I was not alone in being surprised by Mikel Arteta’s team selection for the Leeds game on Sunday.
When we signed Martin Odegaard on loan I imagined he would be back-up for Emile Smith Rowe, but a back-up who would get plenty of game time because of the need to not overplay ESR.
What I did not expect was for them to line up alongside each other as they did at the weekend, especially when we had other attacking players like Pepe, Martinelli and (oh dear) Willian available.
But it worked. What’s more, the way both young men played was incredibly pleasing on the eye: fast, intelligent movement, first time passes, cheeky little moments of skill and control.
Watching them you realised you were watching Rolls Royce footballers – players who have perfect touch and control and are also half a second ahead of anyone else on the pitch in their reading of the game.
If a persistent problem for Arsenal (not just this season but going back several years) has been unpicking defences when teams ‘park the bus’, then our blonde-on-blonde twin pivot are exactly the tool needed to pick the lock.
Of course there’s a big proviso. If we commit to playing them both on a regular basis, does this mean we will lack defensive solidity and stability. On Sunday Xhaka and Ceballos did an excellent job of controlling midfield in the first half and I don’t see why that combo, or Xhaka-Partey could not give us the sound platform needed to unleash the Röwdegaard on a regular basis.
If we wanted to be really daring we could put Röwdegaard behind a front striker (Auba or Laca), with two wide attacking players as well (Saka and Pepe, for example). But that would require a defensive midfielder of incredible discipline and ability – a Gilberto Silva if you like – and I’m not sure we have that person in our ranks at the moment.
We saw against Leeds how difficult the Röwdegaard can make it for opposition defenders (with Saka playing a huge part as well, of course). The problems our attack-minded young players caused the defenders in that game meant there was more space for Aubameyang to play in as well.
ESR and Odegaard are both young and in many ways still learning their trade, but if they fulfil their potential then it would be like having Bergkamp and Ozil starting in the same team; or Fabregas and Brady. Am I getting too carried away? What do you think? How would you line up our attacking options?
It’s good to get carried away Rocky. There’s definitely something starting!
We might have kept clean sheet on the 4 zero had Arteta not deflate the tempo and rhythm by bringing Willian for Row and replacing Odegaard, Ceballos. I would suggest that Rowdegaard should be handled like siamese twins on the pitch behind Oba/l Lac. Playing Saka And Martinelli on the wings would somehow mortify and stultify opposing defenders and knock the stuffing out of the team.
I think that you are forgetting that for most of the second half on sunday we were on the back foot and might be regarded as fortunate to concede only 2 goals.
I also much prefer the Odegard/Rowe combination, but would not wish to get too carried away if the rest of the front 5 are inadequate to complement them going forward and going back.
If one of the 5 is Willian or Pepe, or worse, both means that having these 2 is a luxury that we might be able to afford because these 2 are ineffective and more of a hindrance than a help.
W and P represent the ineptitude of arteta and the powers that be, and so that they do not need to acknowledge the mistakes made, they will continue to play them to the detriment of real progress.
One step forward and then another back.
Thanks for the read on this rainy morning in London.
A thought that crossed my mind is that Arteta is working far further ahead than is possibly being recognised.
Question: why was Willian bought?
Answer: because Arteta recognised at the end of last season that Pepe was no where near being ready or good enough to be able to carry the team, this season, to the heights that Arteta must have dreamt about.
The solution — and this was after giving Reiss Nelson a good shot at the right side at the end of last season — was to buy a ready made experienced professional in Willian to carry the right sided load until one of those two came good.
This obviously didn’t happen, Saka on the right happened, and Willian has gone from brilliant (first game of the season) to, quite understandably, everyone’s whipping boy.
The point here is that Arteta was thinking further ahead, past the sacred 70 million cow that is Pepe, to find a solution.
Which brings me to today’s post. Arteta is thinking ahead again, Willian has failed and he knows it and this time he has bought in Odegaard to replace Willian. Different position I hear you say, quite true I answer, but the right side has gone now for as long as Saka is at the club. The other position that Willian could possibly play is the Ozil role but he hasn’t shown anything to suggest that he could make that his own, hence the reason for action.
In short, Arteta has already recognised that Willian has failed and has brought in Odegaard in the hope of replacing him……
I will stop here or people will think that it is GB and not LB.
“Be still my beating heart”
Every time I see that it makes me laugh.
I have heard it mentioned, but is there any logic in Willian having ‘playing time’ written into his contract?
Remember he was signed at the time that Raul Sneaky Backhander was in charge and cutting amazing deals like signing Pepe for £72m & Saliba for £30m. Many shady agents were involved, one of which was Kia Joorabchian, who is Willian’s agent.
Imagine signing a 32 year old cast off to a 3 year deal? Batsh!t crazy.
And hardly anybody in the media talks about the dubious goings on at Wolves.
Run day to day by an agent, Mendes, who brings in many of his players. In the main Portuguese.
A number of these players have come from clubs in Portugal that are being used by agents to farm players. Braga is very close to Mendes. Benfica, Porto & Sporting all have players that belong to third parties.
Another club closely involved in these deals is Athletico Madrid, where Peter Kenyon was closely involved. He then moved on to set up player ownership companies that drop players into clubs with a view to making a tidy profit on transfer.
Roman Abramovich was named in the Panama papers as main beneficiary of a number of these player ownership companies. Who coincidentally used to employ Kenyon at Chelsea.
Roman is close to Mourinho, whose agent is Mendes. Another manager he looks after is Nuno at Wolves.
It is so obvious to me that the whole set up is a money laundering operation to clean dirty Russian money into the West. Football is the vehicle.
How are the FA doing with their ‘Fit & Proper’ persons test?
Cheers Rocky, nice post.
Are there just two musketeers? I cannot see these two doing what they do without the Silky Saka being an integral part of it. Bukayo is slightly ahead of them though, and he makes everybody around him a better player. For a 19 year old he just so incredibly effective. He has the potential to become one of England’s greatest ever players.
LB, short for Lord Byron? 😅
I like your Willian-Pepe-Saka-Odegaard theory a lot.
Thank you for taking the time to read it Total.
A ‘Smith Röwdegaard’ sounds like a brand for combine harvesters. 😁
Great comments people.
‘Smith Rowdegaard’ could also be a particularly difficult to assemble chest of drawers from IKEA.
Me personally I want my front 4 to be
Pepe/PEA ESR. SAKA
Odegard can fill in for injuries or resting players
Sorry – I have been swamped at work lately. Just wanted to thank Rocky once again for all the recent posts 🙂 I ll pick up with writing some probably next week if all goes well with work.
On my side, I thought that Ceballos was really good for about 60 mins in our last game. His ability to find the pass is great and he is also very good at driving the ball forward. Of course, Odegaard focalised the attention because it was his first start for us but for me, I would maybe welcome a CebaRowe combo more in the medium to long term. The standout performer for me was once again Saka despite Auba’s hat-trick.
The player that is becoming increasingly expendable is Willian based on his performance. I would rather keep Pepe to be honest.
One other player that has just made himself indispensable is Xhaka, who really tidied up his game. He can remain a liability of course but overall, he has been good in the past 6-8 weeks.
Our biggest worry still remain RB (Bellerin) in my opinion.
As for Auba, he is great playing in the middle indeed. I think that it would be great to see the following set-up at some point:
Leno – Bello (:-(), Holding, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, Xhaka – Saka, Martinelli, Smith Rowe – Auba
With ESR and Martinelli permuting throughout the game, I think they d drive defenses crazy. Our back up team would then be:
Ryan – Chambers, Luiz, Mari, Cedric – Ceba, El Neny – Pepe, Odegaard, Willian (or RN) – Laca
I think this group could take us somewhere close to a Top 8 finish and maybe bring us some European joy…
Not sure I agree with peA playing ST in first half he drifted to the left side a lot which shows how much hw is comfortable on that side, so not sure how capable he would be against a side sitting deep and he needs to hold the ball up, this is where I think lacazette should be used
We’ve been lucky that our busy spells haven’t overlapped so we can tag team each other with the post writing 😀
If anyone else wants to get in on the post writing action, don’t be shy!
Wow – beautiful goal from Mbappe
RC.. There’s only one thing I can say to you – Mbappe!!!!! 🙂👌
Thanks Rocky. I like your Rowedegaard theory. I agree with RC that Ceballos and Xhaka both played well and again it makes me think that all our defensive, deeper lying midfielders need 1 of the others to partner them to be effective. You wonder if any of them could play the deeper midfield role alone.
That said, I would still like to see a 4-1-4-1 sometime if we could manage it. Martinelli on the wide left of the 4 with ESR playing centre left and Saka on the wide right with Odegaard in the centre right. You would then have a Rowedegaard flanked by a Sakanelli.
I like LB’s theory as well. It could almost have been me saying that 🙂. It really wouldn’t surprise me that Arteta was thinking that far ahead.
I’m confused as to why Willian isn’t doing anywhere near what he is capable of, and was doing even just last season. He can’t have nosedived to a permanently inferior level that quickly and I can only think he is playing within himself with fear of making mistakes.
Willian looks more as if he should play centrally rather than wide but would need a few hand picked games to regain his confidence. I can’t see those coming up soon with Benfica twice, Leicester and City all coming up and we need to prioritise the confident in form players.
I’m guessing RC is slightly happy this evening
RC78 u probably bussing after that win lets hope dey don’t don blow it this time