Welcome back to the Michael Thomas Column, and in today’s interview with the Gunner legend we will be discussing the pro’s and con’s of every single striker currently at Arsenal, but of course we must start by getting his views on the crazy West Ham game at the weekend….
JA: It was an awful start and an amazing finish to the game against West Ham. It has been said that this game is like “the story of Arsenal’s season”. How can they be so bad at times and then start playing like World Beaters?
MT: Arsenal have had this lack of concentration/motivation in these games the last couple of years. They usually can turn up for a good one-off game but the consistency throughout a game or season has been lacking for some time now. The start was awful and you can’t give opposition in the premier league a head start or you’ll get punished as they were. The comeback was great but they will know that the game should have been won with ease had they played like that from minute one.
Lacazette was the spearhead of Arsenal’s comeback, but yet again Aubameyang was anonymous with not one shot on goal in the whole 90 minutes. Do you think it is time for Arteta to think about dropping his captain?
MT: Lacazette has been really good this year. He is made for leading a line and bringing others into play & this season Arteta has got him looking hungry and trying to get goals again. I’m not sure that Lacazette & Aubameyang can play together in a 3 as the team looks more balanced with natural wingers. As a 2 I think that they would blossom. Completely different strikers that can cause any opposition problems.
We have other strikers waiting in the wings, like Nketiah and Martinelli, who was prolific last season. How must they feel sitting on the sidelines watching Aubameyang firing blanks?
MT: It must be really hard for the young players not getting much of a sniff but their chance will come, and I am sure they believe in the manager to make the right decisions.
Although Auba was given a new contract last summer, there is now talk of letting Lacazette go this summer. After his brilliant performance against the Hammers, should Arteta consider keeping Laca and selling Auba instead?
MT: I don’t think that the striking department is the priority for Arteta, as long as he keeps the senior 2 firing and gets the young players pushing them hard. There are other areas that need to be strengthened to improve the consistency in games.
If Eddie and Martinelli can’t get in the starting line-up, then what chance has Balogun got of breaking into the First team? Do you think it is inevitable that he will leave for free in the summer?
MT: Balogun looks a great prospect and offers different qualities to the other two respectively. Eddie is a fox in the box, Martinelli reminds me of Tevez with his crazy work rate and raw quality & Balogunn looks a bit like Andy Cole, knows where the goal is and is appreciative of the creative players around him. Arteta has said many times he wants to keep him so his chance is there.
Arsenal have both Martin Odegaard and Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid. Do you think that Arsenal should try and make one or both into a permanent signing?
MT: Odegaard is a real talent who also displays amazing work ethic so I have no doubt Arteta will want to keep him. In the short space he’s been with the club you can already see the influence he has on the pitch. Ceballos I am not too sure about. We have two young players out on loan that play in his position and I think they could fill that void.
Willian has been very inconsistent since his arrival, but has improved and now has the most assists for the Gunners. Do you think he will turn out to be a good signing by Arteta after all? Could he still be an asset when he is 35?
MT: Willian has great experience and it will of course help the younger players, you need that balance. He definitely needs to produce better displays more consistently but same could be said for a lot of the squad this season. If you had Aubameyang’s goals from last season in the much better defensive unit Arteta made this season, then all of a sudden the teams up there in the top 4.
And lastly, a lot of Arsenal players are now away with their international sides. Do you think that these players should be risking travelling the world as the Third Wave of Covid with its various mutations is spreading like wildfire?
I understand the need for international teams to play and prepare but in what is going on in the world today, it does seem to send a lot of mixed messages to the public and can be harmful to the players’ own health.
Let us all hope they come back fit and well from their travels.
See you in a couple of weeks.