After a spirited mid-week performance at the Bridge; 10 men down thanks to the consistent ineptitude demonstrated by Shokdan Mustafi. Less than a week before the Chelsea match he spoke about his mistakes on Arsenal.com and I will be incredibly disappointed to see him play on Monday, thin squad or not.
This article was not written to condemn Mustafi but, rather look forward to the positives of playing Bournemouth on Monday, a chance for Arteta to show this team are capable of putting together a run of performances that could provide a great day out at the end of a season which is largely one to forget.
Whilst I do believe the Europa League should now be our priority, there is no reason, with a squad brimming with huge prospects, that we cannot take the FA Cup very seriously this year.
An incredible statistic came to light following the Chelsea draw regarding Alexandre Lacazette… that he has only scored three times against a Premier League team away from home. Moreover, the Frenchman is on an eight game goal drought and doesn't look likely to break that run anytime soon.
Lacazette doesn’t just offer goals, his link up play and hold up play is brilliant and he certainly offers plenty to this Arsenal team even when his luck is up in front of goal. I would argue that due to his lack of confidence he is not looking to receive the ball in the usually tight areas he often does, wriggling free of his man and driving us forward has been a rarer sight over the last couple of months. This is the Laca we all love and I for one get off my chair 99% of the time he does have the ball because:
- He rarely loses it - 75% completed passes this year is very good for an orthodox striker. Harry Kane sits at 68% in the Premier League
- He often causes damage to the opposition.
A terrific problem now lies ahead for Arteta, and his name is Eddie Nketiah, not loaning him back out was a bold move based on the wealth of talent we now have up front but, as an Arsenal fan himself I see nothing wrong with him fighting for a place in the side until the rest of the season, he will certainly have the passion and drive to do so.
As mentioned previously Lacazette’s offering to the team is more than just goals and I would agree that putting Nketiah in his place, away from home may cause problems linking the ball from defence/midfield up to our Number 9. However, this problem is resolved with the ever impressive Gabriel Martinelli, he reached 10 goals this season against Chelsea and his South American spirit combined with his talent assures many of us that he will grow into one hell of an Arsenal player… many would say he already is one.
I would look to start Nketiah upfront with Martinelli on the wing; both of these youngsters are equally adept at playing out wide but, favour the striker role. Playing out wide is something that Lacazette has never looked comfortable doing, meaning Auba has invariably took on this extra responsibility. It is for this reason I think it is the perfect opportunity to give the young Englishman and Argentinian a chance to partner up and make an early start on what could very well be an absolutely lethal partnership in years to come.
Martinelli is superb at holding on to the ball, his link up play is perfectly sound and probably his mentality of driving forward with the ball at all costs beats Laca in this department.
So my suggestion is simple, have Martinelli and Nketiah share the left wing and striker position, if we are struggling to link our play together I would have Martinelli sit as striker for that period in the game and Nketiah’s pace is absolutely lethal which will cause real problems to any full back. By setting up this way it would also create a more fluid system up front, something I am sure Arteta would like to experiment with.
On a side note I would love for Saka to be given a chance further forward as well considering the great attitude and ability he has shown as a left back but, this does seem unlikely as it would mean Bellerin or Maitland-Niles playing in an unfavourable role.
Overall, there is still plenty to look forward to this season, with Auba returning after this match and Sokratis coming back from injury, a terrific run in both cups could turn this season into one we look back on in a couple years and think ‘this was the season which put us back on the path of being where we belong.’
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