I write this blog every morning and usually I write my body of content first, then try to think of a headline that summarises the blog I’ve just written. But occasionally, very rarely, I start with the title of the blog and take it from there. Today is such an occasion because after watching Emile Smith Rowe put in another impressive display and notch himself up to double figures for goals this season, as I exited the ground on Saturday early evening I thought to myself “well, that’s him sure to start against Wolves after that display”.
Mikel Arteta has a luxurious position behind the striker right now. He has an array of talent to pick from and making his selection choices must be a delight for him because even when we have referees conspiring against us to take players out of the equation like Michael Oliver did for the game away at Wolves, he still has an option that can come in and make it feel like we haven’t lost a good player to suspension.
Such was ESR’s impressive display, that it has led me to today’s title because as I said above, I left the ground thinking that Emile has to come in on Thursday. He deserves it. He has scored goals, he looked threatening for most of the game and he was taken off for Nicolas Pepe (another good option in one of the two wide positions and one I’ve even wondered about centrally from time-to-time) on 75 minutes which means he will have a little more freshness about him and will surely be ready for the visit of Wolves this week.
But what do you do? Do you tell Martinelli “unlucky son, the red card was a joke but them’s the breaks in the team because the competition in your position has been filled by a guy who gave a performance which means he cannot be dropped”? Or do you try to find a solution that incorporates the Brazilian, Odegaard, Smith Rowe and Saka all as one?
We’ve all been talking about it, haven’t we? We’ve all made suggestions in our Arsenal WhatsApp’s and on Twitter; Martinelli looks like a guy who can play off the shoulder, who has a killer instinct, so why not try him as a centre forward? Why not give him a shot and see what happens?
I’m open to the idea myself, but it feels a lot of burden for a collective of players all under 23. Odegaard as the senior statemen in that group hits home just how young our players are and whilst that gives us all the feels in terms of how far this team can go, we don’t want to put too much expectation on them and not have enough experience around them when we need it. I didn’t agree with the Martinelli sending off against Wolves in the slightest, but it felt like the rashness of a young and over-enthusiastic man and sometimes you do need those older heads around to be able to diffuse the situation. I realise that we have Xhaka and Partey who have both got themselves sent off in January, so my statement may feel a little ironic, but it feels like we need an experienced head at the moment in those attacking positions.
I am by no means the biggest fan of Lacazette by the way. If this is the first time you’ve read my jibberish then you may be fooled in to thinking that, but far from it, I am looking for a solution that sees him out as quickly as possible. But I don’t want us to go too hard and too fast on some of these young players by upping the pressure on them to deliver each week. I also wonder if the fact that the fanbase is all looking at Lacazette and his misses, his lack of chance creation and generally feeling a frustration that he doesn’t do enough in the penalty box, actually has a beneficial impact on those other younger players around him. We’re all so concerned with lamenting Lacazette’s lack of end product, the frustration doesn’t spill on to the younger players when they aren’t firing on all cylinders in games. Martinelli, for example, had a poor game against Wolves and didn’t really get too involved at times I thought. But the outrage of his sending off, plus the fact Lacazette missed some good chances, has meant that the Brazilian’s performance has gone somewhat under the radar.
To me that is a good thing; young players have those types of games, so the last thing any of us wants to see is any of them being ‘killed’ in terms of confidence. We saw what happened to Iwobi after he burst on to the scene; everyone thought his trajectory would be linear and he’d be a beast for us after a couple of seasons in the first team, but he never kicked on and I think his confidence took a massive hit as a result. I’m not sure it has ever recovered and now he’s a squad player at Everton not getting that much of a look in. It just goes to show you how these guys are still in their formative years and so if we can find ways to deflect some pressure off them, then so be it.
So perhaps Lacazette does offer more than just this ‘build up play’ we’ve heard so much about, as if no other player can hold the ball up. I wonder if they can though. I wonder if getting Martinelli in central is something worth considering. Maybe not against a load of grizzly centre halves playing three at the back and knocking him about like Wolves would, but in the coming weeks maybe it is time to experiment to see if we can really get the quartet of ESR, Martinelli, Odegaard and Saka on the pitch all at the same time.
I’m game. What about you?
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