James Maddison Shows Arsenal What they are Missing by Eric
Many pundits and Arsenal fans have noticed that in spite of the club’s undefeated start, the offense has lacked potency and fluidity. In spite of achieving better than average results, and the brilliance of Declan Rice, it’s painfully obvious Arsenal’s midfield is “missing something”. Yesterday, James Maddison showed Arsenal exactly what that is: an all-action midfielder who can create, press and perform consistently in the rough and tumble EPL.
Arsenal were of course linked to James Maddison a few years ago, but a deal never materialized When Leicester was finally relegated and Maddison came available, it was Tottenham who snatched him up for a reported 40 million GBP. Around the same time, Arsenal was cutting a deal to pay almost double that to buy Kai Havertz from Chelsea. With every passing game, that decision is looking like a bigger and bigger mistake.
Not only did James Maddison make the difference in helping Tottenham come from behind on two occasions yesterday, but he was also more productive in 90 minutes than Kai Havertz has been in nearly two months. To date, Havertz’ most notable contribution has been a preseason goal and a solid appearance vs. a very average (by Champion’s League standards) PSV Eindhoven side. Meanwhile, on the other side of North London, Maddison has reinvigorated a Spurs side that many expected to be adrift without Harry Kane.
Not only did Maddison notch two assists yesterday, but he also nicked the ball off of Jorginho before setting up Son-Heung Min for a second equalizer. This is shining a very bright, very uncomfortable spotlight on Havertz’ lack of productivity. Imagine Arsenal with Maddison pressing, passing and partnering with Odegaard in the middle of the park while Declan Rice cleans up behind them. The simple truth is, Maddison is not just better than Havertz, he’s better than Fabio Vieira too, and by quite some distance.
Aside from a few productive spells that lasted for about 35-40 minutes, Vieira has done precious little to justify his price tag or his wages. Add that to the 65 million GBP for Havertz and Arsenal has paid 100 million quid for two eights, neither of whom look remotely like they’re suited for the rigors of the EPL. In their defence, Edu and Arteta have made some good deals as a coach/sporting executive tandem, but the gaping, unproductive hole Arsenal has at the 8 is beginning to look like something that could cost the club a shot at silverware this season.
It’s really not early anymore. The season is almost 20% over and James Maddison has given Spurs so much more than Havertz and Vieira combined, that it’s not a stretch to wonder what Edu and Arteta were thinking when they cut those deals. For his part, Havertz was already a disappointment at Chelsea before Arsenal came along and bid against themselves for his services. Until then, it looked like the Blues were stuck with him. A 20 million quid punt or a loan is one thing, but 65 million.
Vieira has obvious technical quality, but he’s so small that there isn’t a midfielder or defender in England who can’t fold him up like a lawn chair. All of this begs several uncomfortable questions like “Why are Havertz and Vieira here?” and “Why did Arsenal pay so far above the odds for either of them?”. Because as it stands, there is a short list of Arsenal fans who wouldn’t pitch in on a GoFundMe operation to ship them both out of town and bring Maddison in.
The two of them are being embarrassingly outplayed by one man. Maddison was a difference-maker for Spurs today, but when it comes to Havertz and Vieira, all Arsenal fans can do is pray this isn’t another Nicolas Pepe situation. The cold, hard truth is that nobody was lining up to pay the kind of money Arsenal paid for Havertz or Vieira until Edu and Arteta came along and did it. Needless to say, the return on investment has been sorely lacking. Maddison’s performance today only underscores that inconvenient truth.
With every listless, unproductive appearance by Havertz and Vieira, their transfer fees and wage packets look more like money thrown into the fireplace. Because right now, Arsenal would be better off with Granit Xhaka at the 8 than the both of them combined. That’s to say nothing of what James Maddison could provide. If the lack of production from Havertz and Vieira ends up being what costs Arsenal the title (and it certainly could), someone needs to be held accountable.
Arsenal fans suffered in the wilderness for far too long waiting for the Kroenkes to spend money on the club, only to see it wasted in such dreadful fashion. There is still time left for Havertz and Vieira to turn it around. However, they have no excuse if they don’t. There is world class talent all around them. Whoever starts at the 8 for Arsenal should be sleepwalking their way to double digit goals and assists.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, that kind of production looks more like a pipe dream every week. No one can be sure what Arsenal would look like with Maddison. But it’s safe to assume the offense would be much more fluid, productive, and dynamic than it is right now. That is a bad omen for Havertz, Vieira, and the men who signed them. If Fabio and Kai don’t dig deep and start producing at a level commensurate with their wage packets, it won’t be long before the fans start letting them hear about it….and that’s exactly as it should be.
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