Arteta double striker dilema

Earlier this week, we discussed Arsenal’s options in improving the forward line.

I concluded that it made zero sense to sign a new striker, and that we would be best off signing a winger that can play up top. There are plenty of wingers that can do this.

If we go for a winger who can also cover up front, another question is then raised. Eddie Nketiah or Folarin Balogun as the back-up striker?

12 months ago, I was firmly in the “Nketiah’s time is up” camp.

His form towards the end of last season secured him a new contract and a chance to cement himself as Gabriel Jesus’s long term understudy. But was it the right decision?

Nketiah is yet to start for Arsenal in the league, and failed to score in any of his 142 minutes.

It is perhaps unfair on Nketiah to say that Arteta does not trust him.

As a result of our good form, Nketiah has been more of a “time wasting” substitution to see out the game, rather than being sent on to “grab a goal”:

Aston Villa – Arsenal 2-1 up – Nketiah a 88th minute sub
Bournemouth – 2-0 – 75th minute
Leicester City – 4-2 – 84th
Crystal Palace – 2-0 – 83rd
Brentford – 3-0 – 78th
Nottingham Forest – 5-0 – 75th
Leeds United – 1-0 – 82nd
Liverpool – 3-2 – 90+1
Tottenham – 3-1 – 80th
Wolves – 2-0 – 90+1

In the 3 games where Arsenal were not leading going into the closing stages, Nketiah was bought on much earlier.

1-nil down against Fulham, Nketiah was bought on in the 61st minuted. 2-1 down against Manchester United it was the 74th and 1-1 against Southampton it was the 71st.

In all 3 of those games, he was the first attacking sub we made (in the case of Manchester United, he was part of a trio bought on including Emile Smith Rowe and Fabio Vieira). That shows that when Arteta needs a goal, Nketiah is the first man he turns too.

Nketiah has played every minute in the Europa League – although strangely shifted out wide when Jesus has also started.

He has 2 goals in 6 appearances in Europe as well as 1 in 1 in the League Cup. that leaves him with a goal every 150 minutes in the league. Although as discussed, he comes on to see out a game where we are already winning and are not showing much attacking intent.

The question for Arteta is whether he will trust Nketiah enough during the second half of the season to play him ahead of Gabriel Jesus in the league.

There will be league games where Jesus needs a break, or is out of form. Does Arteta rotate his front-men, or continue to flog the Brazilian? And I am not sure of the answer.

Florian Balogun, meanwhile, has been “next in line” for a few years.

18 months ago I wrote a blog about how he was “too good for the U23 but not yet good enough for the first team“.

He could have done with being loaned out for the entire of last season. Instead he went on loan to Middlesbrough for the second half of the season. He was less than inspiring.

With Nketiah’s new deal, a decision was made this summer to loan the 21-year-old out to Reims. Following Nketiah’s new contract, it was felt it loan move to put him in the shop window, rather than to help his development.

He has come on leaps and bounds in France, showing the raw talent we knew he had.

8 goals in 14 games (12 starts) only Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Jonathan David, Alexandre Lacazette and Lorient’s Terem Moffi have scored more. Not a bad list of forwards ahead of you!

Balogun is clearly a magnificent natural goal scorer, but does he have enough to the rest of his game to displace Nketiah going into 2022/23?

3 of his 8 goals have come from the penalty spot, and he has just 1 assists this season. He is averaging a goal every 135 minutes (against Nketiah 1 in 150), although this has been for a mid-table team. He has scored half of Reims goals.

I have not watched enough of him to see if his build up play has improved – it is an area of the game Nketiah has dramatically improved on in the last 12 months.

Any Jesus cover not only has to replace Jesus’s goals, but also his assists, mobility and work rate.

Nex summer, only one of Nketiah or Balogun will be at Arsenal – we have seen with how little game time Nketiah has had that you do not need a 3rd striker. And that other striker choice will probably come from a midfielder who can play up top.

We are very much a “Man City-lite” right now, and for most of Pep’s time in the North-West, he has only had 2 strikers (Aguero & Jesus, Haaland & Alvarez). Liverpool have been the same for a long time (Firminho & Jota, now Nunez an option), whilst

Tottenham have always struggled to fill the “2nd striker position” behing Kane and now utilise wingers (Richarlison, Son), as their alternative options. Chelsea do not really have a striker of any note.

So I guess next year the question is simple.

Nketiah or Balogun?

Keenos

1 thought on “Arteta double striker dilema

  1. isaac

    Regardless of other factors we need a prominent and experienced striker who can assist Jesus we ain’t gonna look at Man city having Haaland and Alvarez, Liverpool Fermino and Jota no way ..sign another striker then compete for the tittle

    Like

    Reply

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