Why Arsenal are in dire need of a winger this summer By Alfie
An old fashioned, typical winger is hard to find these days. Someone who will receive the ball out wide in the opposition’s final third, with the sole purpose of taking the full-back on and delivering a cross or cut-back. Someone who will bust their gut to get in the box when the play is being made on the opposite flank. Someone who can deliver a very good set-piece, or has the trickery to produce a moment of magic in a tight game, and potentially be the match winner.
Arsenal lack one of these. Alex Iwobi has shown, particularly recently, that he is more suited to a central, deeper role. His consistency in his passing, good close control and physical presence allow him to dictate play from the middle of the pitch. Danny Welbeck is an inverted forward when deployed on the left, often looking to come inside and get involved more in build-up play. He’s not particularly skillful and doesn’t attain any crossing ability. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a playmaker, who often starts out wide but drifts in and gets involved more in central areas, looking often to be the link between the deeper midfielders and the striker. Mesut Ozil certainly isn’t a winger and Reiss Nelson’s best position is unknown.
Several times last season Arsenal didn’t have a player who could produce a bit of skill in a tight situation and then produce a precise shot or pass to lead to a goal. Particularly away from home, when teams tended to set up very defensively and condense the middle of the pitch with bodies. When Arsenal did go wide, it was often to a full-back who lacked confidence in their ability to take the opposition full-back on, or lacked any sort of crossing ability (particularly in Hector Bellerin). It regularly resulted in the ball being played back inside or an over hit or under hit cross being delivered and so eventually cleared. The momentum of our attacks were significantly affected, and reduced our overall attacking threat. The losses of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez in particular left us without a player who could essentially win a tight game with one bit of trickery or a perfected cross. There are stats to back this up. Arsenal didn’t have a single player in the top 30 for completed crosses in the 2017-18 season. We also didn’t have a single player in the top 15 for successful take-ons. We need a wide player who can do both.
There are several options. We have been linked with Portuguese winger Gelson Martins in the last few days, a quick and decisive winger, who was directly involved in 26 goals last season for Sporting Lisbon. There is talk he could be available on a free after the Sporting team were attacked by fans in a training session, resulting in several players choosing to terminate their contracts with the club. The 23-year-old is rumoured to be considering terminating his, and for a player who would normally cost around £50-£60 million, he would be a real coup on a free. There are safer, more established options. Both Riyad Mahrez and Wilfried Zaha have showcased their dribbling ability in the premier league over prolonged periods of time now, and would be ready for a step-up to a bigger club. However, both would be extortionate in the current market, and with our “£70 million war chest”, they may be a little unlikely.
Whoever it is, it’s needed. It’ll be interesting to see if the recruitment panel address this blatant gap in our squad, but knowing them, it’s unlikely.