This season has frankly been one of the bizarre I’ve ever witnessed as an Arsenal fan. In years gone by, I cannot recall when the reason for a poor start to the season has been a lack of goals. Arsenal have always been one of the best attacking teams in the league, and their failings came at the back. That is the overriding positive that I keep reminding fans about. Arteta has absolutely transformed our defence. We have arguably one of the league’s top 3 goalkeepers in Leno, one of the top 3 centre backs in Gabriel and one of the top 3 left backs in Tierney. I also think that we still have on paper one of the best attacking trios in the league; Aubameyang is world class, Saka has been one of our best players this season and Pepe, whilst whether he is worth £72 million is another question, is perhaps the most naturally talented player in our squad (excluding the exiled Mesut Ozil of course). This begs the question, why are we struggling so much to score goals. The problem is undoubtedly in the midfield.
The cast of midfielders we have now has been years in the making. For years, Arsenal needed a defensive midfielder to provide the type of backbone that Silva and Vieira had done for years. However, the board, until the Partey signing, never seemed willing to blow the budget on this position. Perhaps because it is never going to drive the shirt sales that a more exciting signing might. Therefore, years went by with Arsenal signing Xhaka, Torreira, Elneny, Guendouzi etc; whilst these are all decent players, they only ever half-fixed the problem. Finally, Arsenal have that perfect player in Thomas Partey, however in focusing for so long on this position, the rest of Arsenal’s midfield has tragically deteriorated. Alexis Sanchez left and frankly Mkhitaryan, who isn’t even at the club now anyway, was far from an adequate replacement. Aaron Ramsey left on a free after not being fancied by Unai Emery. Ozil was frozen out by the club for his comments about China. Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla had their Arsenal careers hampered by injuries. We had midfielders that could lead counter-attacks, midfielders that could arrive late and score, midfielders who could find a killer pass when a team had 10 men behind the ball and tricky midfielders who could take the ball on the half-turn and did not always have to play the way we were facing. I think our desperation to find a defensive midfielder, let us all lose sight of the importance of our creative midfielders. In a sense, this season has been inevitable for a few years now.
The good news is there are 2 midfielders available who would totally transform this. One of whom would provide ample of goals from midfield, much like Aaron Ramsey. The other would be our little magician in the midfield, able to find killer passes and control the tempo of each and every match, replacing Santi Cazorla. I am of course talking about Dominik Szobszlai and Houssem Aouar respectively. Szoboszlai is frankly a generational talent. He recently came 8th in the golden boy awards and has made a remarkable start to this season for club and country. He has 17 goal involvements (8 goals and 9 assists) from just 16 appearances this season. Of course, some people might say he is playing in a weaker league, which is true, however he has also shown his quality in the Champions League against sides like Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid. What’s more, the guy has only just turned 20 years of age and is available for £22.5 million. An opportunity like this is too good to pass up. He will be signed by someone and his price will go up astronomically afterwards. Look at Erling Haaland; Dortmund took the risk and activated his release clause. He is now the golden boy of Europe and has a market value of £90 million. He would immediately bring goals, creativity and confidence to our midfield.
I think the Szoboszlai to Arsenal rumour is actually quite likely, it is a question of whether the board fully back Arteta and let him get his main target as well, Houssem Aouar. It was no secret that Arteta was desperate to sign him in the summer and all the rumours suggest that the player is still very much available, and Arsenal are still very much interested. He would transform our midfield. I remember watching Arsenal when Cazorla seemed to have the ball all the time. Aouar will be able to do a number of impressive things, but most importantly he will control the tempo. It takes a special midfielder to do this. Right now, with players like Xhaka, Elneny and even players like Ceballos and Willian, we seem to like to play really slow. We are so ponderous in the midfield; we think for too long about what pass to make until eventually we are forced to go sideways or backwards. Aouar will bring back the short, quick passing that we have been missing this season. With our new defensive lineup and the steel that Partey will provide behind him, Aouar will have the luxury to float into spaces and cause the opposition a headache throughout every game.
Now is the time to see just how serious the Kroenke’s are about investment in Arteta. Based on Szoboszlai’s release clause and Lyon’s valuation for Aouar, we are about £80 million away from Champions League football. I always hear rumours that Kroenke is finally willing to invest. Well right now, with Arteta, I think we might just be on the verge of something amazing. So, let’s see just how ambitious our owner is in January.
Here is what Arsenal fans have got to look forward to…