REPLACING OZIL – RODRIGO DE PAUL? by Nicholas
21 games unbeaten and counting, Arsenal faced a rather unexpectedly tough game against Huddersfield Town AFC. Having sailed passed the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Bournemouth etc., it looked relatively the easier outing, especially at the Emirates. Looks can indeed be deceiving.
David Wagner brought his charges to the Emirates with one thing in him mind – Stealing points, as much as he could. Plan A was to get a draw, but plan B was a creepier idea, beat Arsenal shockingly by scoring that unlikely goal and parking the bus to prevent Arsenal from equalizing.
He got help from an unlikely source, Arsenal squad was battered by injuries, thanks to the tough matches Arsenal had endured in the recent run of games, and suddenly there was no attacking midfielder as both Ozil and Ramsey were unavailable. In the defense, Rob Holding also was out injured and Emery opted to start Lichtsteiner in his place, and a 3.5.2 pattern where he had three central midfielders to support Lacazette and Aubameyang rarely starting together in attack.
It was a match that Emery had to withdraw two of his starting 3 defenders, and withdraw Lacazette to bring in the Iwobi-Mkhitaryan partnership as the game wore on and Arsenal looking uncharacteristically off colour. It was a match that had 9 yellow cards and 33 fouls. The entire Arsenal backline was yellow carded.
The match showed something very clearly, Arsenal would struggle to play without an attacking midfielder. Guendouzi tried to fill the big shoes but some spark was missing all through the match, and it took some moments of brilliance from a quickly upcoming goal threat combination of Aubameyang and Torreira. Just like in the previous match, Aubameyang was able to find Torreira, who had to deploy a spectacular bicycle kick to score the only goal of the match with just seven minutes of regulation time to go.
With Aaron Ramsey’s fate looking sealed as the club opted to withdraw a contract offer that was on the table, meaning he will be released, and Mesut Ozil’s mysterious injuries, Arsenal may need to cash in on Ozil too. The person that looks likely to match, even surpass Ozil’s exploits at Arsenal is none other than Udinese Calcio’s forward, Rodrigo de Paul. Rodrigo is an Argentinian international of 24 years old with 4 caps to his name since October 2018. His statistics are impressive as he has scored 6 times and made three assists this season in the Serie A and one goal in the Coppa Italia.
Rodrigo used to play left wing, but it seems this time round he has taken up a central role and is thriving in it. Rodrigo also has something in his game that Ozil does not have. He can dribble tenaciously past a number of defenders, creating a directness in his game that would be useful to bring in Lacazette and Aubameyang into scoring situations. He has the Torreiraristic/Messiristic urgency in his game, which can only get better with a better set of players around him. He is also versatile and can play both wing and the attacking midfielder role. He comes affordably and is still young. It’s time Arsenal picked up this emerging football gem. In January, this is how Arsenal could line up.
Is Rodrigo one of the missing pieces of the puzzle at Arsenal?