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Arsenal’s signing of Leandro Trossard last week led to a mixed reaction from fans. The 28-year-old’s arrival raised some eyebrows given the club’s focus on younger arrivals in recent windows, so why did the Gunners bite at this opportunity?
So much hype and expectation had been framed around the potential arrival of Ukranian winger Mykalo Mudryk, only for him to join rivals Chelsea. Crucially, Edu Gaspar reacted quickly to seal the deal for Trossard – a very different profile.
Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have been heavily relied upon this season, with both starting every Premier League game so far. This isn’t sustainable and Mikel Arteta needed an option that was ready to come into the team and hit the ground running. That requirement is why some had question marks over Mudryk, too.
Trossard is currently in his prime, having scored 7 Premier League goals already this season, only Odegaard (8) has managed more in this Arsenal team.
Crucially he is a versatile player whose performance levels seem to be relatively unaffected depending on where he plays on the pitch. WhoScored data has him ranking between 6.5 and 7.5 this season, playing as a left wing-back, attacking midfielder, striker and left winger. With Smith Rowe being nursed back to full fitness and Gabriel Jesus in the middle of a long-term injury, Arsenal had no senior cover across the front three before Trossard’s arrival.
As well as someone who can be an option across the front four positions, Arsenal just needed more options. In a world where five subs can be used every game, Arteta has been hamstrung by his lack of options off the bench, unable to find the breakthrough against Newcastle, or really turn the screw in the second half against Spurs.
It was a matter of time until it started costing this team points. We will never know how it would’ve gone against Manchester United had Martinelli had to stay on, but don’t underestimate Trossard’s part in the winning goal and contributions in the final stages, carrying the ball up the pitch.
With four Premier League seasons, 116 appearances for Brighton and 24 international caps for Belgium, don’t underestimate the true level of experience Trossard offers this young set of attackers.
As good as Arsenal’s young players have been, the likes of Granit Xhaka (30) and Thomas Partey (29) have been integral to the 100-point pace the Gunners have been playing at so far this season.
In attack, especially with Gabriel Jesus (25) out injured, Arsenal really lacked experience. Saka and Martinelli, both 21, have started every Premier League game this season and Nketiah, who had managed just 10 career Premier League goals before this season, has had to lead the line for 90 minutes.
Title race or not, Arsenal needed more numbers, but the need is only more pressing given the opportunity presented this campaign. It’s entirely possible that Arsenal may have better squads in the future, but never find themselves in quite this position again, afterall, this is their highest ever points tally at this stage, including The Invincibles.
With 19 tough games to go, it’s inevitable that this Arsenal team will wobble and the clubs exciting young forwards will have some drop off, even within games, and experience across all areas of the pitch will be required. Trossard’s arrival gives Arsenal another string to their bow and ability to pose new questions to opposition defences as they inevitably begin to realise how to limit Arsenal’s current attacking options. Perhaps we are already seeing just that in Martinelli’s recent form, with just one assist and no goals in his last four appearances.
Martinelli will come again, but Arsenal, as a team trying to win the league, need the ability to pose new questions in each game, giving opposition new challenges to solve. A consistent XI is important, but teams will begin to figure out Arsenal’s patterns of play and Trossard adds to this squad a crucial element of unpredictability, whether that be from the start in some games or off the bench in others.
Look at our rivals for this title, Manchester City. It wasn’t working for them at Stamford Bridge earlier this month and on comes £150million duo Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish, with both combining to find the winner. Arsenal too need that ability to change gear and snatch vital points.
Many wrongly assumed that the speed in which Arsenal moved for Trossard meant he was a bit of a panic buy, only brought in due to his availability given his fallout at Brighton. But this could not be further from the truth. Arsenal, even before Arteta’s arrival, had been looking at Trossard during his time at Genk. Since then, Arsenal assistant coach Albert Stuivenberg has recommended the player to Mikel, having managed him for a year at Genk.
Yes it's a backup option but it's not a panic buy from Arsenal. Arteta likes Trossard, had eyes on his contract situation in the summer. Arsenal were even interested in him before he moved to Brighton 🇧🇪 pic.twitter.com/i5yKXFDtf2
— PB (@OliPriceBates) January 19, 2023
Interestingly, looking back at the time Stuivenberg managed Trossard, he was deployed about 50% as a striker and 50% as an attacking midfielder. Central areas is where he spent most of his time in Belgium and it was interesting to hear the player himself suggest his favoured position is behind the striker, when quizzed during his interview with Arsenal.com.
We should not underestimate his ability to add quality in central areas.
Whilst Eddie Nketiah is excelling in this moment, a title-winning squad needs much more than two centre forward options, especially when one has a long-term injury. Arteta has the luxury of knowing Trossard has a wealth of experience in this position and even six Premier League starts upfront this season.
In attacking midfield, Odegaard has been one of the best players in the league this season, but were he to pick up an injury, new signing Fabio Vieira is yet to consistently prove himself in this league, with the right-wing berth perhaps Arteta’s favoured role for him until he is further along with his development.
Trossard gives Arteta a real alternative in that position too. When chasing a game, even combining Trossard and Odegaard could be an option in the #8 roles could be possible. We saw Smith Rowe and Odegaard take up those positions in Arsenal’s comeback at West Ham a couple of seasons ago.
Ultimately, with the fee involved for Trossard (£21million + £6million add ons), wage (rumoured £90,000 per week) and contract length (3.5 years), this deal looks like a really smart piece of business. It mitigates the risk in case of further attacking injuries, whilst also providing a top attacking option both from the start and off the bench as the games start to pile up from February.
Now this will only be certified as a real successful deal if Trossard does what I’ve said, proves his value of experience and picks up some vital goals and assists. Talking to Brighton fans, their one reservation on the player is his lack of consistency, often shining in moments. But this Arsenal team may need just that, one or two moments from a fresh ingredient in this title mix.
Trossard will more than repay his fee if he can have a few moments in the next 4 months.
Given the Europa League is soon resuming, do not be surprised to see Trossard pick up more minutes than many seem to expect. This is a really talented player and Arteta will be delighted to have him added to the squad.