Unai Emery’s willingness to take ineffective players at half-time suggests the new Arsenal manager is still undecided on his best starting eleven. He must have a selection headache ahead of the Cardiff City game, with most of his substitutes impressing. Of all the second-half players he’s used, one has impressed the most.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s arrival in January 2018 suggested Alexandre Lacazette was no longer an automatic starter at Arsenal. The latter’s sustaining an injury just 11 days after the Gabon international striker’s arrival and missing six weeks of football meant they hardly had direct competition for a starting berth under former manager Arsene Wenger. This season, though, they find themselves locking horns with each other for the centre-forward spot.
If the recent developments are anything to go by, though, the Gunners would largely benefit from their taking up two different positions in the team.
The former Borussia Dortmund man, while an excellent goal-scorer, has struggled in front of the goal this season, with his coach even admitting that the club record signing’s lack of confidence is holding him back. “He needs to find the confidence, then to score and score another,” said the Spanish manager last Friday.
While it’s true that a his last season self would have hit the roof of the net on 20 minutes against Chelsea —instead of missing from seven yards out — Mesut Ozil and co. aren’t creating enough chances for him either. Often times, he looks completely isolated from the rest of the team and, he, a pure modern striker, hardly made the marauding runs that the Emirates Stadium faithful became increasingly fond of last season.
In the final moments of the hardfought 3-1 win against West Ham United, though, he showed glimpses of his deadly self, running at defenders, working the channels, wanting the ball at his feet and positively involving himself in the build-up. Attributing his late revival only to the second-half introduction of his strike partner is unfair to Danny Welbeck and Lucas Torreira who impacted the game hugely as well, but it’s hard not to acknowledge their chemistry making Arsenal all the better in the attacking half.
Ahead of the Hammers game, the head coach stated that he couldn’t start with two centre-forwards at the moment despite playing the former Lyon man and Eddie Nketiah upfront in pre-season games. However, their playing off each other exceptionally in the second half must give the new manager something to think about. He has proven amply reactive given his taking off ineffective players, including Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi at various points. Thus, he must consider starting them together against an opposition like the Bluebirds who, at least on paper, must offer him the luxury of experimenting with his squad, unlike perhaps, Chelsea or Manchester City.
Keeping the team balanced and ensuring the midfield isn’t exposed is a difficult to achieve when a manager starts two centre-forwards in Premier League, but the Arsenal manager must find a way to do exactly that.
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