We all know that Mikel Arteta is desperate for Houssem Aouar to join.
The deadline is looming for Arsenal, but what changes will Arteta look to make to help integrate the Frenchmen into the squad, if he signs on the dotted line?
Houssem Aouar is a versatile midfielder who is used on the left side of a central duo, or trio, can even play further out wide on the left or more rigidly as an attacking midfielder. He has typically played in a 4-3-1-2 as the number ten or in a 4-3-3 as a more forward-thinking number 8. Obviously, we all know that Arteta has Arsenal playing in a 3-4-3, so what changes could be made to help bed Aouar into the team?
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The general consensus among fans is that Arteta is looking to eventually replicate the Pep Guardiola system at Manchester City, which would use Aouar in a similar way to how David Silva was used in the 2019/20 season. Almost in a hybrid eight-ten role that in the defensive phase of play, looks to press from the front and in the attacking phase, looks to pick up the ball in the tight spaces and attempt key passes rather than looking to dribble too much.
Should Mikel Arteta decide to stay with the 3-4-3, I find it difficult to see Aouar partner one of Granit Xhaka or Dani Ceballos, as both of them are players that compliment each other well and are used to protecting the back three. They also offer more defensive contributions compared to Aouar, who only averaged 1.6 tackles and interceptions per game in 2019/20 compared to Ceballos, who had 3.2, and Xhaka, who had 2.2 in the same period.
Against the more defensive-minded teams that allow us to have possession for large parts of the game, we would be able to get away with it at times, but when it comes to the games where we are getting pressed high for large spells, Aouar in a two-man midfield partnering one of Xhaka or Ceballos would look very vulnerable.
In a 4-2-3-1 system, Aouar would be deployed as the Mesut Ozil-esque number ten with Xhaka and Ceballos as the double pivot behind him (or maybe even Thomas Partey if we’re lucky).
That would give Aouar a lot more freedom in the attacking phases of play with two players offering protection to the back four, thus he could concentrate solely on unlocking picking passes and unlocking tight, assured low blocks. As it is, this is probably Arsenal’s primary issue.
As a whole, there looks to be three different systemic changes that Arteta can make in order to help mould Aouar into the squad, some being more obvious than others. But what we all know is regardless of the system, we would be getting a world-class talent that would drastically improve our ranks.