Category Archives: Arsenal

Arsenal to target both Brandt & Buendia despite Smith Rowe emergence

This is the 3rd blog in 3 days involving Emile Smith Rowe. I had never really written much on him before but his performances have turned the spotlight on him.

Yesterday I spoke about how Arsenal should switch from looking to sign both Julian Brandt and Emi Buendia, and only focus on with of them. And that Smith Rowe would be sufficient competition to play in the middle for which ever one we signed.

But as I was writing, it came to me that there is still the space in the squad for 2 attacking midfield signings.

If Arteta is to continue with 4231, Arsenal need 6 players capable of playing behind a single striker.

At the moment those 6 options are: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka, Willian, Nicholas Pepe, Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson. Throwing in Gabriel Martinelli and Joe Willock makes it 8.

8 is a lot of numbers, but it lacks quality, highlighted in our struggles to create this season.

Nelson and Willock have both stagnated in the last 18 months and Arsenal should look to cash in on them. They would raise £30-40million combined, which would finance their replacements.

In building his team for 2021/22, Arteta needs to focus on versatility and fluidity.

One of Ozil’s great attributes was his ability to drift across the pitch and find space. He did not just stay central and would be a creative outlet throughout the final 3.

When he drifted to the wide positions, it then gave space in the middle for Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla or Alexis Sanchez to fill. This concept is something that Arteta needs to build on.

The 3 behind the striker should be interchangeable. All capable of playing left, right and centre. That way it creates fluidity behind the leading striker and allows us to create 2 or even 3 on ones outwide.

We have already seen the benefit when Smith Rowe drifts left, teaming up with Kieran Tierney and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to overload that side. Likewise with Saka and Bellerin on the right.

A fluid 3 behind a striker also makes us a lot harder to defend.

Saka, for example, has very different attributes to Smith Rowe. A full back would have to switch up his game plan as the two interchange positions.

I am sure one of the reasons Willian was signed was due to his versatility behind the front man.

So we basically need 6 attacking players who can do the job behind a single striker.

In Saka, Willian and Smith Rowe, we have 3 players that have the type of versatility that Arteta desires. Lets ignore the debate over Willian’s future. With his contract, he is going no where.

So that is 3 of the 6 positions filled.

One problem for Arteta is Aubameyang does not have the versatility behind the front striker.

He is best utilised either down the middle as that main striker or on the left hand side.

We have seen often this season that our creativity down the left is stifled when he plays – with an over reliance on Tierney.

My view is Alexandre Lacazette will leave this summer with Aubameyang moving centrally. This gets rid of the problem of Aubameyang not really having that versatility behind the front man.

So with Aubameyang moved up top, we have the 3 aforementioned as well as Martinelli and Pepe.

I would prefer to see Martinelli as Aubameyang’s cover up top; but he is more than capable playing a little deeper. He would be 2nd choice striker (with either Eddie Nketiah or Folarin Balogun as 3rd choice) and one of the 6th options in attacking midfield.

Saka, Smith Rowe, Willian, Martinelli. It still feels lacking.

We then have Nicholas Pepe.

Pepe joined 18 months ago for a huge fee which should not be held against him.

Based on his performances, he has been a poor signing – regardless of whether we paid £72 million or £27million for him.

Joining from Lille, we spoke a few years back about how he would either be the new Gervinho or new Eden Hazard. He is closer in talent to his Ivorian team mate.

If Arsenal can somehow get an offer in the region of £40million for him, we should cut our losses and move on.

Pepe does have the versatility to play across those 3 positions – he played more centrally in France – but the feeling is he does not have the quality.

So if Pepe stays, we have the space for one new signing – and the feeling is that should be Brandt. But if he leaves that could open the door for both Brandt and Buendia

Like Saka, Smith Rowe, Willian and Martinelli, Brandt and Buendia can both play across the 3 behind the striker, and would give Arteta plenty of options.

Arteta could go

Aubameyang

Saka Brandt Buendia

Aubameyang

Brandt SmithRowe Saka

Aubameyang

Martinelli Brandt Saka

Martinelli

Brandt Buendia Saka

Martinelli

Saka SmithRowe Buendia

We would have options, versatility and fluidity.

So whilst Smith Rowe’s emergence means we do not need to sign both Buendia and Brandt, the departure of others would leave the transfer of both firmly on the table.

Final note: The above would also leave the door open for Houssem Aouar who is equally adept at playing all 3 roles behind a striker.

Brandt, Aouar, Buendia. 2 out of 3 to come to Arsenal next summer?

Keenos

Despite Emile Smith Rowe’s performance, Arsenal still need to BUY to replace Mesut Ozil

Yesterday we spoke a little about Emile Smith Rowe’s development, and continuing down that line, I would like to expand on some thoughts.

Smith Rowe has been fantastic since coming into the Arsenal team against Chelsea on Boxing Day.

He has now started the last 5 league  games in row, with Arsenal winning 4. He also came off the bench to score the winner against Newcastle in the FA Cup.

But it is important that we do not overhype him.

Despite his performances, we should be careful not to label him as the successor to Mesut Ozil as Arsenal’s number 10 or “the next Kevin de Bruyne”.

Ozil was a world class performer for Arsenal – albeit he had not performed to that level for a few years. Whilst Smith Rowe is a young kid with half a dozen Premier League starts to his name.

What Edu, Mikel Arteta and the recruitment team need to do is add an experienced head alongside Smith Rowe in the squad – and no, I am not talking about Willian “experience”.

I had a blog in my drafts about how Arsenal should be looking to sign both Julian Brandt and Emi Buendía to replace Ozil; giving Arteta 2 options at 10.

The saving in Ozil’s wages along would be enough to finance a move for both layers, covering salaries and amortised transfer fees.

That blog is now scrapped as I believe Smith Rowe has shown enough that he should be back up 10 next season.

This would not only save Arsenal money but would also save us a non-home grown player squad space. Smith Rowe is home grown, Brandt and Buendía not.

So we have Smith Rowe as one option as 10 and go out and sign either Brandt or Buendía (not both) to be the senior man.

This is not saying that Smith Rowe is not good enough; more that at 20, he still needs to improve to reach the level of Ozil. He is not yet at the level of Brandt.

My feeling is it should be Brandt ahead of Buendía. The German is the superior player.

This would then give Arteta the option of Brandt or Smith Rowe as a 10.

What is exciting about both (and Buendía) is their versatility. All 3 men can play in the middle, left or right of the 3.

One of Ozil’s great attributes was his ability to drift across the pitch and find space. He did not just stay central and would be a creative outlet throughout the final 3rd.

When he drifted to the wide positions, it then gave space in the middle for Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla or Alexis Sanchez to fill. This concept is something that Arteta needs to build on.

The 3 behind the striker should be interchangeable. All capable of playing left, right and centre. That way it creates fluidity behind the leading striker and allows us to create 2 or even 3 on ones outwide.

We have already seen the benefit when Smith Rowe drifts left, teaming up with Kieran Tierney and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to overload that side. Likewise with Saka and Bellerin on the right.

A fluid 3 behind a striker also makes us a lot harder to defend.

Saka, for example, has very different attributes to Brandt. A full back would have to switch up his game plan as the two interchange positions.

I am sure one of the reasons Willian was signed was due to his versatility behind the front man.

Smith Rowe is equally as versatile as Willian. His performances do make you further question why we gave the Brazilian a 3 year deal.

My feeling is Arteta had just not seen enough of Smith Rowe – he was out on loan for the 2nd half of last season and he started this season with a shoulder injury.

Smith Rowe might not yet be ready to fill Ozil’s shoes, but he has shown that he has a future at Arsenal and will be a key member of the first team squad for the next 18 months.

We just need to add a senior man alongside him.

Brandt rather than Buendía.

Keenos

Emile Smith Rowe justifies Arteta’s trust in Arsenal youngsters

Arsenal’s return to form under Mikel Arteta has coincided with the development of Emile Smith Rowe.

It all changed on Boxing Day when Gabriel tested positive for COVID19. As a result fellow Brazilian’s David Luiz and Willian had to self-isolate due to being in close contact with their colleague.

With Thomas Partey also out injured, Arteta was short of midfield options going into the game against Chelsea.

The easy option would have been to go to a midfield of Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Dani Ceballos and stick with 433. The alternative option was to play 20-year-old Emile Smith Rowe for the first time of the season in the Premier League this season and go to 4231.

Arteta went with the Smith Rowe option and – whether by luck or judgment – the decision paid off as Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-1; and it could have been 6!

Smith Rowe has now started the last 5 league  games in row, with Arsenal winning 4. He also came off the bench to score the winner against Newcastle in the FA Cup.

His link up with Bukayo Saka has transformed Arsenal.

With Saka replacing Nicholas Pepe on the right hand side and Smith Rowe replacing Willian in the middle, our play is more inventive, quicker and direct.

We re now passing round corners, finding team mates in space, and getting Saka one on one with full backs.

Arsenal’s improvement is partly to do with Arteta moving to 4231 – which gives us that extra creativity in the final 3rd – and the introduction of Smith Rowe.

The easy option would have been to put Willian straight back into the 10 role following his return, but Arteta stuck with the young Englishman whose performances did not warrant being dropped.

Arteta has come in for criticism this year for apparently “hating youth”. His critics point to the lack of game time William Saliba has had, as well as Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah.

But the truth is if a player comes in and performs well, Arteta will continue giving them a chance.

Saka is proof of this.

When you compare Saka and Nelson, the former is levels ahead of the later who has struggled to kick on.

Likewise compare Willock to Smith Rowe.

Both men have had chances over the last 18 months, but Willock has not reached the levels of Smith Rowe in the Premier League.

Finally we have Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli.

It is easy to forget that the Brazilian is still just 19-years-old. Martinelli has outperformed Nketiah in the 18 months he has been at the club – despite spending nearly 12 months out injured. He is 2 years younger!

You can not give every player that comes through Hale End the chance. Players need to show they deserve that chance on the training ground; and then back it up with performances on the pitch.

Saka, Smith Rowe and Martinelli have done so, Nelson, Willock & Nketiah have not.

It would not surprise me if Nelson, Willock and Nketiah are all moved on over the next 2 transfer windows.

The trio would raise Arsenal close to £60million in much needed transfer fees.

It is important not to hype up Smith Rowe too much, however. He has started just 6 Premier League games in his career.

Talk of him replacing Mesut Ozil and being the “Croydon de Bruyne” is premature. He needs to become the best Smith Rowe that he can.

But his performances will ensure he is considered for selection for every game between now and the end of the season – although he will be due to be rotated out soon to give him a little rest.

And moving forward to next season he could save the club millions.

Talk was that Arsenal were looking to sign both Julian Brandt and Emi Buendía to replace Ozil; giving Arteta 2 options at 10.

What Smith Rowe has done through his performances is force his way into the equation. We now no longer need 2 10s. Smith Rowe can fill one of the roles. Most likely providing cover for a more senior, developed option.

What Smith Rowe’s performances does do is highlight even more how much of a bad transfer Willian is.

Willian and Smith Rowe are basically the same player. Both capable of playing anywhere in the 3 behind a striker as well as deeper.

Football and transfers are easy in hindsight, and hindsight shows that we should not have given a 3-year deal to Willian with Smith Rowe waiting in the wings.

The flip side to that is Smith Rowe had been out on loan and then injured over pre-season, so maybe Arteta had just not seen enough of him?

His development is going to be exiting to watch.

Keenos