Arsenal were keen to sign a striker in the January transfer window but couldn’t get any deals over the line, but that may have been a blessing in disguise if Mikel Arteta changes system
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola may have given Mikel Arteta a plan on how to thrive without a natural centre forward at Arsenal.
The Gunners were desperate to sign a striker in the January transfer window to prevent Arteta from being short in the final third next season.
After several disciplinary woes, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was allowed to leave for Barcelona. And with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah out of contract at the end of the season, bringing a no.9 to the Emirates Stadium is now a priority.
Serbian international Dusan Vlahovic was the club’s top target last month, but the striker opted to join Juventus from Fiorentina instead.
But Guardiola may have come to the rescue of Arteta by explaining how he uses Phil Foden as a false nine at City, a tactic which the Gunners boss could replicate with attacking midfielder Emile Smith Rowe.
Have Your Say! Should Mikel Arteta try playing Emile Smith Rowe in the false nine role? Comment here.
Foden has been deployed down the middle this season rather than on the left-wing, allowing him to drop into pockets of space to create but also spearhead the attack as well.
The 21-year-old has scored six and assisted three so far this season, but those figures don’t do justice to how influential the England international has been.
Speaking after City’s 4-0 victory over Norwich on Saturday night, Guardiola explained Foden’s position to reporters that the ‘role gets you closer to the goal to have shots and assists’.
And with Foden flourishing, Arteta may be tempted to take a leaf out of the book of the man he once shared the dugout with and play Smith Rowe in a similar role.
The exciting academy graduate has been impressive for the Gunners so far this season and the chance to be given licence to roam in the final third whilst also being relieved of all defensive duties could be the making of the 21-year-old.
Martin Odegaard and Smith Rowe have both been battling it out to play as a no.10 for Arsenal, with the two players seeming too like for like to line up together regularly. So with Smith Rowe playing as a false nine, Odegaard may be able to play in midfield and run in behind.
The switch in system across the frontline could also benefit wingers Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli as the pair would have more space to run in behind, especially the latter considering the Brazilian is expected to be the long-term striker in North London.
Smith Rowe can take inspiration from the way that Foden has adapted and grown into the role of a false nine, whilst also taking the pressure off of his club as they look for a striker.
The versatile star can also take confidence from the comments of club legend, Freddie Ljungberg.
Speaking to Smith Rowe at a FIFA event, Ljungberg told the prospect: “There’s always something in my opinion [that you can work on] if you’re being a very critical coach.
“If you can just look at it from the outside and when I look at you, for example, you can do it all. You have the physical presence, you’re big, you have pace, you have technique, you have a good shot. So, in my opinion, there is no limit. The limit, I think, is you.”
It remains to be seen whether Arteta does see a benefit to pushing Smith Rowe into a more attacking position, or whether he, again, looks to the transfer market to find a striker.