Recruitment is crucial to Arsenal’s future progress

Recruitment is the Next Step by AI

In a previous post, I wrote of how Arsenal have found a new identity under Arteta, one that, since its inception, has lead to consistent results in all competitions. The league table from December 26 shows that Arsenal have earned the fourth most points in the league while playing 2 less games than Manchester United who are second and ahead by only 4 points.

Put this way, if Arteta had been given the privilege of an available No 10 from the beginning of the season and we had switched the setup earlier to a back 4, we would be favourites for a Champions League spot. This is still with a team that has Cedric Soares and a bunch of teenagers as first-team contributors. So what if we had even better players (for example, a better backup midfielder than Ceballos who’s given the opposition 5 goals this season)?

This is where it goes beyond identity into recruitment. Of course, recruitment must be in the service of identity or there’s no project at all. To recruit properly, we need to know how the manager wishes to play. Here’s an excerpt about that from the earlier article:

“Our identity is a brave, possession-hugging structure with plenty of nuance: our fullbacks go high and one of them often tucks into the midfield. The inverted fullback frees a midfielder to leave the midfield and join the last line of attack in the halfspace which means that one of our wingers stay wide and high. This leaves us with a deep 2-3 structure (both CBs and the midfield pivot+fullback) for compactness and counterattacks. Since Tierney goes wide, the left winger is required to come inside and play as a ball magnet (which is why Pepe, Auba and Martinelli are not preferred there when Willian and Smith-Rowe are available). The central forward has to be complete and dynamic enough to interchange with the No 10 and the inside winger as well as running the channels and stretching the opponent backline. Basically, in the forward line, there is height and depth, ensuring ball retention and runners into the box provided Tierney or another outlet has space for a delivery.”

Those that fit this blueprint at the club (irrespective of performances) include Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Willian, Kieran Tierney, Calum Chambers, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Gabriel Maghalaes, Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, and that’s it. The likes of Martinelli, Saliba, Guendouzi, Mavropanos can be moulded to fit these specific patterns of play but nothing is guaranteed. Let’s look at the open spots and the profiles that are needed.

At left wing, we need a creative winger who’s preferably rightfooted and is comfortable drifting inside and playing between the lines. Martinelli does not fit this profile, neither does Aubameyang or Nicolas Pepe. Players like Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Eberechi Eze are what’s needed. Internally, we have Willian and Smith-Rowe who have the right attributes. At central forward, we need a complete striker who is physical, active, technically comfortable and can play in between the lines. Aubameyang does not fit this profile but the likes of Lacazette can do a job there. Martinelli can very much evolve into that role but it remains yet to be seen. Bamford, Benzema, Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, Depay are the right profiles.

At attacking midfield, we need a technically outstanding player who is comfortable especially on the right flank and is keen to defend. Both Smith-Rowe and Martin Odeegard fit this profile but it is not clear where Smith-Rowe will be longterm and Odeegard is not yet our player. Emiliano Buendia is almost perfect profile-wise.

At rightback, we need someone who is comfortable underlapping and overlapping with good technical attributes in tight and open spaces. Maitland-Niles is the closest profile to this at the club but he does not prefer to play there. Max Aarons, Achraf Hakimi are prototypes. In between the sticks, we need an aerially dominant goalkeeper who is good at sweeping and distribution. Bernd Leno is not a perfect fit but he’s more than serviceable. Emiliano Martinez, Alisson, Ederson are examples of the correct profiles.

So, obviously, the most important thing in recruitment is the profile of the targeted players. Apart from the fact that he is the best goalscorer at the club, Aubameyang is a very awkward fit to how Arteta wants to play. Players can be very good and yet have the wrong profiles for a certain way of playing. It is up to the hierarchy to make sure that they understand what the coach wants and get in the appropriate players. Left wing and right back are two positions that if the recruitment is right, heavily influences our progress under Arteta.

Hopefully, we can get the proper investment…



  1. Ceballos didn’t give the opposition five goals this season. I believe he just made two fatal mistakes and our GK/ defenders contributed a lot in the rest of the incidents

    I agree that recruitment is crucial, but the fans shouldn’t be underwhelmed if Arsenal recruit cheap players from England. Liverpool bought cheap/ underwhelming players like Robertson from Hull and Wijnaldum from Newcastle, but look at their contributions to the club

    We also need to remember about our homegrown quota, so promoting our own youngsters should be prioritized over buying some flashy superstars from abroad. A billion dollar club like Arsenal should’ve had a machine-learning scouting system to avoid another recruitment mistake

  2. The headline is spot on, as during the past decade our recruitment has been poor with two of three notable exceptions.In my opinion, agent led recruitment is asking for trouble and needs to be consigned to the bin.Recruitment is not rocket science.Basically you identify a need, and look for players who might be a solution.Ideally the Clubs’s scouting system should be used to identify potential with a view to recruiting players before they become household names as exampled by Robertson from Hull.In this way you unearth gems without paying a fortune.Martinelli is probably the best value for money buy at Arsenal and sadly, Pepe is at the other end of the scale .Leicester City have proved what can be achieved within a limited budget and their model is ,I believe based on traditional scouting by guys who know their onions and are not linked too closely to money grabbing agents .Perhaps we should try to recruit their entire recruitment team?

  3. Talk about from the ridiculous to thr sublime Agboola! I of course refer to both your ridiculous Willian article from yesterday and now to this sublime article full of well thought through detail. I do not agree with ALL of it but that is irrelevant.

    I have generally considered your articles a great boon and addition to the value of this site . More of THIS standard will reinforce that impression . As someone who is bound to speak exactly as I see things, I was harsh, though of necessity, on your Wilian article as I really saw no reality in it at all.

    THIS article is the polar opposite and so well done Al!

    1. My article about Willian was not me trying to say Willian is a good buy and a good player but why he is always chosen to play (especially if Smith-Rowe is not available).

      He is the exact type of the winger Arteta wants on the left (we play with two No 10s: Odeegard and whoever is on the left). It is an explanation of why he plays not a proposition.

  4. Recruitment isn’t just crucial, it’s ESSENTIAL to our potential future success, especially with our “self-sustaining” business model…we’ve been alarmingly poor in this department, largely because of our glaring lack of a definitive plan and/or inability to target needs instead of luxury purchases(Arteta continued to uphold this disturbing legacy when he went for WIllian)…it certainly didn’t help that we chose to retain Raul when we had the opportunity to have Diamond Eye on-staff to help reshape our questionable recruitment practices…this organization should be scouring the scouting ranks of teams like Ajax, Dortmund, Salzburg and Frankfurt for future “diamond eyes”, as they seem to be on the high-side of the curve when it comes to unearthing talent on the cheap

  5. Eze looks like he’d be a quality signing to be fair. Would fit in well, but I don’t know how much he’d cost

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