Without Aouar, We Need to Trust Our Own by AI
And so the reports turned out. We were close to having Aouar, quite close. But we couldn’t get him at the end of the day. And the all-important question remains unanswered: where will our creativity come from?
On Sunday against Leicester City, it came from David Luiz and Bukayo Saka. The Brazilian defender was a rock of pure class, oozing control and dinked balls over the top that regularly resulted in chances. Bukayo Saka shared the responsibility of receiving these diagonals with Kieran Tierney and was pretty much our best attacker until he was forced to come off.
Elsewhere, Pepe and Bellerin were entrusted to make something happen with the ball. Bellerin did pretty well and should have scored while Pepe was played out of possession. Ceballos who was given the job of making the right side of things click was anonymous, wasteful as he was irrelevant. It was on the average a dour showing from Arsenal, especially in the second half.
Aouar would have played as an 8 in this setup and his ability to receive under pressure, turn into space and release the ball accurately would have been very well welcome. Now we don’t have him. Who else do we have with roughly this same skillset?
There is Willian, who played fantastically in the 10 role for us for some minutes against Sheffield United. Willian is one of the most progressive attackers in Europe’s top 5 leagues. He keeps things ticking, doesn’t go for the spectacular. His ability to receive under pressure and manipulate himself and the ball into space is part of why he looked so good playing in between the lines against Sheffield United. But Willian is not a midfielder and Arteta seemingly does not want to play with an attacking 10. That means he would more than often be used on the wings rather than in between the lines.
There is Reiss Nelson whose playing style is similar to Willian. Capable of receiving under pressure and beating his man, Nelson has experience playing as the most advanced midfielder. He excelled in that role for Hoffeinheim in the Bundesliga and would be capable of doing the same for Arsenal. But Arteta’s preference not to play with a midfielder behind the striker makes the possibility redundant. If the 21-year-old were to influence things at Arsenal, it would be from the wings.
Then there is Emile Smith-Rowe. With his ability to receive, turn, pass under pressure, the Croydon starlet can play as an advanced midfielder. He has shown plenty of ability to attack space and combine intelligently with others. There is no doubt about his mentality at the top level: he’s ready to work hard and selflessly for the team. Emile Smith-Rowe has the required ability and personality to play as an 8 for Arteta. The only thing he requires from the gaffer is an opportunity to earn his trust. With an heroic campaign for Huddersfield in the Championship under his belt, the ‘Croydon De Bruyne’ can really go all the way and solve our creativity problems.