8 Observations: Arteta’s Saka Masterstroke, The Wall of Wolves, Pepe’s Nightmare, Who is Going to Miss the Boat?

Three wins in a row give us wings. It is easy to think positive now and there is no doubt that we have something to build on. But what has changed, and what are the positives that could be regarded as structural?

Eight Observations from a glorious week of victories and some excellent football:

  1. Obviously the biggest change has been our formation: from 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1. You may say, ah it is just a change of formation and we are overstating the importance of it, but I would politely disagree. The previous formations isolated the three departments of defence, midfield and attack. As a result these had become almost self-sufficient and it just did not work. The team were focused on making attacking breakthroughs via the wings and opponents had sussed us out – we were just so vertical, one-dimensional in our attacking efforts. There was hardly a way through and as soon as we lost the ball we were very susceptible to counter attacks. Our midfield was often outnumbered, our defence left with too much space and too many opponent players to deal with, and our attackers were outnumbered and poorly fed. Something had to change.
  2. The beauty of 4-2-3-1 is that we can play like a harmonica: stretch ourselves out safely when we attack and become compact again when we are defending. The large numbers in midfield, effectively four or five, help us to do the ‘harmonica-ing’ effectively. We now have two walls – the two and the three – in midfield and they give us real balance and compactness, supporting both the defence and our sole attacker up-front. I think this really suits Arsenal’s history or, if you want, our DNA; and I think it is important for the team to reconnect with Arsene’s legacy. The idea of two defence minded midfielders and three attack-minded ones behind a sole attacker really seems to be making all the difference now. The ‘Three’ all have good engines and can defend, pass, control the ball and assist and score. The two at the back can also join the attack but their main role is to keep the pressure on behind the attack and deal with any loss of the ball as soon as possible, allowing the attackers to join the midfield and help regain the ball and start the next attack. They also have to cover for the very attack-minded full backs. It really has been both effective and at times very easy on the eye. But most importantly, it has led to a shift towards more efforts by us on target and just one goal conceded in three games. Early days of course but this formation change looks really good.
  3. In our new formation we have effectively two blocks of players: the block of four and the attacking six. Both interchange with each other depending on what is required. The block of four are the two CBs and the two defensive midfielders, supported by the keeper (often as a sweeper). They are mainly focused on defence but now and again one of the them can get involved in supporting the attack. This is often one of the DMs who is allowed to push forward. Xhaka had that role against the Chavs and Ceballos was our most advanced player v Sam’s Brommers. But the most important thing is that the DMs play mostly in line with each other and form a wall that will not be passed easily. The CBs Holding and Mari have been very effective and so have been Xhaka with either Elneny or Ceballos. There is nothing too fancy about them but they keep the machine running for 90 minutes and make us very solid. A fit again Partey and Gabriel will make the deeper midfield and central defence areas even stronger.
  4. Moving Saka to the right was a masterstroke by Arteta: it strengthened that side enormously and simultaneously freed up the Tierminator on the left. As a result we now have two wings that function really well. Auba/Martinelli work well with Tierney and Hector is working well with Saka. Bukayo is much more two-footed than I thought he was and what a revelation he has been on the right, with beautiful passes, goals and an assist to his name over the last three games. And the same goes for Tierney on the left who has been simply brilliant over the last few games. Paradoxically, but taking away the wing positions in the classical 4-3-3 formation as well as in the 3-4-3 positions, we have actually got much better wing-play now.
  5. The young players have taken their chances with both feet and thus reinvigorated our game. Arteta cleverly placed them in the ‘Three’ together and they have enjoyed themselves tremendously. The experienced players just could not find form and so mixing it up was a clever move by Arteta. Martinelli, ESR, Tierney, Saka, Bellerin and Laca are really thriving in this new system, but it is the youth revolution that has made such a big difference. We now have a Wall of Wolves hunting down the opposition and cleverly combining to break through the opposition’s defensive walls. Especially the (re)introduction of both Martinelli and ESR have given the team the much needed spark.
  6. This change of system is making some early victims. Auba, a pure panther of an attacker, is finding it hard to find his feet in the wolves-pack. His natural instinct to )wait for the ideal moment to kill and then pounce is being compromised by the need to work with the other wolves and supporting his buddies on the left side of attack. I think he will come good again, but it is a challenge for him no doubt about it. Pepe may find it really hard to get into this team and Saka’s recent move to the right is his worst nightmare. I am less positive about his ability to force himself back into the team; maybe he can be the sole CF but competition for this role is stiff. Willian too will have to work hard to get back into the team but as he can play in any of the ‘Three’ positions I am less worried about him. Furthermore, Eddie also has to be careful not to miss the boat now. In fact, all young players have all of a sudden a clear idea of what is required of them in order to make it at Arsenal. This may be frightening for some and especially those close to making it into the first team – AMN, Willock, Nelson, Ceballos – will know that the next five months could well be decisive for their careers at Arsenal. The next lot of talented youngsters may just be able to grab one or more chances, and this will be exciting to watch.
  7. Laca has started to score goals again and it really looks like this new system has given him a new lease of life. Three goals in 1.5 games is very impressive but it is his enthusiasm and connection with the attacking midfielders which has been especially good to see. Laca is on fire again and the big question is who of the young players can stand in for him if and when he cannot play? Is this a chance for Balogun or Molder to make a claim or is it a role that would also work for Eddie?
  8. Arteta deserves a lot of credit. He took a lot of stick but he has found a way to make our team play really good, often beautiful, football using the players much more effectively than before. Was he forced by circumstances like Allezkev has been suggesting? Did he get some tips from his former master Pep after the humbling League cup defeat? Or did he have a Eureka-moment all on his own? Whatever it was Mikel had to implement it, and boy have we seen change of fortunes in the last week!

By TotalArsenal.

52 thoughts on “8 Observations: Arteta’s Saka Masterstroke, The Wall of Wolves, Pepe’s Nightmare, Who is Going to Miss the Boat?

  • Thanks for this, insightful and articulate. The 4,2,3,1 formation is how we play here at Kerikeri AFC (so it must be right 😉).

    The time difference between you and I led me to miss posting this answer to your question…
    Total, the newly formed Czech Government and the National Churches invited us over to lecture in schools and universities and establish ACET (AIDS Care, Education & Training) in both Czech and Slovakia. Your geography is bang on, Znojmo was an hour north of Vienna. Got up north a lot with our itinery. A magnificent country. Are you leaking a bit of Dutch heritage with your use of “apple and egg”?
    I have a deep soft spot for Mesut’s artistry, his vision on the pitch is God given, tho’ give me a fit Rosický any day. And his world vision which expresses compassion for the Uighurs is admirable, but he exhibits a blind spot when it comes to Turkic human rights abuses, and similarly on the pitch he seemingly lacks a perception of the team ethic Mikel is encouraging. I would love to see him buy into that, come back and support the development of ESR, even if just for the next six months. He may already be doing that behind the scenes.

  • You all covered almost everything the past day since the match. I’ve only seen the first half so far, but i agree with so much thats been mentioned… a couple disagreements with the fandom also.

    I’m so glad everyone is pointing out Ceballos. To me, he was driving the whole game, regardless of stats. He kept everything moving, what he did, Elneny could never come close to. (Xhaka was good too) He’s not speedy enough to break down defenses running, but just enough, and mobile to move himself into better position to find a pass or through ball. The effort is also there in his defending, impressively. I’ll go out on a limb… if we don’t sign at least 2 good midfielders, I’d look to keep him. He’s at least proven tough enough for the premier league.

    I’m shocked at how different a player Saka is on the right. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s part technical and part confidence, but also being a winger rather than wingback may have helped a bit to free him.

    Listened to youtubers call the game live and reading fans comments. I’m sick of the attacks on PEA. At least in the half I saw he was working very hard on both ends and coning close to chances. I heard he was defending hard in the final minutes too. People are just too harsh in general. We have just started playing attacking football these past 2 weeks. Give the Guy a chance. People are so reactionary.

    TA, you and I were right that Lacazette would be most effective against big Sam’s team, but I didn’t think theyd be that easy. Clearly he hasnt had time to drill them enough, im glad this fixture came before he does.

    Lacazette I’ll think to use more against park the bus teams. But there’s one other thing nobody is mentioning…. these starts and performances may also be that he’s in the shop window. For his own next move personally, or for the club to get more for him. I like him enough to extend, but not sure what the plan is.

    Also T, PB, , I have to say I’m totally with PB on the Willian thing, but it’s now water under the bridge.
    I’ll be satisfied from now going forward to use him as an experienced player off the bench. I didn’t like the expenditure, but that’s done. At his age, 90 minutes is too much anyway, to get his best. As long as he doesn’t become a problem case because he’s not first choice, he can become a real asset mentoring younger players and setting a good example. I really hope he can become that. Then it will be much less of a bad signing. Let’s get some positive out of him.

  • A number of good points TA. Two, I’d like to expound on. One of them, I’d been wondering throughout the Streak of Dearth– was why wasn’t Saka being deployed on the right and further from goal? During the successful stretch last Summer when the left were manned by Tierney (CB), AMN (LWB) and Auba in the 3-5-2 — Saka played the RWB spot.
    At times facilitating the attack on the left, with switching cross-field passes to Auba or AMN. Expanding the pitch. Alas, we found that in a 4-3-3 — all of our best attacking types were crammed into that northwest corner of the pitch. Where a back line of defenders could focus almost exclusively. Seems so easy to see now. But that stubbornness to continue for so long in that formation with those personnel– was costly.

    On the second point– reintegration of Pepe and Willian (and Eddie too) into this new and exciting style. Pepe, just a poor fit at Arsenal. Not his or the manager’s fault (but Raul’s). Best, quickest resolution is amenable. Willian, can fit in and play in this style. He gets his minutes where they can be found. Always felt he was signed to be a professional example to the youngsters– and an insurance policy if needed– were The Kids another season away from the first XI. Also stunted by the manager’s insistence to put square players in round positions. Willian will be fine. To be fair, the team have better depth with him as a backup. Something I’d hoped would happen organically by the end of this season. Actually, don’t see Willian as Saka’s understudy on the right– but Reiss Nelson (also foreshadowing Pepe’s departure).

    (Here’s where I’ll toss in a one-off. A ‘what if’. After Thomas Partey returns? What if he were partnered with Gabriel at DCM. Big, fast, physical. Good through passer. A passing parallel to Vieira and Gilberto. Would allow the Holding-Mari pairing to continue too.)


    The Athletic ‘reports’ that Frank Lampard’s job is in jeopardy. That the owner has been reaching out possible replacements. Seems one-year overachievers are darlings. Give ’em 300M to ‘accessorize? That darling better be near top-of-table in a wide open PL field. Maybe we see Jose back at Chelski in the Fall? 🤣


  • Cheers J.

    I think Ceballos had a good game, but see no use in comparing him with Elneny. They are different players and combining their skills into one would be ideal… that man is Partey.

    Good defence of Auba and we just have to let the haters hate. Luckily, on this blog everybody is balanced about Pierre. Being unhappy about his performance is okay; turning it into hate is not.

    The idea of Laca playing so well because he wants a move or new contract is interesting. I just think he is playing with much more freedom and purpose now.

  • Thank you, JW. Moving Saka to the right is just great. So much more balance and thrust in the team now.

    A Gabriel-Partey midfield… Let’s give it a try!

    Selling Pepe would be great. I will cost the club but it seems to best thing to do. They got this badly wrong I fear.

  • I get it T, Elneny has plenty of uses, especially against big club attacks. Of course against 5-4-1 and Allardyce tactic teams like yesterday, we need more help in unlocking, so we’ll want more Ceballos ability. The example I was more thinking of, would be a team like Brighton. I wouldn’t want Xhaka with Elneny in a case like that, and many others I can think of. The proper description for Elneny is useful, but limited. Could also be great off the bench with a lead, or even emergency defender. If Torreira doesn’t come back, I’d want to keep him for sure.

    I’d like us not to rush back Partey. We saw what happened the first time. Give him extra time to heal.

  • Yeah let’s give Partey time, J.

    I prefer a solid midfield and three attacking midfielders in front of them, as per the post. SO I would play two of Xhaka, Elneny and Partey in most games. I fully understand that you prefer to play Ceballos in certain games, and you have explained yourself very well. 🙂

  • Really enjoyed that post Total, yeah circumstances but also Arteta could have gone even more safety first when he lost Aubameyang, Gabriel, Luiz and Willian vs Chelsea, but he went for it and credit to him for that.

  • I don’t imagine that Arteta will go full Wengerism rotation vs Newcastle because that’s not the Guardiola way, but I’d love to see Azeez on the bench because I see him as the next Smith Rowe tiptoeing through our midfield and I reckon that he might be around the 1st team squad next season…

  • Fantastic piece TA, two more points from me.
    1. What i have seen in the last 3 games is the one touch passing and not belaboring on the ball wen you see movement in front of you. Case in point first time pass from Ceba to Saka releasing him and then the cross which Auba couldn’t connect. Another example for the second goal when the triangle of ESR,Saka and Laca each time playing a first time pass and move to create that beautiful goal. In this system its very important not to take that additional touch when you have people moving into spaces.
    2. Regarding the possible option to buy someone in Jan. iam very nervous about the Goal keeping position. If Leno gets injured, we are in big trouble. We need back up in this position. Midfield is also a must, but we can have a short term solution of ESR and Mesut till end of the season. Also not a bad plan to induct someone (Azeez along with Willock) from academy for cup games and Europa to backup ESR and Mesut. Goal keeping dept needs depth that we we are lacking. Its monumental to ask Leno to play all games (League, Cup and Europa) till the end of the Season.

  • Hi Madhu, good comment. Agreed on the one touch passing and the exquisite second goal. It was great to score two from the left, one from the right and one through the middle. Having the numbers in the box and being able to hold on to the ball is key, as well as the passing of course.

    Agreed re goalkeeper situation. A good nr2 is a priority.

  • Morning all,

    Here are the results of last weekends competition:-

    For the weekend:-

    1st Gooneris, Total & PB with 4/6 plus 1.33 bonus points
    4th GN5 & JWL with 3/6 plus 2 points for correct score
    6th Kev with 3/6
    7th Le Gall with 2/6
    Season to date:-
    1st Kev with 66 points
    2nd Gooneris with 60.33 points
    3rd JWL with 48.33 points
    4th PB with 47.66 points
    5th GN5 with 46 points
    6th Total with 42.33 points
    7th Le Gall with 20.33 points

  • According to Charles Watts, Saliba is off on loan to Nice with no option to buy.

    Slowly trimming down the squad and potentially some of those unhappy campers!

  • Reported in The Independent, Arsenal are offering either Reiss Nelson or Joe Willock– plus cash– in a swap deal for Emi Buendia. Seems a good deal on both sides– and a starting spot for either of the Arsenal players mentioned.

    On another note, BHA allowed their former starting GK Matt Ryan to leave on a free. Seems a look might be warranted.


  • Madhu, TA, our nr2 keeper worries me a lot too
    His latest cameo was a farce, I’m afraid the next one will be tragedy
    I never saw him play, sbut I keep wondering how bad Macey can be to deserve his current treatment
    On the other hand, today’s “L’Equipe” mentioned the termination of the contract between Saint-Etienne and Stéphane Ruffier
    Ruffier is 34 now, but he has fabulous qualities, he would have been Lloris’s backup in the French national team ahead of Mandanda, had he not refused the position (he said something like “nr2s in national teams are there only to warm-up nr1s”)
    He’s a strong-headed character indeed, has difficulty speaking in more-than-3-word sentences, and I don’t think I ever saw him smile, but … the number of times I’ve seen him come up with truly miraculous saves is just uncountable; the difference with Vi – Blunder – King is immeasurable; signing him now would be a very clever move imo
    As opposed to that, jw1’s news about Reiss/Joe/Buendia just depresses me
    Were it true, we would just be throwing two of the finest elements of a Golden Generation out the window. I’d really want to know who are the one who will fill their pockets out of such s..t piece of business
    When will we learn? All great clubs were built on such a generation, to which were added one or two very clever (and expensive) buys. Should Reiss and Joe leave us, we would just become another Ajax, or Lyon, who have given up any real ambition, and have turned their academies into cash machines for their shareholders. How could we strike such a deal when we already have Pépé, Willian, and Mesut on our payroll?
    I read all the more-than-clever-comments byPB/HH/Kev/TA on our WBA game. I have nothing to add, really; I think Mikel has come up with the right formula, whether it be by chance or genius. Provided all our lads were fit our first team will be
    (with Mari/Martinelli ready to jump in, of course)
    But it’s our backup XI which will tell us what this club’s really up to, if they’ve learned from their mistakes – nobody can be blamed for making mistakes, not learning from them, well … you shouldn’t be making decisions for The Arsenal Football Club
    This “B” team should be
    (keeper nr2 – anyone but “you-know-who”)
    Nketiah (Balogun – the only signing I care about)
    This might look harsh on Soares-Pépé-Willian, and most of all on Mo’, but the Hale End kids are our present and future, what more do they have to do to convince everybody, I wonder …

  • LeGall, it would potentially be a loan the other direction for Nelson or Willock, not confirmed to be a sale yet. It’s also just a rumour, so I wouldn’t look too into it yet.

    There’s also the fact that Buendia is just significantly better than both. He’s created more chances than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season and was 4th most chances created in the prem last season. He was also third highest in the prem last season for successful tackles in winning the ball back. If there’s a player that’s going to potentially transform your team, you always make that deal.

  • Well LeGall, it would only be one of the two (Nelson OR Willock)– so your angst or anguish might be divided in two at the least. And this might be of interest:


    Buendia is just 24 years. Consider many of Arsenal’s most creative midfielders have historically not risen from the youth ranks. Buendia also has PL experience with 1G/7Asst last season for Norwich last season.


  • TA, always enjoy these observations posts, cheers! Love how you are almost always positive too 🙂

    Some additions to your observations:

    For #1, we often played the 3-4-3 in the absence of not playing a CAM. Arteta tried Willock there, but he’s not yet ready or a good fit for that role. Joe seems like an 8 to me, but I’m still not yet convinced he’s top premier league quality and would do well with a loan.

    For #2, the 4-2-3-1 only works with a hard working CAM like ESR (or Buendia if we get him). If you put Ozil in the same role, you effectively lose the work rate and pressing up top and the two DMs are responsible for even more than they already are defensively.

    For #4, it really is a damning assessment of how poor a transfer the Pepe deal was. It will end up being the worst deal we’ve ever made pound for pound. I can’t see a way back into the ideal starting 11 for Pepe at this point. Saka is miles better than him at RW, as is Martinelli at LW.

    For #5 and 8, I’m hoping Arteta has learned his lesson. He was making awful lineup selections week after week in our slump and it shouldn’t have taken 7 games for him to finally play ESR at CAM. He’s a rookie Manager, so he gets a break, but I’d imagine we’d be anywhere from 2-6 points better off at this point had he made the changes sooner.

    Yes Arteta should get credit for sticking with what’s been working and for having the bravery to finally start ESR when he could have easily selected another veteran in his place (same with Martinelli who just returned from injury). I would also give credit to Arsene, as he instilled a certain style of play in the academy all those many years ago and now we’re seeing the fruits of those labours!

  • Well, I can watch champioship games on beinsport here, i’ve seen him play, lads, and he’s a good player indeed, there’s no denying it, but … we just don’t need him
    ESR’s just settlin” in (and brilliantly so), why bring competition to him now; I thought the idea of reintegrating Mesut as Emil’s backup (and master to apprentice) was just fine
    As for Reiss/joe, at least before considering loading them off, let’s give ’em a proper chance, which hasn’t been the case so far; I’m thinking of Joe in particular who has always done well in positions that are not his, who is our best midfield goalscorer, but who’s never been picked in his favoured BtoB (Aaron’s) position. he has to be given a run of games there, and if he doesn’t provide, then he might be shown out, professional footbal’s is not Maya the Bee’s universe, I know that
    I’m not against buying, mind you, and I have nothing against the lads I feel like sidelining; but the money we spend on exetending 30+ players contracts, or signing slightly-above-average players as backups, will be needed when we have to pay big for the one or two lads who might give the team the boost it cannot get from the inside (such lads are alwqays needed, at some point, and nowadays, contray to arsène’s days, they come at a price)
    And lastly, I’d be less worried, and more trustful, if it was made clear who exactly makes money (and how much) out of those deals, which don’t look indispensable to me
    Off the blog for a while, to watch Benfica, talk to you later, buddies

  • With regard to the Reiss/Joe question– for me it would be to keep Joe. Don’t really see where Reiss is going to feature anytime soon. Seems too, that Reiss has a bit of Ramsey in him. Not the good kind either– as he seems to be injured quite a bit (not that a head/concussion injury is a recurring thing, just that he does seem to be unavailable more than you’d like). Willock gives us a late-game chaser at the front of the press when our strikers come off and we’re protecting. Also has a knack for finding the net. So? Do you keep a player who situation seems to dictate he’d find a reason to leave– or use him to swap for a player who wants to come?

    As for not needing Buendia? As much as I’ve rooted for Mesut Ozil and defended him over his career at the club? I’m a bit skeptical about the idea Arteta will reintegrate him. While I have no doubt he could be the creator he’s been previously– there’s no possible way he’ll chase and press as ESR has. It’s simply not in his locker– at age 32.

  • (SantaClara-Benfica; 1-1) First impressions
    Messy game, maybe because of yesterday’s heavy rains, so that the pitch was on the verge of turning into vintage 1960s Highbury in winter (it didn’t, actually)
    Benfica played in a kind of 4-2-3-1
    (Weigl slipped back between Ferro and Vertonghen occasionally, to turn the setup into a kind of 3-4-1-2; ring a bell??)
    A Greece-Brazil-Belgium-Germany-Uruguay-Morocco-Spain motley crew – strange, when you think of how glorious/bountiful Benfica’s academy has always been. I think Ferro was the only one coming out of it, and he was said to have been picked only because Otamendi wasn’t available.
    What surprised me most was the lack of quality, I’ve always been an admirer of Portuguese football, the skill-pace-invention of their best players, but all I saw today was physical challenges and absence of inspiration
    The wings looked weak to me, both FBs Gilberto and Grimaldo looked below average; Kieran and Bukayo on a good day will hurt them no doubt, Grimaldo in particular who gets no protection whatsoever from his LAM Everton.
    Their strength is their trident Rafa (RAM) Walschmidt (“9 and a half”) Nunes (CF, very strong, very good at holding the ball, combative, good with both feet, and … he scored)
    Jesus’s coaching puzzled me (he took out Walschmidt who had been the best creator, and kept Everton – who had been invisible – on the pitch)
    Nothing to lose sleep over to be taken out that game, but there’s no way we’ll kick them out of the EL with a “B” team, if only because of their physical qualities. I’ll try to watch one or two other games before the first leg … I think Porto-Benfica will take place before our first leg against them; their lineup that day’ll probably look very much like the one they’ll pick against us)

  • This weekend we’ll be a little different and try our our luck in predicting the results of five FA Cup games and one French League.
    Here are my choices:-

    Stoke v Leicester
    Arsenal v Newcastle
    Luton v Reading
    Huddersfield v Plymouth Argyle
    QPR v Fulham
    Metz v Nice

  • TA and Eris–
    Wanted to ping you on the GW 18 FPL picks– since 6 teams do not play.
    If you choose to use your Active Chip: ‘Wildcard’? You can use it for unlimited transfers– for this one week only. Then after, your team will revert to the one you currently have.


  • Joining the debate a bit late I absolutely agree with TA’s first 3 points and really enjoy the harmonica metaphor. Regarding whether moving Saka to RW is being a masterstroke… I don’t know. In my view it is rather a question on which finger do we want to cut. Saka to RW lets PEA and/or Martinelli play (rotate) at LW, but sacrifices Willian, Pepe and Nelson. This could be a reasonable solution, but does not qualify for me as a masterstroke. Saka plays well at RW, but he plays well any attacking or midfield position, so it was not about unlocking his potential, but the only other way to have him, Aubameyang and Lacazette in the same line-up other than the Auba being ST and Laca moving to Secondary Striker / AM (which had some advantages, but didn’t look the real solution). I know, I’m being boring constantly complaining about the huge squad, but what can I do when the management screwed this up bug time?

    p.s.: I tried to post this comment several times, but the WP engine didn’t let me. After a few failed attempt and careful consideration I figured that the (standard, TransferMarkt-compatible) abbreviation of the Secondary Striker position must have been on the blacklist, so I really expect to succeed this time. 🙂

  • Thought same as TA– on those FA Cup choices GN5. Def have to do some backgrounding!


  • agreed, PB, the harmonica metaphor’s great; you should have been a teacher, TA, inspirations like this to make a point make all the difference

  • On the Reiss/Willock vs Buendia dilemma I’m on Le Gall’s side with this one.
    If there is a position where we don’t need reinforcements it’s the right winger. (I wouldn’t go shopping for a striker or a center back either, but Edouard and Upamecano always pop up.) It is possible that he could play at a central attacking midfielder position, but except from 15 minutes against Leeds Emiliano played all of his 7300 Norwich minutes as RW. It’s not (just) about the price or the youngster issue. We simply don’t need another RW. We didn’t one in the summer either with Pepe, Saka and Nelson (hell, we had Mkhitaryan back then), but that ship has already sailed. Let’s not go for another ship.

    Regarding single transactions, if we consider a loan then I would go for both our youngsters. They need minutes, and they could get them more in other PL teams, strong Championship sides or top German/Spanish clubs. Nelson is now the 4th pick for RW and Willock is still a liability. But they could both come around, so I agree with Le Gall that we should keep them both if possible.
    If not, and we have to sell a youngster then my unpopular vote would be Willock, as he and AMN (another unpopular opinion) have development ceilings. Saka, ESR, Nelson and Nketiah don’t. (Martinelli neither, but he is not academy.) They can become world class players, and they will, unless mismanaged. Willock and AMN – who in my opinion are similar to Iwobi and the Ox in talent and potential – could become decent footballers, playing well (especially against inferior opponents), but I don’t see them breaking the 30M barrier. Saka already did, Martinelli, ESR, Nelson and Nketiah are picking up the minutes and the market values, but will be storming the 50M in 2 years. It would be a terrible decision selling any of them.

  • On the AM/playmaker topic, I also share some naive hope that Ozil can contribute to the club and ESR’s glory. But putting that 6 month aside if we are afraid that ESR couldn’t yet cope with the pressure of being the #1/only pick for a mission critical position, we have Willian, who used to play as AM (for Chelsea, Anzhi and the Brazil national team), we can try Saka and/or Martinelli in the attacking midfielder role too, and Nelson was also deployed as AM at Hoffenheim as well as a handful of youth games, so we don’t need to force Ceballos to a sub-optimal position any more.

    But my main point is that we don’t need to hold on for too long without a playmaker signing. If the club is worried, they can loan Isco or Coutinho for 6-12-18 months. But let’s not forget that we have super-talented AM reinforcements in the academy: Cottrell (19), Cirjan & Azeez (both 18), Flores & Patino (both 17). Since there is no need for so many attacking midfielders, most of them play as CM, but our concern shouldn’t be “will any of them become a big hit at Arsenal?”, but rather “how shall we choose among them if they will keep developing in their promising trajectory?”.

    I might be a bit biased towards the academy players, but Buendia would not only block ESR, but the further waves too.

  • Thanks PB 🙂

    We just seem to look so different from the vertical lines sort of team to the compact and flexible rows of 4-2-3 (and 1) formation. We are the boss of space again and yeah it looks like a harmonica to me.

    I get your point re Saka taking the position of Willian, Pepe and Nelson. They will all fear Saka’s success right now. But in this system right footed Pepe and Nelson can play on the left too and it is up to them to reach the required level. We got balance now and by moving Saka to the right we have two very strong wings now. The best players should play.

    Yeah WordPress has been playing up today. Not sure why, but your proposed cause it is unlikely to be.

  • Cheers Legall, I have no patience to ever be a teacher but I have been a commercial bid writer and these sort of analogies often seem to excite colleagues and clients. 🙂

  • PB, too early to define AMN and Willock potential in my view. Both have had good contributions to the team this season. I agree more is needed, and I feel that all of a sudden the required level is much clearer, so the next five months may be make or break for them.

  • PB, Nketiah has not shown enough to make me believe he’ll be anything special. He’s certainly got a nose for goals though, but everything else about his game is just so lacking if he isn’t scoring. The worst part is that he’s blocking Balogun’s path, who’s been more productive in his senior appearances in much less time, but someone who we will probably lose because he doesn’t see a clear path to first team minutes.

  • We’ve debated this in the past, but you don’t block the path of an academy player unless you’re simply not good enough and the Manager keeps you in the team. If you’re performing at a high level, it doesn’t matter how talented a youth player is – they will find their way into the first team if they deserve it. If you’re buying smart (i.e. young enough and with sell on value), then you can sell that player that is giving you 1-2 years of good performance on for a profit; win win!

    Most of our young players will need a loan to get senior experience and minutes before integrating into the first team. Saka, Wilshere etc. are more exceptions to the rule than the norm. ESR is a great example of someone who went on loan a couple times to refine his game and maturity before successfully breaking into the first team.

  • TA, you are right about being too early to evaluate.
    These were only my impressions, and by no means verdicts to the lads.

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