenario indeed.

  • Knowing how Arteta likes all his players to help out defensively, I won’t mind seeing Partey as the lone holding midfielder in an old-school 4132 set up with Auba and Laca\Eddie up top and Ceballos in the middle with Willy and Saka\Pepe providing the creativity behind them. Ceballos has the engine and defensive determination to get back and support Partey when the opponents attack, creating a two-man defensive dmf when necessary.

  • My pick(s) would be :






    I’m not sayin’ all of them were easy choices – very, very small margins sometimes.
    Luiz’s lack of pace in a 4-2-3-1 worries me – a lot (I’m not forgetting how immense he was in the FA Cup last rounds, though), and the Rob-Gabe partnership has impressed me – and is about to impress many PL forwards, imo
    As for TA’s specific question, Dani is my first choice: the example of what he can/must provide is that one-touch through pass to Auba at the beginning of our second half against S.U.; it was so good I think the reason why Auba didn’t score is that he was surprised by it, actually. And when we have difficulty controlling the game, his “grinta” will be very helpful to Tom Vieira – Granit Petit – or so I hope.
    Really looking forward to the next games.

  • That is a good comment, Raka. I think Partey will make those sort of runs more naturally, but Elneny and Xhaka can do them too, even though it is not their natural game. For me, it is important that we dare to push those opponents back and then play the ball quicker as to find the gaps. But in the above formation we add a third midfielder who can make those runs too which we are missing at the moment.

    Re Ozil going to the dark site… Cannot see it happening tbh.

  • Interesting Dawud. 4-1-3-2 would be very attacking and I am not sure Partey is that sort of DM player, but it could work against the park-the-buses teams…

  • Cheers LeG,

    That was a good pass indeed. Not the sort of billiard ball Saka can produce but it showed quick thinking and I think you were right re Auba not expecting it! Ceballos it is for you then.

  • LeG,

    What I like about your first line-up is that It has creative passers and crossers on all sites. Tierney on teh left, Saka on the right and Xhaka, Ceballos and Partey(?) in the middle.


  • Thanks TA!
    Think we’re going to see a side of Ceballos unchained from his deeper duties. He’s got vision. Perhaps not elite– on the order of Mesut or Dennis. Sublime perhaps. Quite good in those tight spaces– and calm.

    Saw this reported:
    “So how did the Gunners find €50 million to spend on Partey? Writing yesterday for The Athletic (£), Amy Lawrence explained that owner Stan Kroenke “provided some funds…as a show of their confidence in Arteta.”

    May Mikel provide more– to release more– of Stan’s ‘confidence’.


  • Dani, Willian and Saka are the logical choices. However I’d love to see ESR given a run out in the cups, and Charlie Patino, too. He turns 17 next week, has a touch of the Jack and the Foden about him, and a left foot so good that he could be our next Liam Brady. A “bee that will court the flower” of the oppositions D.

  • A back four?

    We have been morphing into a back four in certain games at certain times but I’m not sure that Arteta will go full back four at Man City on the 17th especially as not having Tierney at left back is a big big problem, also the major reason issue of who would partner Gabriel in such a game in a back four is a worry? Luiz in a back four is an accident waiting to happen and Holding might find himself exposed in such a game as that. So I think we’ll stick to the tried and tested 3 4 3 for Eastlands with the prospect of Partey on the bench as he won’t have had a lot of time to train with his new team mates. It’ll be a fascinating game in any case and I’m really looking forward to it.

  • You are right Total, I is jumping…. 😄

    Deyan Iliev off to Shrewsbury on loan until January, he’s home grown so it doesn’t affect anything.

  • He is Macedonian and a goalkeeper Total, been at Arsenal since he was 17, he’s now 25 so give him a couple more years and he might get a game?

    Although I did watch a Russian language film on TV this evening, far more interesting than Nations Cup international football…

  • Such great points T, all very sensible. My first choices would be Saka and Ceballos, Willian doesn’t excite me there so much, but could probably do a job.
    You’re exactly right in mentioning Ceballos work rate, and for that reason, If we go with 3 midfielders, I’d use him against the toughest, most dangerous opponents, along with Xhaka, Partey, even Elneny. For some other games I’m dying to see Saka get to play there.

    I don’t know about our depth at fb/wb but I also want to see Ainsley get some midfield time, maybe in cup games or something. I see the potential in him that I don’t see in Willock. Eventually he can be a big upgrade from Elneny. Athletic with touch, silky player, who can do hard defensive work too.

  • Ah Kev, he may have Alexander The Great’s DNA then. I knew he is one of our keepers but must admit to not have seen him play. Hope that Russian movie gave you sweet dreams hahaha 🙂

  • Thanks J and good points too. Like you I see a lot of potential in Ainsley the assassin. It looked like we were selling him and that would have paid half of Partey’s fee, but then Arteta made a Boris Johnson-like U-turn and I am glad for it. WIllock has that Ramsey thing that he does not impress straightaway but needs a number of games to get into the groove. I am a big fan of him as I can see a good, natural footballer in him, but competition is high and he may need a good loan come January.

  • The Liverpool model is the one we should be looking to follow but I guess that Arteta being heavily influenced by his time with Pep will look towards the Man City model as the example and where he’ll probably take us.

    Liverpool don’t have an Ozil or a Hazard or an Aouar but they are stunningly efficient, usually and I’m not too sure that Man City have a single creative individual either, what both these teams have are a style that dominates the centre of the pitch, presses the opposition into their own third and quality players who all deliver for those on the end to finish. We need to develop that and with Partey we’ve hopefully taken a huge stride down that path.

    Tierney is a player who can deliver quality, Gabriel is an upgrade, his passing is very good and as Arsenal progress and dominate as the quality of the squad improves, you’ll see our players making those short sharp passes around the edge of the opponents box rather than our own.

    As for now I guess that Saka is our most incisive when it comes to finding runners through the oppositions defence, down the line Matt Smith has a sharp eye and a laser guided pass and Miguel Azeez is as close to a No.10 as you’ll find at the club but with an edge to his game that suits the Premier League.

    We actually have a whole clutch of highly skilled technicians coming through our academy and I know that being patient for what seems like forever, is impossible but I’d hate to see the potential of the likes of Flores,Cirjan, Patino and Hutchinson affected by a big money signing.

    If we were to bring in another quality midfielder I’d actually prefer a similar type to Partey so that we had two big, quality players who could dominate, you know a bit like Petit and Vieira….

  • “Ah Kev, he may have Alexander The Great’s DNA then.”

    😀 Dear TA, if you want a Greek invasion on the blog just to prove you wrong, you are on the right track. 😀 Remember what they did to Troy? Well, replace “Troy” with “Bergkampesque”.


    Midfield. I have to admit I’m excited about the prospect of getting the Hungarian midfielder Szoboszlai from Red Bull Salzburg as it’s been doing rounds on the blogosphere lately. He is 20, he knows to score, to pass and to run himself into ground with his work-rate. I’d rather have him at Arsenal than Aouar.

    Pbarany probably knows more about him than me though.

  • How do you really choose between three great players?!

    You could make the case for any of the three to be honest and I’ll share my arguments for and against each one (I know it’s not the point, but just wanted to add to your great work TA):

    Ceballos Pros: 1) Has the defensive work rate Arteta requires, 2) Has experience playing the creative role for Betis and Spain U21, as well as playing in a 4-3-3 and 3) Generally makes the correct decisions
    Ceballos Cons: 1) Operates better in a slightly deeper role where he can see more (i.e. 60 ft vs. 40 ft), 2) Slower than both Willian and Saka so not as naturally adept at driving the ball forward from the half spaces and 3) Less of a track record for goals and assists in any season.

    Saka Pros: 1) Can really pick out a pass and has the potential to have the best vision of all three options, 2) Has the pace and skill pick up the ball in half spaces and drive the team forward in the final third and 3)
    Saka Cons: 1) Inconsistent defensively and can be caught out of position, 2) Still relatively unproven and inexperienced playing as a CM and 3) Holds onto the ball too long sometimes and has traditionally received the ball from wide areas where there’s more time to make decisions, but that time and space won’t be as readily available in the half spaces, so he will need to learn/adjust

    Willian Pros: 1) Has experience playing at CAM in a 4-2-3-1, 2) Statistically the most proven of all three options and 3) Has the pace and skill pick up the ball in half spaces and drive the team forward in the final third
    Willian Cons: 1) I don’t think he has experience playing deeper as a CM in a 4-3-3 system, 2) Still developing chemistry with the team and 3) Has work rate, but I don’t consider him an all-action midfielder type for a 4-3-3 as he turned 32 and his “peak” athletic years are winding down, meaning that playing as a CM in that system would add further wear to his body.

    TLDR: Based on our analysis, if we are playing a 4-3-3, my answer would be Ceballos and slowly bed in Saka. If we are playing a 4-2-3-1, my answer would be Willian and slowly bed in Saka. This way, Saka gets time to learn the role without too much added pressure of being the main man right away.

  • Admir, Szobozslai is a fantastic talent, but one I would only deem necessary to bring in if Arteta and Saka both do not believe that CM is his ideal future position.

    Szobozslai has been trained in the uptempo Red Bull system that is perfect for a 4-3-3 system. He has a ridiculous track record for goals and assists in the Austrian league and is absolutely exquisite on the ball, especially in tight spaces. He generally plays at LW so his defensive work rate could be called into question if he were to play as a CM in a 4-3-3 (think more Grealish in that he will track back, but he’s not an all-action type midfielder).

  • “It is Saka, JW.”
    PL website shows– this season– Ceballos, Salah and Rodriguez all have 4 through balls– joint leading the league.


  • Great comment, HH. I agree with all of it but want to point out that Saka has to operate a lot in congested space both in defence and in attack, and he has really impressed me there.

  • Absolutely TA, Saka is such a smart cookie. I’m confident he’ll do anywhere on the pitch and that versatility is what makes him special. I had to put something down for cons or else it would have been unbalanced!

    He’s been quite remarkable creating from wide areas so I wonder where Arteta and Saka see his future. Wherever they both decide is the best fit for him, it definitely should be somewhere in the final third of the pitch!

  • JW, on the through ball stat…. keep in mind there is a huge difference in minutes played. Im guessing Ceballos has half the minutes of Salah or James. James has looked very good though, and Salah executed a gorgeous ball through 4 of our players recently, early Ozil-esque.

  • J– in addition, thinking that if we see Dani in a more advanced role– there’s more to come. His ability to navigate tight spaces is so good. Great touch.


  • JW, Dani does have that Spanish touch and flare. It’s why Madrid originally bought him, they always want the best Spanish talent. Somehow things went wrong in Zidanes view of him, but there is high ceiling, and I really believe Arteta is improving his overall play and responsibility as he has said.

    His midfield work makes me feel like I’m watching Ramsey so much, similar strides, average pace, tackles, turns to retain possessions, only changes in the final third where Ramsey becomes a striker in his mind.

    Prediction: Next summer, we will desperately need to replace him, or should look to buy him as first priority, especially if Zidane is still managing Madrid. Then Ceballos can push for the move to help a bit on the price. If they have a player that wants away, who they really don’t have plans for, which is obvious, that’s a good negotiating start for us.

    I also think some gooners don’t give him quite enough credit for performances mainly because he’s not our player.

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