I didn’t see the game yesterday but it comes across as Saka being the key player in this game. It’s exciting when the youngsters give you a vision of what they could become.
I also read a report that spoke highly of ESR. Maybe he didn’t shine as much as Saka, and he lacked some consistency in his input across the 90, but this report was praising him for many of his lay off balls, and his ability to receive the ball and drive forwards at pace.
This is something that has been sorely missing in our play over the last number of months, the ball carriers in midfield, and even the mid to lower table sides seem to have midfielders that are comfortable receiving the ball and driving through the midfield, while we adopted a pedestrian passing game with little direct running from midfield.
Until recently we have had those players that can twist turn and spin away from opposition players and drive forwards when able; Rosicky, Santi, Jack, Cesc. As we now try and redevelop this team it is important that we do so around midfielders who are comfortable in receiving in tight spaces and then being able to carry the ball, as well as being able to pick a pass.
This is where Xhaka falls down in that he always needs an available pass, rather than being able to receive and move with it if a decent pass is not immediately available. Hence the number of sideways and backwards passing.
However in Douzi, Willock, Saka and ESR we have those players that have the natural talent to do it and we must build around all those players. Each may find a slightly different position. For instance will Douzi or ESR become more the intermediate BTB type midfielder, or will they become the most attacking CM / number 10. Will Saka be a wing forward type or could he be the most attacking CM / number 10.
All of them will have games where their precocious talent shines and some games that will be a bit mehh. Douzi is probably slightly ahead because he has played more games with the first team while ESR for instance has been hampered by injury which has hampered his loan spells.
My gut instinct actually tells me that ESR has, at the base level, the greater natural ability in CM, and I have always said I see a young De-Bruyne in him. However I think all 4 should succeed with the right coaching, patience (when it doesn’t always come off), and emphasis on that quicker attacking style of play, and each may take up a slightly different role in the side anyway.
What has also hampered them all, and the team in general, is in not having the right DM (holding type DM) tucked in behind them. It is going over old news I know, but it is not just the team that has suffered from this oversight, but it could start to stifle the development of these young quality players.
This is why I would like Xhaka removed from the equation. I actually recognise many of his qualities, but they look more suited to a different league, and what he lacks for the EPL is, not only unbalancing the team, but is not allowing those young players to develop in their best positions with freedom.
Again my immediate solution would be to move Luiz forwards into the holding midfield role. In his absence we could play Chambers there. We should go and get a top CD in January as our main priority (say for instance Upemacano), and move on either Socratis or Mustaffi in Jan, with the other going in the summer once Saliba arrives.
Then we could go and try and source an up and coming Ndidi (rather than spend a fortune on the actual one), safe in the knowledge that we have cover in that role for a couple of seasons through Luiz and possibly Chambers.
Going into next season we could have our main CB’s as Holding, Saliba, Chambers, Upemmacano. We could have a holding midfield boasting Luiz and the promising new Ndidi, and across both the CB and holding midfield positions we know we can shift Luiz and Chambers into either role depending on where we are suffering the most with injuries.
Then just let the youngsters mentioned, including Martinelli and possibly John Jules and Nketieh, thrive and develop in the CM, ACM, wing forward and forward roles, with Ozil there as experience for 1 more season and one of Laca or Auba staying on (I think we will lose at least one of them).