Marcus Rashford has had a tough 12 months.
Whilst Bukayo Saka took his England penalty miss in his stride and has become one of the best players in England, Rashford’s career has gone in the opposite trajectory since that night in Wembley.
There is a lot to admire about Rashford as a human being.
He has spoken up numerous times in the last 12 months about injustices in the UK and abroad. Always speaking with much intelligence and maturity beyond his 24 years.
But putting your head above the parapet and daring share an opinion also leads to much criticism.
We saw it with Hector Bellerin when he opened up on numerous topics including climate change and race. Many demanded he “concentrate on his football” and stop trying to lecture others.
But he was not lecturing others. He was merely sharing his opinion.
And Rashford is in the same boat.
Whilst it is undeniable that his form has dropped since he spoke out on matters such as school meals and racism, it is unfair to say this is cause and reaction.
Footballers, just like anyone else in society, are allowed to share their view on matters. Sharing his views does not directly affect performance.
So why has he dropped off?
Rashford is clearly suffering mentally.
He took horrendous abuse after missing that penalty. That was coupled with the abuse he was already taking after daring to share his views. Add in playing in a disjointed Manchester United, he looks completely shot of any sort of confident or belief in himself.
Rashford’s drop in form is not an ability problem. It is a mental one.
He needs to be loved again. To have a coach believe in him. To put his arm around him. And Mikel Arteta could be that man.
Arteta has shown he likes players who are intelligent. Who he can mould.
We saw the impact Arteta had on Raheem Sterling at Manchester City when he was facing similar struggles and criticism.
I am confident that if Rashford joined Arteta’s revolution, he will flourish.
But is Rashford what Arsenal need? I would say yes.
Playing out wide on the left, cutting inside onto his right, he is dangerous. He would provide Arsenal with an excellent option on the left hand side competing with Gabriel.
But he would also not be the answer to our centre forward issues.
Rashford, as much as I like him, is not an out and out forward for 38 league games. He is a cover player. But he has shown he is capable of contributing from all side across the front 3.
If we got in another top striker and had them backed up by Rashford we would have excellent squad depth – Rashford would also allow us to take a bit of a risk on someone like Darwin Nunez.
Rashford is also comfortable on the left wing. He would provide fantastic competition for Gabriel Martinelli.
He is also an adequate option on the right, providing cover for Saka.
Despite being in poor form this season, his output in the Premier League is not to dissimilar to Saka’s.
I would be delighted with the squad depth were we to go into 2022/23 with Saka, Rashford, Gabriel and Smith Rowe alongside a new striker.
The only stumbling block will be his wages…