Rowdegaard Rising: Has Arteta Cracked the Creativity Conundrum?

Blonde on Blonde: a lethal combination

We are fortunate to have two such creative attacking midfield talents as Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard.

Yet some supporters have been doubtful as to whether the two can be accommodated in the same starting line-up or whether they are in an either/or situation.

Indeed, when we signed the Norwegian on a permanent deal this summer there were concerns that his arrival would push the young Englishman down the pecking order and hinder his development.

So it was very gratifying to see the pair start in tandem against the N17 Miscreants on Sunday and to both play so well.

They also started the previous league game (our 1-0 win away at Burnley) and were in the line-up that allowed Aubameyang to grab a hat trick against Leeds United last season in a 4-2 victory.

Selecting a starting eleven is a careful balancing act and it’s easy to see why some of us have had concerns about Odegaard and ESR meshing successfully without either leaving us weak in midfield or forcing other key players onto the bench.

For example, if we now assume that a trio of ESR-Ode-Saka behind Aubameyang might be Mikel Arteta’s preferred starting line-up, then where does that leave the likes of Pepe (our most expensive player), Martinelli (one of our most promising) and Lacazette (one of the most experienced)?

Personally I prefer the idea of putting our best players on the pitch and finding a way to make it work. And ESR and Odegaard are certainly among our best players (along with Saka and Auba).

You don’t have to look back very far to remember a time when, although we had tightened up defensively, we were having real trouble creating chances. It was a common complaint in comments on this blog and others.

So when you have two such creative players as our blonde-on-blonde duo it is surely incumbent upon the manager to create a system that allows them both to feature and I, for one, am glad that El Patron seems to have found a way of doing just that.

Will it be appropriate for every game? Perhaps not. Against Chelsea or Man City the manager may choose to sacrifice a bit of that attacking thrust, but in many, many matches it is a combination that puts us on the front foot.

And it may well work even against the best teams: on Sunday it was a joy to see how quickly we broke on the counter-attack, leaving the Spuds dead in our tracks. We have seen very little of that kind of speedy defence-to-attack play under Arteta and too much of the constipated, crab-like ‘horseshoe’ approach.

For parts of last season it seemed that Arteta’s preferred attacking set-up was Lacazette up front, Auba on the left, Pepe or Saka on the right and one of Odegaard or ESR behind the striker. It worked at times, but typically produced slow build-up play with the ball going into Laca’s feet then being passed back out and sideways as we probed for openings.

The new approach is much more pleasing on the eye and much harder to defend against.

RC suggested yesterday that it now appears as if Arteta has finally developed a clear idea of what his best starting formation is – and it includes all three of ESR, Saka and Odegaard. With a proven finisher like Auba ahead of them, that’s a combined attacking threat that will worry any team in the EPL.



17 Responses to Rowdegaard Rising: Has Arteta Cracked the Creativity Conundrum?

  1. RC78 says:

    Hi Rocky – thanks for the post.

    On my side, I am not sure about playing Ode and ESR together in the following set-up:

    -> 4123, where they are the two in the middle in front of a DM;
    -> 4231, where one of them is asked to play next to the DM.

    I am ok with them playing together higher up the pitch, where they are most effective and efficient plus their youth also helps with the press so as long as they are playing as part of the attacking unit, I am totally OK and yesterday showed that we need them in the last third because ESR is really good with his runs in the box and Ode is good on the ball.

    Now, if we need more pace and more trickery, we could always sub one of them for Pepe or Martinelli or even Laca if we need more presence in the box.

    Now the way back to the starting XI for Pepe just got a lot harder and I hope that this will push him to work harder and to deliver high performances when called upon.

    So far for me and it is early in the season, the one player that is really helping us out a lot in our defensive and attacking plays is Tomy who has just been a real value addition.

    Also, Ramsdale for now (but he can also be loopy at times), has been solid, which is an upgrade from Leno.

    So the “big losers” from our latest bright patch are:
    – Leno, Chambers, Pepe and Laca…

    Now let us hope that our double-pivot system also gets anchored in and performs regularly. If Partey stays fit and if Xhaka does not lose his mind every 3 games, then may be we do have a good partnership although I don’t have much faith in Partey staying fit or Xhaka keeping his head straight…This is the one area that could still haunt us in some games and where I am not sure we have adequate cover with Sambi and El Neny but maybe AMN could really help there so let us see…

    I would not mind seeing us approach players like D. Rice, K. Philipps, Ndidi, Brozovic, Ruiz, Veretout, Tchouameni, Ward-Prowse…One of these players would help us solidify our double-pivot imho

    For example:
    Rams – Tomy, Benny, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, PHILIPS – Saka, Ode, ESR – Auba

    Anyways, already glad we are have a starting XI that seems to be working and applying Arteta’s game plan. Also glad that there seems to be a better balance in terms of creating and defending

  2. Pete the Thirst says:

    Yes, Rocky, it clearly can work.

    I prefer Saka on the right, he seems more dangerous there.

    ESR offered plenty of direct play. He’s deceptively quick and has a very good touch. Not his preferred position, but if he puts the effort in he can make it work.

    Odegaard keeps things moving at pace and is a one man press machine. Not many players have done that since Alexis was at his peak.

    The obvious casualties are Pepe and Lacazette.

    Pepe hasn’t shown much this season. He’s in his third season and it still hasn’t clicked. It must be about time that we admit to signing a dud. Raul and his agent buddies done us up like a kipper on that deal. On current form I’d rate him a £15m player.

    Lacazette should have been sold a few years ago.

  3. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky. Even though he played well on Sunday, as did the whole team though, Xhaka shouldn’t be considered as part of our strongest first 11.

    We get these good performances from him at times but also there are many games where the lack of pace, ability to carry the ball or receive it in tight areas, and the poor tackling technique hamper us. Promoting home back to our strongest first 11 is a groundhog day scenario that will eventually unravel again.

    He is a useful commodity but it seems there are certain games and certain teams that suit him and allow him to have a good game. As good as we were Spurs were abject and the game suited him this time around.

    Sambisa already has the skills to exceed Xhaka and be a more consistent EPL player in the imminent future. I think the question is whether we go with 1 DM (Partey) with Rowdegaard as 2 number 8’s behind the striker and flanked by 2 attacking wide players, or 2 DM’s with 3 behind the striker.

    With 2 DM’s the first 11 should soon be Partey and Sambi. With 1 it would be Partey but Sambi has the ability to play the single DM role far better than Xhaka.

    An industrious and in form Brighton may cause us problems that the Spuds couldn’t. Sometimes it works out that way, that so called lesser teams cause you problems more in the physical and intensity side of the game and this is where we need more pace and athleticism to match this and then let the superior players make the difference.

  4. GoonerB says:

    Looking at the Rowdegaard combination the 2 can work together because their games are complimentary. Both do a lot if what the other does but Odegaard is more the conductor while ESR drives the game with incisive forward bursts with the ball

  5. RockyLives says:

    Good points GoonerB
    ESR has elements of Pires about his game (Grealish too, for a more up to date reference).

    Ode is more of a conductor as you say, but a very hard working one. Not so kick in the Fabregas mould – more Ozil (but with added effort).

  6. RC78 says:

    I think Pires was better on the wing and at dribbling but ESR seems better with his diagonal runs in the box….

    As for Ode, I d say he could eventually more of a Brady type of player but these are big shoes to fill…

    I fully agree that we cannot fully trust Xhaka to be reliable nor Partey to be fit for sustained period of time, hence my earlier point that we need at least one more reliable DM/CM in our squad.

    According to Edu, our starting double pivot is the Partey-Xhaka pair.

    I think that Sambi and AMN are Partey’s under-study and El Neny the back-up for Xhaka. I think Sambi can turn out to be a good acquisition and that AMN can certainly be good in the middle of the pitch but I d love to have a more confirmed player in that position, which would mean that:
    – we may have to get rid of El Neny
    – we may have to bench or sell Xhaka eventually 🙂

  7. LB says:

    “All 3 of ERS, Saka and Odegaard” Oh yes baby.

  8. fred1266 says:

    Can someone explain to my why dey keep saying the goal were made in harlen end

    I know ot something to do with the the academy but not sure what exactly

    Also why isn’t it made in coloney since that were the training ground is

  9. Mike M says:

    The Arsenal youth academy is at the Hale End Academy in London. I grew up a few minutes from there, although it wasn’t there in those days. It’s in North East London between Walthamstow and Chingford.

  10. fred1266 says:

    Or ok always thought everything was run from coloney

  11. GoonerB says:

    I think the other positive thing is that, even though he looks strong on the attacking right side, Saka has the skills to replace either of ESR or Odegaard in the number 8 roles and put Pepe out on the right. Just gives us an extra option.

  12. RC78 says:

    True GoonerB…Don’t we love Saka?

    Now Xhaka is out for 3 months. Let us see what Sambi or AMN are made of, unless Arteta plays it safe with El Neny knowing that El Neny is good at harassing but not much much more…

  13. LB says:

    It seems that Saka has finally put that Euro hangover behind him.

  14. fred1266 says:

    Would love to see us play


    Saka odegard ESR Pepe


  15. GoonerB says:

    We did Fred play just that against Burnley. We won the game but didn’t dominate as much as that attacking line up should indicate. However it should still be tested out again in some games as it probably takes a bit of time to refine that system and look good in it.

    I feel we are moving our team along in a very Man Cityesque direction with the types of players we are developing around. A single striker with a combination of creative, ball playing, goal scoring players operating behind.

    City have certain players that seem more suited as wide attackers like Mahrez, others that are more pure CM’s like rhodri and Gundogan and some that are capable of playing a hybrid 8 / 10 role but also play the wide role as well like De Bruyne, Foden and Bernado.

    We have Pepe and Martinelli as more our wide players. The likes if Partey, Sambi and Xhaka are pure central players, while ESR, Saka and Odegaard can do the hybrid mix.

  16. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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