Time for Trossard! Stuttering Arsenal need Arteta to show his ruthless side
It took just six minutes for Leandro Trossard to make his mark against Brentford. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to secure Arsenal the win they desperately needed, but it was the latest indicator of the impact the £25-million January signing can have.
Trossard has started on the bench for all of Arsenal’s three league games since his arrival from Brighton, with Mikel Arteta keeping faith in Gabriel Martinelli, despite the young Brazilian’s stuttering form of late.
In many ways that is no surprise, such has been the level of Martinelli’s performances over the course of the season. It shows a sense of loyalty from the manager in the core group of players that have put Arsenal in this tantalising position at the top of the Premier League with less than half a season remaining.
But after a run of three games without a win in all competitions, that loyalty must now be being tested more than it has at any point in the campaign so far. And if it isn’t, then it should be.
“You always think about that with a few players when you lose [points],” Arteta said after Saturday’s draw, when asked if he thought his players were starting to show signs of tiredness. “Those questions are always when you drop points. I’m delighted with how the boys tried and how much they wanted it.”
Arsenal weren’t poor against Brentford. They just came up against one of the Premier League’s most in-form teams, who produced the type of performance that highlighted why they have gone 10 top-flight games unbeaten.
It's not a title race without a hiccup 😅 pic.twitter.com/duDs1c8pBR— GOAL (@goal) February 11, 2023
But Arteta’s side did look jaded and short of ideas, predictable even. Just as they did at Everton a week earlier. The energy that has been the hallmark of Arsenal’s season wasn’t there. Brentford sat deep, nullified the space and Arteta’s side had little answer.
Martinelli, as he has done since the turn of the year, looked short of imagination and struggled in the limited amount of space Brentford’s excellent defence allowed him.
That’s perhaps understandable given the amount of games he’s played this season, both for club and country, All players, especially young players, will have dips in form over the course of the campaign and Martinelli is enduring that right now.
That’s why Saturday’s game felt like the perfect opportunity for Arteta to give the 21-year-old a bit of a rest. To take him out of the firing line and give Trossard his chance from the start.
But Arsenal’s manager resisted that temptation. He picked the same XI that lost at Everton last weekend. In fact, he picked the same XI that he’s picked in every league game since the World Cup. There’s loyalty, but then maybe there is also too much loyalty. It feels like Arteta is perhaps showing that right now.
“With the players we have, we try to maximise our resources,” explained the Arsenal boss. “So far they’ve done really well.
“It’s not an issue the way the boys tried. I look at their body language, their intentions and how much they want it. They are in a great place.”
👊 Attentions turn to Wednesday— Arsenal (@Arsenal) February 11, 2023
Thanks for your support, Gooners 👏 pic.twitter.com/tI9hCC6Qx7
At times during the first half of the season, Arteta was forced into playing the same starting XI due to injuries and the size of the squad. Even if he wanted to change things, he couldn’t really do it. But he does have that option now. The January transfer window has given him that.
So far, however, he appears reluctant to rock the boat, and Arsenal have begun to look a bit predictable as a result. Every team they come up against knows exactly what to expect. Thomas Frank even pointed to that after Saturday’s game when he highlighted the need to double up against Arsenal’s wingers to nullify their attack.
It will be intriguing to see what Arteta does now against Manchester City on Wednesday night. The fact Trossard has backed up his impressive cameos with a goal will only increase the pressure on him to play the Belgian international from the start.
But one thing Arteta has shown this season is that he will not bow to any outside pressure. If he does make changes, it will be on his own terms.
He stayed loyal against Brentford, possibly to his and his team’s detriment. Maybe now a ruthless edge is what is needed to reignite Arsenal’s fire.