Arteta May Already Have The Attacker to Solve Arsenal’s Goal Drought

I did touch on this whilst scribbling my last post, so I’ll kick off with it this time as it may explain the changes we are currently seeing.

There has, so I’ve been informed, a wave of new thinking among the sports science community regarding the benefits or not of the rest and the rotation of footballers.
This new thinking seems to believe that it’s more beneficial for players to keep playing even during busy periods rather than resting altogether. Now this doesn’t mean starting and playing every game and it isn’t suitable for every player but in general it seems that it may be more advantageous for players to be coming off of the bench for 20 or 30 minutes and keeping themselves ticking over is the way to go rather than putting their feet up. As I say this may vary in terms of the position and physiology of individual players but it may explain the new policies being pursued by Arteta and Mertesaker.

I really enjoyed those League Cup games under Arsene Wenger as we often saw many youngsters given their first taste of senior football whilst our 1st XI got a well earned rest. The funny thing is that on many occasions after a rest our players instead of coming out all guns blazing in the next game after a break, would instead look a bit slow, sluggish and take time to warm up, it was something I never really understood.

Guardiola doesn’t take any game lightly and nor it seems does Arteta and so we may have seen the end of those grand old days when Wenger would rotate virtually the entire team with 9, 10 and sometimes 11 changes in games he viewed less important.
So far Arteta has picked close to a full strength team in the majority of our cup ties and most certainly has all his big guns on the bench. It’s led to some disappointment among those of us who enjoy the youth as we’d expected more youngsters to be involved, more new faces but that hasn’t been the case at all. Therefore, if Arteta isn’t going to give the youngsters the avenue they need for the first team then they need that experience somewhere else thus the 14 (now 13) players from our U23’s being sent by Mertesaker out on loan.

This has left our U23’s looking like an empty pot of tea and a soggy slice of toast and has meant some urgent recruiting was needed by BFG to try and plug the gaping holes in the squad. I quite expect to see more additions arrive in January most of them will be passing through but will hopefully do a job in the meantime whilst our more promising youngsters develop at Ipswich, Swindon and Oldham etc.

To me this goes a long way in explaining the poor results we’ve seen in the U23’s this season; whilst our U18’s, a settled squad, have played to their expected level. We have by the way a great generation who’ve moved up from last seasons U16’s, thought of as the best Arsenal have developed in many years, the opportunities they have in possibly an accelerated move up the ladder into the U23’s might be hugely beneficial to the senior squad in 2/3 years time, so let’s wait and see before we crucify Uncle Bouldy?

Scoring goals seems to be the major discussion point among Arsenal fans at present and there’s no doubt that attack is an area that needs some attention.

Coming up through the academy we have Folarin Balogun a striker who is fast, aggressive, strong, technically sound and has a great eye for a goal but whose contract expires in the summer. Arteta came to the Balogun scenario late in its evolution and is trying to smooth those troubled waters, but it’s not looking as if Flo will sign. Arteta gave Flo his 1st team debut vs Dundalk but as of yet there’s been no progress and we could be losing another Gnabry for virtually peanuts.

Nikolaj Moller was one of those summer signings brought in to reinforce the U23’s, but I suspect that he was someone we’ve been watching for awhile. Only 18 and from the land of Freddie Ljungberg, he is a tall, physical centre forward and he’s already leading the line in the U23’s. His style gives the team something different, a focal point to play off of and although it is very early days he has been compared to ‘I am Zlatan’ which is probably unfair at this stage of his career, but if he is anything like the ‘Great One’ then that has to be something to look forward to.

Further to the above, I’ve since seen some more highlights of Moller in action and he looks very strong, quite mobile for a tall striker and very technical, in fact for those with memories that stretch back to the George Graham era I would say that he reminds me style wise of Alan Smith and Smudge was a brilliant centre forward and a key focus of Graham’s attack,  he was key to those teams that won two championships, two domestic cups and a european trophy, so if Nikolaj turns out anything like Smudger then we’ve got a good one on our hands.

George Lewis is from Norway, he’s 20 and was spotted playing in the lower leagues in the land of the Fjords. He has pace to burn and has demonstrated that during the early U23 fixtures scoring at least one goal. Like Moller I’ve only seen snippets of him so it’s difficult to give a detailed opinion but from what I’ve gleaned via Jeorge Bird he’s promising (as is Moller) but also very raw. He’s currently injured and that’s not a good sign.

A bit further down the line Kido Taylor-Hart another tall forward who can fill in several attacking positions and into the 1st year scholars we have the exciting Khayon Edwards and Billy Vigar, both bring different qualities to the table but Edwards from what I’m hearing is the real deal. These lads are 16/17’ish so there’s a long way to go but it’s good to know that they’re coming along.

By Allezkev

23 thoughts on “Arteta May Already Have The Attacker to Solve Arsenal’s Goal Drought

  • Excellent post, Kev. Really refreshing and with some interesting observations.

    I think Arteta is keen to do well in Europe and be safe for the next round as soon as possible. This would allow him to rest players in the last two games and maybe we will see a few more youngsters getting a chance. December is a very busy month and injuries will play a part too, so let’s hope for some fresh young legs to enter the stage.

    I fully agree with the observation that rested players often underperform a week later and that keeping the momentum going seems to suit a lot of players. Key is perhaps to only let them play 60-70 minutes and that is why five subs would be much better.

  • You have roused my interest in these young attackers a lot. Would it not be great to see one or two coming through again. I still have high hopes for Eddie who I believe should get a chance in the first team now, on a 50/50 basis with Laca. A CF needs to work hard and score goals and that is why I was always such a big fan of Ollie (who scored another brace last night!!).

    It looks like we need to play Balogun more too if it isn’t too late already. Let’s hope he will feature in those last three UL games…

  • Thanks Total, the 5 subs was an astonishingly retrograde decision by the smaller Premier League clubs and ironically they’re now suffering along with the bigger clubs, unfortunately despite rumours of a review on that decision, there’s not been any positive developments yet.
    Stupid is as stupid does I guess…

    I really like Moller, he’s a bit of a nod back to your guy Olivier G and whilst it’s early days and young players coming through the ranks isn’t an exact science I just got good vibes watching the snippets of him, his delicate touch, his ability to control a difficult pass whilst under pressure his intelligence and the gift to keep things simple because so many players over complicate what should be the obvious. Let’s see where we are with him this time next year?

  • Yes Total, I agree, use the last three EL ties to give Balogun a run out, who knows, give him a start against Dundalk which is the last game. Having said that we need to take the next tie vs Molde seriously and put the group to bed, then Arteta can be a bit more experimental in the last two ties.

    I’m a bit nonplussed at to why Eddie has been so seemingly sidelined by Arteta in the Premier League this season whilst he’s gone with Lacazette all the time except once when he went with Willian? It could be that Arteta is going with this false 9 Hidegkuti type centre forward and that’s never Nketiah’s game, he’s a goal scorer and a goal hanger who needs to be fed and we’re not very good at that atm.

  • Great stuff Kev. If anything, what I’m gleaning from you commentary is that Per and Arsenal are looking for an archetypal center forward. Someone who might fall between Zlatan– and say Olivier Giroud (who had a brace for France vs Sweden 2 days ago)– but well north of Lord Bendtner (what comment on CFs is complete without a full cast of characters? 😄).

    The impression is that these young men are technical as well as physical. But physical is a good currency to have in the PL. Were Lacazette 6-foot or taller– we might be able to play a holdup style when necessary to shift gears without a change of personnel (which Arsenal really don’t possess ATM). Laca is a fighter no doubt (IMO his most endearing quality). But having perhaps a Danny Ings or an Alexsandar Mitrovic to capture opposing CFs concern– might make more space for the nimble guys.

    A shame about Falogun, if so.
    Do enjoy your updates on Arsenal’s youngsters– keep ’em coming.


  • You have a fine knowledge of our Arsenal youngsters Kev, and Per is just the right man to assess their ability. I have to think that without first team involvement their potential may just whittle away.
    Like many others I used to look forward to the cup games so we could get a view of them in action – but as you point out that appears to be a thing of the past – shame really.

    Thank you for the update and please keep them coming as few of us have your level of insight.

  • Kev, well written article with good details, and backed up by facts. For example, the new practice of Arteta and other managers about keeping their players constantly playing. I noted that in midweek games, when we had big weekend games coning up. Arteta was using the extra subs available to bring in our best players for some time near the end, nothing to do with game strategic situation. So that is definitely something he seems to want to utilize.

    Personally, I didn’t like to see it, because I imagine the rest time is welcome by our normal starters, and there’s plenty of training and fixtures to keep them fit and ready. As a player, I’d find it a bit annoying to have to warm up to come into a meaningless situation. Also, maybe a great effort on the weekend can earn a player a rest as reward. But Arteta is nothing if not stubborn. So we should all get used to the practice.

    Everyone seems to think the Balogun situation is a shame, like JW, because they rate him highly. It drives me crazy to see our talents go off and succeed elsewhere. Seems to be too late to keep him. I also think it doesn’t help us that Reiss Nelson was in a similar situation, we convinced him to stay, and so far, I don’t think its been good for his career. …. another example, is AMN, who could have left this summer for playing opportunities elsewhere. Now he often doesn’t make the bench in the league (though maybe for now he’s satisfied with cup and Europa games). But generally, not what a player with high self esteem wants to see.

    On Eddie, I agree with you that neither he nor Lacazette fit the way that Arteta wants to play right now. Not at all. Square pegs in round holes, and it’s really affecting theirs and the teams output, which then affects the players confidence in general.

    On Moller, when I see the few clips and descriptions of his play, instead of Zlatan, I have dreams of Haaland.

  • Good comments, Kev. We could really do with a CF who is a great header of the ball. Eddie is a bit better than Laca, but it’s not really his forte either. 😊

  • Earlier intuition was good– about adding Phil Foden to the MF (with Rice being the one I’d rather over Henderson), worked out well for Mr Southgate. ☺

  • Nice one J, yeah it seems that keeping players ‘warm’ so to speak is the new theory as you say and therefore we’re going to see an increasing number of our young players sent out on loan to gain senior experience unless of course they’re as talented as a Saka or Martinelli.

    I’ll do a piece on our loanees as soon as I’ve finished this decorating I’m involved in and I can get my brain in gear.

    I see that some bright spark over here wants to call fisherman by the term fisher person….
    You couldn’t make it up mate, I’m sure there’s more out than in….

  • Total, I think that it might be prudent, long term, to have Saka on the bench vs Leeds, give Niles the gig, we don’t want Bakayo getting Wilshere’d…

    Total I’d take Giroud back in January if we could get him on the cheap, finance it by moving on Lacazette…

  • Yes GN5, if I’m honest I’m enjoying our cup ties a lot more than our league games, I might be mistaken but it seems to me that Mikel lets them off of the leash a bit more.

  • Agreed Kev, Saka should not even travel this weekend. A Giroud return would be awesome, just to have the extra height and back to goal option. Maybe in the meantime we can play Luiz or Mustafi as ‘Holding CF’ 😜

  • Nice to continue the assessment of the academy, Kev.

    I’m not really familiar with the U18 setup. Probably Edwards is the main striker there, but there is enough time for the others (Plange) to go through. But the most talent we have there is in the CM/AM department – an interestingly similar story with the U23 team. The loss of Sam Greenwood was a major blow. That boy was really good. He didn’t mind playing AM/RW behind Balogun last season, but he lead the line effectively and clinically when he was the main attacker. And he was a dangerous free kick taker, too.

    It was great to read about the more senior attackers. I agree with your evaluation on Balogun (I really hope we can convince him to stay) and Möller. You missed John-Jules, who is on loan to Doncaster Rovers, and happens to be injured, but hopefully for a shorter stint than in last year.

    So we have indeed promising young strikers. Based on the games I saw myself, analysis’s on the players and opinion of Jeorge Bird this is the comparison I could make on our top 4 contenders
    – Eddie Nketiah: he is neither a dribble machine like Henry nor a hold-up master like Giroud/Lacazette, but he has great offensive positioning skills. And I don’t mean “for his age” or “compared to the other forwards in Arsenal”, but he has the best positioning skills I have every seen since Ruud van Nistelrooy. He scored a hell lot of goals for our U18 and U23 teams – as well as England U21 – most of them were tap-ins or close range headers. And I have no doubts, that he will score a lot of goals for Arsenal. Not many beautiful or memorable ones, though, if someone cares. When you see him score (his goal against West Ham is a perfect example, but probably any other would do) you would think: “oh, Lacazette (or myself) would have surely put that away, too”, but don’t forget, that there is a high chance that they wouldn’t find himself in that position with the ball. And Nketiah is probably the best when it comes to pressing the defenders and goalkeepers. I don’t think this is a skill, it is more like a combative determination and some physicality. So I rate Eddie really high for his unreal offensive positioning skills (including his offside awareness) along with his motivation to constantly learn from Arteta & others, and for doing everything in his powers to help the team on the pitch.
    – Folarin ‘Flo’ Balogun: he is the closest to Thierry Henry we have in our ranks. He is technically gifted, dangerous with both feet, capable of dribbling, he is indeed an all-around attacker. He can score when 1 on 1 with the last defender, and probably some when he is 1 on 2, so he can solve such situations alone (compared to Eddie, who I think would rely on somebody else’s support: a key pass or a cross). But quantitatively I say he would score less goals in situations where Nketiah would have no chance compared to those goals that Eddie could have scored but Balogun wouldn’t, so I don’t think his technical skills are objectively superior than Eddie’s advantage in positioning. However Folarin’s goals are more joy to watch, that’s for sure. He might be selfish at times (his assists this year are more often rebounds from blocks or the post than intentional passes), but that could change. I would love to see him staying, and become Eddie’s partner, complements, substitute. He only needs to be patient. Because irrespective of what happens to Lacazette, we have only 2,5 years left in Aubameyang. He can stay here and play for the U23 (and occasional in the EL/League Cup) for a year, and spend the last 1,5 on loan. Maybe in the PL, Bundeliga, or in the Championship. But if we sign Odsonne Edouard, than he have every reason to leave.
    – Tyreece John-Jules: if you think Lacazette has a high work rate, than take a look at John-Jules. He is the epitome of hard work, runs a lot and has plenty of defensive contributions. And a lot of offensive contribution too, as he has the most assists among our 4 contenders. He is not really suited as the lone striker, he is better in a 4-4-2 (or 3-5-2), and he will assist more than score. So in a way he is a bit like Bergkamp, whose superskill was (besides his ball control skills, his work ethics, his lobbing/chipping awareness & execution, and many others) that he brought the best out of Wright, Anelka, Kanu, Henry, etc. Tyreece scored a lot too for club and country, but his statistics don’t reflect the efficiency – and I’m afraid he has the lowest chance conversion rate among our young attackers, so the Bergkamp-comparison is not completely apt. I think he is a valuable member of the squad, but he needs to improve his finishing if he wants to be considered. His playing style would allow him to become the next Rooney or Totti, but it’s not only up to him: Arsenal needs a formation to field a secondary striker in the first place.
    – Nikolaj Möller: the dark horse (and the youngest) in this group, who only joined Arsenal 6 weeks ago. The jury is obviously still out, but the first signs are promising. He is often called the “next Ibrahimovic”, which does not only reflect of him being Swedish with a not-so-Scandinavian name, but also of Möller being rather technical and fast for someone who is 190 cm tall. He is not a 2m+ giant like Crouch, Veerman or Maierhofer, but still a big fella. He already has 4 goal contribution (scored 3 and assisted 1) in his first 4 games with Arsenal U23, which is more than he achieved in the 1400 minutes he played for Bologna U17 team (around his 16th birthday). He was unlucky last season as at 17 years of age he didn’t play a single minute in Bologna’s (U20) Primavera, so he joined Malmö U19 where we signed him for €500k (Ł450k) from. This looks like a shrewd piece of business so far, but let’s wait more than 4 games until we jump to conclusion.

    Anyway, in my opinion the club’s future in safe hands/feet with regards to attackers. But I don’t envy Arteta and the directors, as at some point they will have to choose whom to keep at Arsenal, when they have Aubameyang, Lacazette, plus the next van Nistelrooy, Henry, Rooney and Ibrahimovic. But before we chose among them based on our preferred legend, I must spoil the fun by saying Eddie is closer to Ruud than the others to their respective icons at the moment.

  • That’s some good analysis there PB, thanks for that and yes it’s a fine balancing act between the here and now or jam tomorrow…

    I mean Matt Smith for example has been ripping it up at Swindon, he’s 20 and is just at the stage where he could be introduced into the senior squad next season, but if Arsenal have invested heavily in some big midfield signing then what Chance has he got?

    Both Ballard and McGuiness have been very impressive whilst on loan but will Arteta give them a chance or splash out on the next ‘big thing’ next summer?

    It’s why I wish we’d kept Freddie Ljungberg because he always pushed the case for our own lads but now I fear that our academy boys don’t have that champion anymore…

  • Once again, superb post, Kevinski. It generates some fine comments too which is not easy during these interlulls these days!!

    New Post New Post 🙂

  • Fully agreed, Kevin.
    The fans constantly demand to splash the cash and compete with MU, Liverpool, Chelsea and City with marquee signings. But that is equally unfair with the top talent academy players as well as ‘low concept’ signings like Mavropanos, Torreira.

    I wish some kind of sytem in place in a summer transfer window stating that maximum 5 players can join the first team each year. Of whom
    – only one could cost over 40M (a.k.a. the designated star of the season)
    – one must be a low key signing (up to 10M) like Holding, Guendouzi, Martinelli
    – one must come from the Hale End Academy
    – only one can come on loan (unless there is an option to buy)

    So we would have to rely on scouts & analysis again. There would be a clear path to the first team for the top talents (the number of academy promotions could go up to 3). But based on our financial situation we can gamble with 10-40M signings like Mustafi, Leno, Gabriel, Saliba, or can go back to the Academy. Now everybody demands (!) signing Aouar, Szoboszlai, Edouard, Upacameno, without considering what would that mean on Torreira, Willock, Guendouzi, AMN, Nketiah, Balogun, Mavropanos, Balland and co.

  • Great point PB and how many times in recent years has the club paid out mega-money in transfer fees and contracts for such a paltry return?

    We have an awful amount of players on huge wages, who aren’t anywhere near performing to the level that we should expect to see for the money that’s going into their bank accounts – and I’m not talking about Ozil because in my mind he’s gone.

    In fact, I think there is a general malaise among many footballers these days, where the copious amounts of cash they earn has I believe dulled their desire to give 100%.
    I know this has been thrown at footballers before but I really think it’s actually a reality now!

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