Trust The Youth
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Emile Smith Rowe and NGolo Kante of Chelsea FC chase the ball during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 26, 2020 in London, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Alan Hansen once said "You can't win anything with kids." This statement was certainly disproven in Arsenal's win over Chelsea on Saturday.

With an average age of 24, it was the younger members of the Gunners squad who put the shift in to gain Arsenal's first 3 points since the start of November. First team regulars such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Willian and Pepe missed out on the starting eleven and Arsenal still managed to look by far the better team against Frank Lampard's Blues.

Of course there may be reasons that the more senior players aren't quite 100% at the moment, but either way Mikel Arteta needs to give those young players, among others, a chance in the team, as they are the ones putting in the performances and getting the results.

Gabriel Martinelli

There hasn't been much to cheer about for Arsenal fans in recent weeks, but the return of Gabriel Martinelli has brighten the mood for sure. In his first start back from injury he managed to grab an assist and was consistently on Man City's toes, despite what the score line ended as. 

The win against Chelsea was his first start in the league for this season and repeated a feat set in 2019 when Arsenal went seven matches without a win and in the eighth game when Martinelli started they won, which was the case as the Gunners overcame their London rivals.

He was unlucky not to get a goal himself, with an acrobatic effort, which he was evidently frustrated about. But despite this he was a constant threat on the left hand side, linking up brilliantly throughout the game with Kieran Tierney, creating some real clear cut chances and driving with conviction into the Chelsea area.

Martinelli has the talent to cut in from the left, while also being able to operate in the centre meaning he can take advantage of picking up on loose balls, while creating chances for himself to take on. 

Since arriving in North London, it has all been positive from Martinelli. Scoring goals, grabbing assists and playing with unbelievable confidence to beat his man and its this sort of confidence in attack and in front of goal, which Arsenal have missed for a while. It can take this sort of confidence of one player to transpire throughout a team and if Arteta wants this to remain, Martinelli should keep starting.

Emile Smith-Rowe

In Freddie Ljungberg's final match in charge as interim manager he decided to make a statement surrounding the state of play of the current crop of players at the club, by choosing to start with a youthful line up, including Emile Smith-Rowe. Though it was a stalemate, the game emphasised how highly rated the young players like Smith-Rowe are.

It must be sounding like a broken record hearing that Arsenal's main problem has been creativity this season, but the fact is that it is true, ranking 13th for most shots in the league.

The absence of Mesut Özil has meant a lack of an out and out No.10 with an over reliance on wingers getting crosses in the box, with Arsenal currently having the 4th most in the league, which clearly hasn't been too effective as Arsenal are averaging only a goal a game.

Smith-Rowe however offers Arteta the chance to switch things up from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 formation and as such offer much more in the way of attacking threat.

In the game against Chelsea, Smith-Rowe was a key link between the middle and the width of the pitch, allowing for quicker build ups with neat one twos, which the opposition couldn't keep up with. Smith-Rowe didn't do anything pretty, but just his presence in the middle allowing Arsenal to progress much quicker up the pitch meaning Chelsea couldn't get near the ball.

As someone who has also played on the wing, Smith-Rowe can switch to a variety of positions during a game, offering something different to the attack. This can offer the full backs the chance to break the line as defenders are forced to come centrally to mark him out of the game.

By having a natural No.10, Arsenal play with a lot more freedom and confidence on the ball and properly threaten the oppositions goal. With Özil supposedly nowhere getting a call back into the team, Smith-Rowe is his closest counterpart in the team and has already shown the quality he can add.

Bukayo Saka

There is little to no doubt who the majority of Arsenal fans will call their player of 2020 and that is of course Bukayo Saka. He has done exceptionally since he broke into the first team and has fully earned his stake as a regular in the team.

He was first being used in a variety of positions to fill in for injuries and has worked his way to get his place on the left, where he has been superb in getting a number of goals and assists. The game on Boxing Day really summed up why he should remain as the first name on the team sheet.

Throughout the game he was making runs, crossing balls into the area and linking up well with his team mates. Even if that goal was meant or not, it still highlighted his positive attitude to attack the goal and how he's always looking to take the risk to go forward.

There is little question that Saka will keep starting and every game he plays, he is proving more and more how much of a special talent he is.

The Rest 

There are of course a number of other young prospects who can all make a claim to being given a start and who all hail from the famous Hale End Academy.

Joe Willock has shown his quality in the centre of the park, with his quick interchanges and willingness to drive up the pitch, as well as his constant work rate, making for an all round midfielder. Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos and Mohamed Elneny have been inconsistent and a change of personal may make the difference.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has struggled to cement a place in Arteta's team, but has done more than enough to prove his worth. A versatile player who is happy to play on the wing, as a wing back, full back or even midfielder, he can offer something different each week. He has mainly found himself playing right back this season and with Hector Bellerin lacking confidence at the moment, should Maitland-Niles be given a run there.

Reiss Nelson can offer conviction on the wing with his quick and skillful feet to drive at the opposition and he has made a real step up in his confidence to take on players while playing for the first team and he has shown he can be valuable in creating chances. With Willian being questioned by sections of the Arsenal faithful, is it time to give Nelson a chance?

Arsenal lack any real out and out traditional centre forward and this problem can easily be solved by trusting Folarin Balogun. Not only would it help to convince him his future lies in North London, but he himself is a top class striker with a fierce eye for goal. Standing at 5ft 10, he can make the most out of Arsenal's crossing trait, to attack the ball and get shots on goal. Scoring two goals in four appearances in the Europa League, with not one of those being starts, it is clear he has a high conversation rate.

There are of course many others to mention, William Saliba and Eddie Nketiah for example, but there is a weighing up act between youth and experience that Arteta needs to solve and he can't have a team that lacks too much experience. Nonetheless, it is clear that there are some highly talented individuals that can solve problems which are currently present in the Gunners side and may help to turn their fortunes around.

 

 

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