In hindsight, Bukayo Saka coming down with a bug might be very benificial to our title chances.
He was suprisingly left on the bench for Leeds having been ill on the Friday. Saturday morning rumours of a stomach bug in the Arsenal camp turned out not to be an April Fools.
Despite missing the best right winger in the world, we cruised to victory over Leeds. And whilst Saka did come off the bench to make a 30 minute cameo, the rest woould have done him the world of good.
Saka had started every Premier League game this season prior to Leeds. He also started both matches for England in the international break. His enforced absence Saturday will mean he would have played just 30 minutes football over a two week period.
I am not concerned by how much football Saka is playing. World class players rarely miss a game. But a small break will always do a player good.
The way we played even without Saka was extremely impressive; and shows that we have plenty of fire power.
Erling Haaland is runaway top scorer in the Premier League with 28 goals. That is 15 more than our top league scorer – Gabriel Martinelli. Manchester City also have the player with the most assists – Kevin de Bruyne.
Despite City having arguably the best centre forward in world football and the best creative midfielder, they have only scored one more goal than us.
Whilst City are very reliant on the goals of Haaland and assists of de Bruyne, Arsenal’s strength is our multi-pronged attack.
Saka has obviously been the main man this season, with 13 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. Equal on goals to Saka is Martinelli, whilst Martin Odegaard is equal on assists.
Having just returned from injury, Gabriel Jesus scored his 6th and 7th goals of the season against Leeds. In his absence, Eddie Nketiah has been able to accumulate 9 goals and an assist.
Leandro Trossard got another assist at the weekend taking his tally to 7 since joining The Arsenal. No player in English football has created more than him since he joined us, and only Saka and de Bruyne have more than 7 assists ALL SEASON.
And then you have Granit Xhaka with just the 7 goals and 5 assists.
Arteta’s attacking philosphy is all about overloads and versatility. It is Total Football. Our 4th on Saturday sums up the way Arteta wants us to attack.
Saka drew Leeds players across on the left, played a quick ball inside to Odergaard who in turn swung in a quality ball into the box. Clean through to cushion a header in was not the centre forward, but Grant Xhaka.
Four goals on Saturday, 6 different men involved in scoring or creating – Jesus (2), Ben White and Xhaka were assisted by Martinelli, Trossard and Odegaard.
Whilst we might not have the “big name” of Haaland or de Bruyne, our multi-pronged attack makes us nearly impossible to defend against.
We attack down down the right, down the laeft, through the middle. Any one of 5 can score. Any one of 5 can get the assist.
And then as we saw on Saturday, and whilst Jesus was off injured, the men ready to step in when an injury arises also provide quality.
Our best front 5 is:
Martinelli Xhaka Odegaard Saka
Then on the bench we have:
Trossard ESR Vieira Nelson
We are so unpredictable in attack due to the versatility of our attackers. Nketiah is the only one of the 10 that can not play in multiple positions.
Jesus drifts left, creating space for Martinelli to come inside. Trossard drops deep giving Xhaka the space to run into. Saka comes inside and we see Odegaard runnign the wing. It is chaos!
Manchester City have the leagues top scorer, but Haaland is their olny player in the top 10. We have 2 in the top 10. de Bruyne is also their only player in the top 10 of assits. We have 3 in the top 10.
Throughout the season, there has been a feeling that if you can stop Haaland, you stop City. He has scored 40% of their goals. And that was perhaps highlighted against Liverpool.
Haaland was out injured, Julian Alvarez came in, they score 4, with 4 different goal scorers.
Arsenal are the most exciting attacking team in world football right now. And it is even more exciting when you realise how young they all are.
Jesus turns 26 today, whilst Saka and Martinelli are just 21. Odegaard is an old man at 24, and it is easy to forget that Smith Rowe and Vieira are both just 22.
Saka’s enforced break should mean he is ready and firing to go next Sunday against Liverpool. Win that an I might start to dream.
Watching from Nigeria, I really couldn’t understand the slow start to the game. I was quite nervous especially without Saka o the field.
What’s with all these bugs which regularly afflict the team? This certainly is not the time for such eventualities. Sanitation team, wake up. Don’t spoil my dreams for I like Mikel, have very wild Dreams. COYG’s.
As the season goes on, teams lower down the table defend deeper and deeper. It takes longer to break them down. 18 goals in the last 5 games show we do not have much to worry about.
And for comparison, our first goal in the last 5 games has been scored on average in the 39th minute. Man City’s first goal in their last 5 games has been scored in the 35th.
TBH The only team that matches us with attacking football this season is Napoli