The winds of change are coming at the Emirates as Mikel Arteta prepares to rip the current Arsenal side apart to find its heart, style, and identity and it raises questions in a number of positions including the role of striker/strikers. Some familiar faces will certainly go over two seasons as Arteta slowly ships out the old to bring in the new and it’s a difficult job for many reasons.
Finding the right players at the right price, selling surplus players to balance the books, and incorporating Arsenal’s promising academy talent is not exactly a walk in the park. Arteta is also dealing with uncertainty with the contract extension of Saka and the potential departures of Aubameyang and Lacazette and even though he has an idea of how to go forward, that may change if any or all of those players depart from the Emirates.
At least, Arteta has Gabriel Martinelli, the most exciting young player to come from outside the academy in years. The impact this lad could have at Arsenal is immense and the fans are already talking of him in terms of a future Arsenal legend. Premature of course, but he has more than made up for the lack of excitement in an inconsistent team and the disappointing seasons of the last few years.
Apart from Martinelli, Arteta can turn elsewhere to get goals with a trio of ambitious and energetic strikers, all looking to secure a starting place in the first team.
Folarin Balogun, Eddie Nketiah and Tyreece John-Jules are names already on the lips of fans and although Nketiah seems to have the advantage at present because he has already made appearances for the first team, the possible void left by the departures Aubameyang and Lacazette only really equate to one additional vacant position in the side, assuming that Martinelli is an automatic choice. He will be of course.
So quite simply the maths doesn’t add up. Four strikers into two possible positions, although Martinelli has the luxury of being able to play wide. Arteta could try to rotate but it will not be a perfect solution to the obvious problem and one of the three will play less than the other understudies.
It’s a problem trying to contain and appease young players who have seen a host of young players make the grade at big clubs and Arteta has a massive balancing act ahead of him at the Emirates.
I like Nketiah but he still isn’t convincing in his role, still, that doesn’t mean he won’t grow. It is a daunting prospect playing with highly experienced colleagues, but Nketiah is starting to show promise.
Of the competition, Tyreece John-Jules is a confident and composed striker with a hint of Ian Wright about him. He’s determined facing goal, comfortable with the ball at his feet, and makes perfectly timed intuitive runs.
Perhaps, Nketiah’s biggest threat is Folarin Balogun, who looks like he has been constructed and assembled in the comfort of a high tech sports laboratory. Balance and poise, agility, aggression, and pace are all in his locker and he is thought by many within the club to be on the verge of a breakthrough at the Emirates that will see him take the remaining spot.
Arsenal have already turned down a £5m bid from Brentford for the 18-year-old American. There was apparently no pondering involved, no deliberation, just a flat ‘No’ and it wasn’t a ruse to glean more money, Arsenal just wanted to keep hold of the player.
The club rates him highly including the likes of Per Mertesacker and Freddie Ljungberg which ensures Balogun’s not going anywhere in a hurry.
We will see what happens, it will be immensely interesting but it won’t just be down to potential and ability, it will be the one that holds their nerve and seizes their opportunity that will embed themselves in Arteta’s plans.