Why Houssem Aouar may not be the answer for Arsenal

Written by Edward Pitt

November 4, 2020

There is no denying that Arsenal are in desperate need of a creative midfielder. Somebody who can really improve that final action which for Arsenal has been poor all season long. How often have we said that the likes of Pepe, Willian, Nelson and to an extent even Saka are excellent until that final ball. We need somebody with a proven ability to pull those strings and supply chances to the forward players, however based on what I’ve seen this season, I think we need more than that.

Previously, I was certain that Aouar was the final piece in the jigsaw. Somebody who could drop deep to pick the ball up and do a much better job of linking the forwards with the midfield and defense. However, I had imagined that he would be the final piece in the jigsaw which is a 4-3-3. The performance of dynamic duo Thomas Partey and Mo Elneny against United has perhaps gone some way in making me think that we no longer need a deep lying creator. I think people have this opinion of Aouar that he is a number 10, perfect at delivering the final ball and contributing with goals and assists. But when you watch him play, he is a modern number 8. Everything goes through him for Lyon, but very often he operates quite deep. Much like what we have seen in Dani Ceballos. It goes without saying that against United, Elneny and Partey were defensively superb, winning the majority of their duels and joining the high press when needed. What went unnoticed in their performance was their joint ability to drive the team forward and spray long passes all over the pitch. Therefore, whilst Aouar would be a great addition to any side, he isn’t the model of player that would actually take Arsenal’s midfield as far as people seem to think, for the same reason that the performance of Elneny and Partey makes Ceballos seem slightly redundant. I cannot get away from the fact that Aouar is the best player at his current club, playing in a less competitive league and only mustered 3 goals and 4 assists in the league last season. I just am not so convinced that he is the man to operate in that final third, attacking midfield role. I’m sure he could get his fair share of assists in this Arsenal team, but Arsenal’s midfield need someone who can have that level of creativity whilst also posing an immense goal threat; be that through long range goals or late entries into the box. The onus has for too long fallen on Aubameyang to score the majority of goals whilst being largely starved for chances. 

With that model of player in mind – an attacking midfielder capable of creating, scoring and one who would be allowed the freedom to unlock the potentials of Pepe, Martinelli, Saka and Nelson in the future, there are two huge candidates in the Premier League. If Arsenal were really serious about getting back to the very top, for me one of either James Maddison or Jack Grealish is a no-brainer. The former, although struggling with injuries so far this season, has been consistently one of the best no.10’s in the league, and is for me a large part as to why Vardy can perform to such an elite level at the age of 33. The latter is a man who kept his side in the league last season with 8 goals and 6 assists, doubling the output of Aouar at Lyon while plying his trade in the Premier League. He has made a blistering start to this season so far as well with 4 goals and 4 assists already. That’s more goal involvements than the whole Arsenal midfield this season! Imagine what they both could do in an Arsenal side which typically is going to dominate possession far more regularly than Leicester and Aston Villa respectively. However, make no mistake these players would have huge price tags on their heads; possibly upwards of £70 million. It seems unlikely that Kroenke will break Arsenal’s transfer record on the back of making several employees redundant, including Gunnersaurus, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. However, if he’s serious about putting Arsenal back in contention for league titles, it’s exactly what he is going to have to do.

What I would say is that a move for Jack Grealish in particular is perhaps less unrealistic as people may think. At the start of last season, prior the outbreak of coronavirus, all anybody was talking about was where Grealish would go and for how much, with Arsenal and Manchester United linked with the Villa talisman. In fact, as recently as July this year, Sky Sports reported we had registered an interest in him. Another thing to keep in mind is the funds which might be available come the summer. Arteta and Edu will still have deadwood to get out of the club like Sokratis, Kolasinac and Mustafi who all had failed moves away in the summer. Presuming the Ozil situation does not improve, his gargantuan £350k a week will be off the books, and if Atletico take up their option to sign Torreira we would receive around £22 million. But for me the key to a transfer like this would be the funds we might receive if Arteta can bring us back to Champions League football. I’m not saying either is particularly realistic, but if Arsenal are willing to pay the £54 million asking price for Aouar, I reckon it is far superior business to put in the extra money to secure a Premier League proven creative, goal-scoring midfielder.

Header Photo Credit: Steffen Prößdorf

 

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