Is it smart for Arsenal to sign Maddison as a back-up to Smith-Rowe?

Signing James Maddison is Not Smart Enough.

Here is a primer: in terms of what each player can do with the ball, Emile Smith-Rowe is a better talent than James Maddison. Faster, taller, more technical and versatile, the ‘Croydon De Bruyne’ is an extremely gifted player whose potential might reach world-class levels. This is also the club’s view, given the objective that any new signings will be seen as a backup/rotation option to the young Englishman and the conferral of the ’10’ to him, instead of, as The Bell predicted, James Maddison.

James Maddison however is a very good player in his own rights. In other circumstances, he would have been well worth the effort and money needed to sign him from Leiceister. He is older, more experienced and far more aggressive than Emile Smith-Rowe. He brings setpiece expertise and a knack for scoring from range. And he is not yet fully developed, either.

For these reasons, signing James Maddison in addition to Emile Smith-Rowe is genuinely exciting. At worst, we would have one of the best depth at attacking midfield in the world. However, it must be said that the signing is not smart enough when everything is considered.

The hierarchy of Arsenal football club were no doubt embarrassed by the fact that we had no attacking midfielder to speak of for large swathes of last season. We were previously known as that club for attacking midfielders. We were renowned for stacking them up like so much candy. And, suddenly, we had none. You can say that the reaction of the club to get a marquee signing for an outrageous fee is justified. However, given the fact that we are not as financially capable as the Manchester clubs, one must question the smartness of the deal.

Houssem Aouar is a great talent like James Maddison, proven at the highest levels of the game and a perfect fit for Arteta’s system, he is available for less than we bid for last season. I am not aware of any issues with his signing but are those issues so great as to justify spending more than twice the money on a James Maddison?

It is not a question of the player, as both players are good. It is a question of resource allocation. I do not know our budget but I know it’s not unlimited. Signing James Maddison for what Leiceister will demand for him will leave us short in some other areas. Maybe it even implies selling a potential 15-goal-a-season midfielder in Joe Willock for cheap. Maybe it implies other things. But I’m damn sure it implies something.

As fans, our love for the club must be guided by sensibility regarding what is possible. Barcelona, one of the richest clubs in the world, are in a serious financial mess because of this. They misallocated their vast resources and ended up with a uselessly bloated squad. We also have smaller examples closer to home in Manchester United.

Unless the club thinks that Emile Smith-Rowe is some poor chap who will be sold for cheap in a few months time, there is really no point in signing James Maddison when he will be a rotation player for a superior talent within two seasons. Wonderful option but ultimately a waste of resources given who else is available on the market.

James Maddison will be a quality signing. He will be a massive signing. He will be a statement signing. But it is difficult to say he would be a smart signing. This is a deal I expect the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea to make, not Arsenal. Other capable options are available.



Tags Aouar Maddison Smith-Rowe


  1. I love ESR and his work ethic, first of all.

    In my own opinion ESR lacks a through ball. Overall his passing is great but finding that small gap is not his strength.

    I’d love a Santi type style player.

  2. I heard we’re linked with twinkle toes Jesse Lingard now 🕺if true Edu/Arteta should officially join a circus.

      1. Think maddison sees himself as a ball playing centre mid (like santi dare I say cesc ). Think it would be a massive signing personally. Love Smith Rowe and can’t wait to watch him develop but think maddison signing even if it’s 70 million would be great for the club.

    1. lol at Kev.

      Anything is possible when it comes to Arsenal. Lingaard loves scoring against us by the way.
      Edu and Arteta are already part of a circus. I just hope they don’t sign the goal keeper who was relegated twice. I don’t want such fate to be fall my beloved club.

    2. Not this one again. Pound to a penny if he signs for us he will return to his old pants United form. Not for me.

  3. If we pay 50+ M for a new right-footed CAM, we’d most likely have to bench Smith-Rowe for the new CAM or move Smith-Rowe to left wing. The new CAM would most likely be unwilling to play second fiddle to Smith-Rowe

    1. Just like the article, I don’t think it’s wise spending 50m on CAM we just need someone to compete with S Row.or play together with him like M. Odegard did.
      We need to spend less than 50m at most 30M.
      Otherwise we should buy DM because of injuries and Lokonga is for the future. Midfield remains our engine room.

      Like I said in my previous comments, I really hope Arteta knows what his team needs. He can take a clue from Jugin Klopp (Liverpool coach). It’s not in buying buying many players but buying what you need.

        1. Not really.
          Next season is an oddity in that there are no extra European games but there are plenty of games across competition to have a normal rotation on players.
          Also, the aim of any team worth its salt is to have 2 players competing for each position.
          A big issue with Arsenal in recent years is that many underperforming players were way too secure in their spots as they knew there going to be a big drop in level if they didn’t play.
          Changing that is a key part of our rebuilding project. 🙂
          And ESR often plays on the left as well and was successful there with a good 10 like Odegaard.

          1. Before needing 2 players competing for each position, it’s very important for the club to have a working, successful tactical system. Without a proper template, hunting for the missing pieces is meaningless. Even after one full season and a handful of permanent signings of experienced players, if the manager can’t find a system that works, with over 25 players at his disposal, signing any number of players to provide competition for places in the squad will do no good..

      1. Agreed

        If we have to buy someone from Leicester City, I hope it’s Iheanacho. He’s homegrown and has worked with Arteta

          1. GAI, you don’t think DM is an issue? 🤔 Having a good one may just allow Partey to progress the ball forward and act as a true B2B midfielder.
            Did you ever see the Gilberto Silva/Patrick Viera partnership?

        1. We don’t need Ihenacho. We have strikers in abundance. Infact we should sell Aubameyang and Nketiah this window.

          We are not playing in europe this season. Martinelli, Balogun and Lacazette are enough for the number 9 role. We rather need two more creative midfielders (Aouar and Bernardo Silva).
          We should sell Aubameyang and Nketiah.

          1. I think Iheanacho would be okay with sitting on the bench until we sell some of our senior strikers

        2. Arsenal are trying on Maddison because he can play at 8 as well as 10. So I think it’s better option than other linked players who tend to cover a specific wing like Odegard. And I don’t think Odegard + ESR worked well for us since it gave Saka and ESR lesser space to roam. Maddison would be perfect signing and maybe very important piece of the zigsaw we have here

      2. Klopp literally overhauled the vast majority of the entire squad he inherited from Rodgers. What are you talking about? They didn’t win a thing until he did.

    2. or a more logical person might suggest that Maddison would be brought in, at great expense, I might add, to specifically to fill a previously unfillable role, within the midfield, and as such, maybe, just maybe, we could finally adjust our presently stifling and stupefying tactics…if this were the case we could actually deploy both of these differing yet effective players at the same time, in that recently ignored upper middle third, so that we just might provide some more direct professional service to our largely starving frontside players…just saying

  4. I’ve seen it all now. To suggest that ESR is a superior player to Maddison, is bizzaro world madness. Then to suggest or even claim that the club would or should spend upwards of 60/70 mil for Maddison to be ESR’s backup, is nuthouse laughable…😂😂😂😂

    1. Exactly what I was about to write until I stumbled into your comment. Whoever wrote this article is from alternate universe😆😆😆😆😆. Maddison will leave Leicester to be benched by Smith.

    2. Your interpretation to the article is wrong, what the writer mean in excess is to go for Houssem Aouar (cheaper) and of almost same quality with Madison and doing that will prevent AFC loosing a great talent in Willock. And if we have left over cash after the purchase of Houssem Aouar (30-40mil) we can splash it on Aaron Max (right back).

      1. I guess you didn’t read the opening note of the article sir. I had to stop reading after the first paragraph it was too biased and full of sentiments. If Smith Rowe is that good we won’t be crying for creativity nor about to spend 70m on maddison. Croydon Debruyne yet our team can’t pick a defense splitting pass. Please stop this overhype, the lad is good and will get better while competing for same position with someone better than him. We want creativity yet you don’t want someone to bench Smith Rowe who plays our AM role. Oh people of this world

  5. The Smith™ will still have plenty of game time to develop as, aside normal team rotation, he often plays on the left as well anyway, even if he becomes the #2 choice at 10.
    He’s been having little injuries every now and then as well and it’d be too risky to only rely on him at this stage, no matter how talented he is.
    Madisson is expensive as Hell but would be a huge plus for us, without actually stopping ESR’s development.
    If we somehow pulled that signing off, our main XI would be much stronger with the White signing (and hopefully an extra CM if possible).

  6. Maddison dropped into a deeper role last season, not occupying the same zones as ESR. Whether or not I agree with the purchase it’s most like JM would be brought in as CM, occasionally playing CAM if ESR is injured or moved to the wing for tactical reasons.
    Sticking with tactics, for this reason Maddison would be a great signing. The negative reasons would be his injury record and overall cost, but not in any way to ‘be ESR’s back up’.

    Whilst he is a real talent I’d sooner see that £60-70m spent more wisely. For the same fee we could sign Sabitzer £15m (experienced right-footed attacking midfield perfect for our LW, or ESR cover), Aoaor £20m (CM partner for Partey also capable of CAM cover), and Koopmeiners £12m (incredibly efficient deep-lying midfielder with a big future, who is also a great leader). That would be a much more efficient use of the money, though would require Willian to leave and also if Xhaka should decide to move on. By no means the only solution, just an example of one of many options we could take.

    1. Agreed, and if AFC do sign Maddi, the second he gets on the pitch will pick up a long term injury.

      Hard pass.

    2. This seems like good thinking to me. Aouar and either Sabitzer or Koopmeiners would be valuable additions. However, one benefit of Maddison (as of Ramsdale, whom I also don’t prefer to Onana/Neto) is in helping make up the home-grown quota.

    3. Please how did Maddison dropped into a deeper role last season when Leicester plays a midfield trio of Maddison, Tielemans and Ndidi. Maddison plays attacking midfield ahead of Ndidi and Tielemans.

      And those saying Smith Rowe should be moved to the wings where we already have Auba, Pepe, Saka, Martinelli, irrelevant Willian and Nelson, so who is he better than on the wings among the first four I mentioned?

      He is an AM so if a better AM comes he sits and learn or show character by competing and fighting for his place.

      1. Last season Leicester were struck badly with injuries to a large number of players, including Maddison and Ndidi. This required Rodgers to have to change things around quite often, especially as they don’t have a like for like replacement for Ndidi. Whilst Maddison may have started as a traditional number ten in games he covered the areas most expected for a number eight (look at his heat maps), often dovetailing the excellent Tielemans. The gaps that normally would be taken up in attack by Maddison in previous seasons were often covered by Iheanacho and Tielemans when building up. Effectively Maddison and Tielemans when together operated as number 8s. Hence my suggestion, I never said he swapped position, but that his role became deeper, especially as Iheanacho improved his effectiveness massively, lessening the attacking burden on JM. Additionally Smith-Rowe often drifts to the wings when in attack whereas Maddison stays more central, when the ball is more threatening ESR often zig-zags into the penalty area when in possession or looking for space, whereas Maddison tends to remain outside of the area as he prefers longer shots and pinging passes over and into the box, with ESR keeping the ball low and fast on the ground. Tactically they could compliment each other very well, and offer just about every type of pass attackers heavily benefit from.

        And I never said ESR would be moved to the wing permanently, just simply that for tactical reasons he may need to play some games there, as he has done in the past, if I’m not mistaken he originally trained as a winger. Mentioning players like Willian who isn’t needed, and Nelson who doesn’t get played is irrelevant.
        I’d advise reading people’s comments accurately and doing your research before telling people they are wrong.

        1. Also, Maddison when receiving tends to hold on to the ball in a deeper position and let runners pass him by before making a pass to one of them, but ESR moves forward with the attack creating a more fluid movement, which is often why he isn’t always occupying the same zones toward the end of an attack.
          Defensively, when both players come back they are surprisingly tenacious, and seem happy nestled on the edge of their penalty box hoping to steal the ball for a quick counter-attack. In this regard they are quite similar.

    4. You actually need to free up those Non-British slots for signing that many non players. Truly a mess since Ryan would have been a nice keeper as a backup. Ramsdale chase it is

  7. You label Willock a 15 goal season guy on the back of a freak spell at Newc contrary to all previous evidence. You question Maddison despite his superb goals and assists record in favour of less effective players.
    What a blog

    1. there’s a train of thought in the NBA, the more great talents you have on the floor, the greater your chances of success, that being said, you can,t have too many great talents in your team, just unleash them and let them figure it out, and if their objective is team-first success, then trust me, they will. We saw it with the Brazilian teams of the 1960’s and we saw it more recently with the “galacticos” of Real Madrid and the star-studded line-ups of the Barcelona teams just a few years ago.

      1. The NBA involves only five players at a time, not 11. And “great talents” are expensive, if you don’t develop them yourself. I prefer a coach who coaches a system that wins with a more available commodity: good, rather than great, talent. That may be Mr. Arteta.

    2. What is special about Maddisson? It seems most people rating Maddisson only watch the EPL.


      Every one listed above is better than Maddisson in terms of creativity, goals and Influence.

      Isco has won champions league trophies.

      Nebil Fekir and Asensio have immense skills than Maddisson by the way.

      Coman is a top quality player as well. He won a champions league.

      Insigne is a set piece specialist, consistent and proven goal scorer. He has been consistent for Napoli for many seasons.

      What is the obsession with Maddisson?

      1. Would love Dybala or Fekir
        I think the obsession with Maddison is that he’s english And is used to the prem.
        James ward prowse as well to partner partey

      2. Half those players aren’t 10’s. People dont like Maddison’s injury record, yet are listing Dybala now? Also, the Aouar obsession is killing me. If you have watched him so much you’d know he wasn’t good last season, so why exactly do you think he’s right for us? Not even Lyon’s 2nd best midfielder.

    3. Permit me to call them the home grown fans or UK based fans are always obsessed with these less talented home grown players just because they are from our academy. They overate and hype all these lads yet the blame the managing when the team is not improving, same people are the reason AMN is still in this club and just like JW now we had a perfect opportunity to sell him for 20m which for me was even too much but it is what it is now and no suitor for the young man now.

  8. Maybe James Maddison is not actually the AMF player who Arsenal will sign this summer window. But a different AMF like Martin Odegaard, Houssem Aouar or even Bernardo Silva who has recently been linked with Arsenal for signing.

    Which has led to Arsenal selling their talented Joe Willock to Newcastle Utd to help raise funds to finance the signing of one the trio of Odegaard, Aouar or Silva.

    To splash £70m on Maddison alone will at this stage into the summer transfer window bring the total spent by Arsenal on the incomings this summer to £121m or so by my own calculations. But after subtracting Joe Willock’s recoup fee is still high.

    For, where will more funds come from for Arsenal to do more reinforcements in the key areas of the team for their goalkeeping, RB and striker departments that are needing reinforcing this summer which they still have to do before the summer window closes?

    And one basic thing but very important that must be taken into considerations and holistically considered. Is Arsenal could this summer transfer window sign a world class playmaker or AMF. But he must be backed up with a very potent front three striking force attackers. Who will be finishing off the chances that have been created for them to score goals by the playmaker.

    So therefore, if Arsenal sign one of Maddison, Odegaard, Aouar or even Silva this summer so as to enhance their midfield creativity prowess. But they will have to backed the midfield goals scoring creator with a lethal striker signing. Who in conjunction with the 2 forwards playing to his right and left sides who equally be lethal in attacking.

    But honestly, rightnow Arsenal front three strick force consisting of Auba, Laca and Saka are not dependable to be rely upon to score goal winning matches in the PL regularly for Arsenal this season. For, the current Arsenal regular front three look to be a comsy comsa kind of front three strick force.

    1. Martinelli is a top striker.
      Arteta is to blame for not giving Martinelli more game time.

      The truth is, we don’t need a striker.

      We rather should sell Nketiah and Aubameyang and buy 2 creative midfielders and a top winger like Kingsley Coman, Sterling, Pedro Neto. Creative side of midfield is the issue.

      If Arteta starts the season by fielding Elneny and Xhaka together in the starting line up, we should forget about top 4.

      Martinelli can play as a 9
      Balogun can also play as a 9
      Lacazette can play as a 9.

      1. Martinelli didn’t even make the bench for Brazil’s b team at the Olympics the majority of the time but you think he should start regular?

        He is a top talent with great mental attributes for his age but he is not there yet technically and had a bad injury. He’s still very young and came from a low level Brazil side, give him time.

  9. Fans wants creative midfielder but don’t want ESR to be benched
    Fans want Saka, Pepe, Laccazet, Martinelli and Auba all feature including Flo
    Fans wants Taveres and also KT played
    Arsenal fans are so peculiar

    1. Hi Adajim. In my opinion, we need 2 more creative midfielders and a winger.
      Man City did play Bernardo Silva, David Silva and KDB in the same line up.

      They dominate possession most times. You can hardly get the ball from their midfielders. And when they lose the ball, they work hard to get it back. That is the arsenal we want back.

      ESR is just starting his career. Having him as the only creative player is not good enough.

      In Wenger’s era, we had Arshavin, Fabregas, Song, Nasri, Rosicky in the starting 11.

      All playing behind RVP. we were a joy to watch.
      Very entertaining football. We beat teams for fun. We beat Barca at the Emirates.
      Arteta looks like a coach who is scared to lose matches. Veey Conservative approach.
      We now have a team with 1 shot on target against teams we should beat.

      1. I come on here every hour but hardly comment. But am so frustrated, let me stop this.

        he boring negative painful to watch Artetaball we are seeing today is due to his scared to lose tactics of playing 2 Defensive Midfielders.

        Under Arsene, the sexy tiki taka one touch football that endeared the world to AFC win or lose was due to the fact that Arsene’s tactics involved the constant use of 3 very Skillful Central Attacking Midfielders. Arsene didnt even care for a Defensive Midfielder. Arsene would play 3 of Cesc, Ramsey, Wilshire, Rosicky and even Denilson, though It made our spine weak, but the sexy fluid attacking football compensated for it. As Gunners, our philosophy was to outgun our opponents. After much complains for at least 1 Defensive Midfielder to be introduced, Arsene then converted Skillful Attacking Midfielders such as Flamini, Song and Coquelan to our Defensive Midfielders, which made us lacked steel, but still made our midfield fluid and our play sexy.

        Today our history, class, tradition has been ripped to shreds, we are fully a banter club now with Edu and Arteta at the helms. Why were these two employed instead of the real club legends and heroes through and through such as Adams, Known, Bergkamp, Henry, Overmars, Dixon, Weighty that bleeds this club and would strictly run this club with policies that would preserve our sacred history class and tradition.

        What’s Artetas obsession with always playing 2 DM in Xhaka and Partey or Xhaka and Elneny or Partey and Elneny? First of, except Partey, both these DMs are very static, slow and unskillful. Look at City today, the only team that still plays slick tiki taka, they play with only one defensive pivot and flood the midfield with skillful attacking midfielders, yet they recover possession quicker that everyone else cos they attack and defend together. Th Arsenal must inherently and intrinsically be set up like that. Fvcking play one DM as a pivot and play 2 attacking midfielders. By playing 6 Defensive minded players don’t guarantee you defend or recover possession better, look at us!

        Its all crazy. Edu and,Arteta’s decisions are so baffling and frustrating. They are even conditioning our mindset, like some of us are even saying a new AM shall bench ESR, instead of starting both together like our West ham game where Odegaard and ESR bossed the midfield.

        This 2 DM tactic has proven to be negative, ineffective, painful to watch, kills our talents and lame. Arteta must switch it up. Play one DM pivot and the rest must be attack minded. Is Xhaka suited for that? No, as he us slow. Maybe Party, but the likes of Guimereas or Bissouma are ideal. We must get 2 AM preferably Aouar and Maddison to rotate that AM position with ESR.

        What we lack is creativity!
        What we need is creativity!

        Get creative AMs and watch our Forwards rediscover themselves!

        1. First time ever as a Gooner, I see someone utter Skillful, Attacking Midfielders, Flamini, Song and Coquelan in the same breath.

          1. so true VasC…it was hard to continue reading after that little brush with nonsense

  10. There are better value players than Maddison….but things need DOING. To actually sign, maybe Aouar, or Fekir… know, to make something actually happen in reality. Arteta and Edu seem to have a paralysis. Cannot believe on Friday, Brentford and we haven’t improved one iota. Get off the thing called an arse Edu and sign a good player, goalkeeper, and Max Aarons. We have two f—— amateurs in charge.

  11. My hunch is that Arteta only has eyes for Odegaard and any other approaches is just kicking the tires in case a last minute “panic” buy is required. I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea but Odegaard (I like him) seems to have Arteta’s confidence and would have no issues in hitting the ground running.

      1. I agree in part – there were moments of real promise sandwiched between longer periods where, as you say, he didn’t set the premise on fire. I do think he will improve if he makes the move and, although he cant be given all the credit, our form did improve following his loan.

        Like I said, it’s just a hunch on my part but I feel that Odegaard is at the top of Arteta’s wish list. S

      2. Mr kitt
        Agree with you totally
        Was an upgrade on dani boy but wouldn’t want to see throw everything at MO to get hom in
        As for maddison.. pie in the sky
        Can’t see us bidding for him for the amount of money Leicester want for him ..let’s move on

  12. I know we should not try to compare our situation to Manchester City, but having a variety of creative attacking players who can be rotated is not the worst idea. Both ESR and Maddison are flexible players who can slot in to various positions. There is no need to consider one as a backup to the other, just as one needn’t look at Grealish as a replacement for anyone specifically at City. Again, I understand that we are a million miles away from the flexibility and squad depth of City but I think it’s equally crazy to imagine the perfect starting 11 as the counter to City, Chelsea or United. Partey is a good example of us thinking our holding midfielder position was filled perfectly; injuries have been a sobering reality -check there. I’m not against his signing, of course, but I think in attack the best strategy is to acquire multiple hybrid attacking players who can play various roles. In the NBA, teams now value hybrid defensive small forwards above all else, stockpiling players that can guard 4 positions and adapt easily to smaller or bigger line-ups. I will say if given the hypothetical of 3 players like Aouar, Aarons and Onana vs just Maddison I’m torn. I think moving players on will be extremely difficult but imagine individual negotiations to move 3-4 players and then 3 or 4 more incoming negotiations. Something tells me tying up 6-8 deals in 3 weeks is unlikely and they may shoot for 1 major impact move.

  13. He’s not as developed as a player as ppl make him out to be. Which is perfectly fine at his age. If we want to get back into Europe and be taken seriously we need a player with EPL experience that we know can deliver. So I think Maddison ticks those boxes.

  14. ESR is not going to take us back in to the top 6 and he’s patently not yet at the level of Maddison so title of this piece is pure fantasy .. anyway would prefer to see Silva who is a way more accomplished footballer than Maddison and who smith Rowe could learn from … hopefully … failure to upgrade on the creativity front will leave us outside top 6 come Xmas and arteta an even more nervous turkey than he is already

    1. i think all signs point towards odegaard as much as we are trying to tell ourselves they aren’t. if thats the case… well see your last sentence i suppose.

  15. More then a no 10 to play behind the front three we are in more need of a proper mobile CM. Who is a proper deep playmaker and who can do bit of defensive work as well like Pirlo, Xavi type player. We need a midfield general, a tempo dictator, quick feet and who can transit the ball quickly.

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