Speculation is increasing that Serge Gnabry is set to return to North London after his temporary stint in Germany.
The lad clearly has quality and will improve us. However to accommodate him will require changes.
Change in Gnabry
Serge Gnabry has played the majority of his career – from youth through to senior – on the right hand side.
But this side is arguably Arsenal’s strongest with Bukayo Saka outside, Martin Odergaard inside and Takehiro Tomiyasu in behind.
If Arteta decides to keep those relationships that he has spent over a year cultivating, it will mean that Gnabry will have to play on the left.
This will mean Gnabry will have to change his game. Cutting inside on his right more rather than going round the outside.
Cutting inside means he will be running into more crowded areas, so his sharpness on the ball and decisiveness will be have to be much more clinical.
No longer will it just be “get round the outside of your full back and put a ball in”.
It is a change that he should be able to do. But one which might take some time implementing.
Change the tactics
The alternative is you put Gnabry in his strongest position – wide right – and move Saka to the left hand side.
This is a move that Saka will not have a problem with. He has played across the 3-behind-the-striker throughout his career. But it will result in a change of tactics.
At the moment, Arteta (like much of the top level teams) play with inverted forwards; a right foot on the left and left foot on the right.
This increases the attacking threat in the middle of the park whilst allowing players to drive into the box on their strongest foot.
They then get their width from the full backs bombing forward. It is their job to provide the crosses.
Saka left and Gnabry will change all of that as both will naturally hug the touchline.
The benefits are this will create width – widening the pitch – but at the sacrifice of creativity and attacking threat inside.
Now this could be accommodated by the signing of Youri Tielemans.
That would then give us Saka and Gnabry playing either side of Tielemans and Odergaard.
It should make the middle of the pitch less crowded with the more centra midfield duo being that threat cutting in.
However the threat of Saka and Gnabry would then be diminished – especially if we do not have a hulking centre forward who can get on the end of their bombardment of crosses
One thing signing Gnabry will do is give Gabriel Martinelli a new role in the team.
Whether you play Gnabry wide right or wide left, Martinelli goes from starter to the bench.
Now this is not a bad thing – competition and squad depth is what every top team has. But it has also likely impacted on Edu’s recruitment decisions.
Before the end of last season, most of us were in agreement that we needed two new strikers.
With Eddie set to sign a new deal, Gabriel Jesus will probably be our only signing.
That will leave some underwhelmed.
But if Gnabry comes in, Martinelli then becomes an extra option down the middle.
If you take the front 3 as a group, we then have: Jesus, Gnabry, Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah, Smith Rowe. 6 players for 3 positions.
Anyway. Just some Thursday thoughts (written on a Monday whilst I navigate the tube strikes).