Here’s getting to know a potential Arsenal target in Houssem Aouar
Prior to today, most people believed a potential move from Arsenal to bring Houssem Aouar to North London was nothing but a pipe dream. Now, the landscape has changed somewhat. Reliable sources from France are suggesting we have a genuine interest in the Frenchman. However, the question remains, who is he?
This morning, Get French Football News reported Lyon have rejected an approach from Arsenal involving a player swap deal. The proposed swap deal? Mattéo Guendouzi for Houssem Aouar alongside a small cash sum. Lyon are said to believe that they think they have enough depth in the middle of the park to cope just fine next season even if Aouar departs. Thus, there is no interest in Guendouzi on Lyon’s part and they’d only be willing to consider a cash-only offer. Disappointing for the Arsenal board who are desperate to offload Guendouzi.
Nonetheless, it’ll arguably be more disappointing for Arsenal that we failed to bring in Aouar on the first attempt. The 22-year-old midfielder of Algerian descent is a player with immense talent who has shone in France for Lyon this season. He’s not an out and out creator but the acquisition of the Lyon man would go some way towards filling our creative void in the middle of the park.
Houssem Aouar would bring a lot to Arsenal
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It’s been suggested in the past that Pep Guardiola is a huge fan of Aouar. For Guardiola, Aouar’s attractive combination of neat footwork, agility, and a decent turn of pace makes him the perfect mezzala.
This is the role Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and the like operate in for Manchester City. A player in this position effectively plays a combined role of a number 8 and a number 10 and specialises in working within the ‘half-spaces’.
As Arteta worked under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola in the past, it’s probable Arteta will at some point convert to Guardiola’s preferred 4-3-3 system. So, it’s likely Aouar would be brought in to play in a position either side of a base midfielder within a 3 man engine room.
Most probably as a right-central-midfielder. We don’t currently have a player who specialises in this role so it’s easy to see why Mikel Arteta holds an interest in Aouar.
Similarly to Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka, Aouar is an excellent progressor of the ball. Last season, he played an average of 5.2 progressive passes per game. Yes, Xhaka, widely recognised as our best ball progressor, averaged a brilliant 9.4 progressive passes/90, however, it never hurts to add an extra player to help with transition play.
Having said that, in terms of types of progression, Aouar would offer us something different. The midfielder’s ball-carrying ability is exceptional. Granit Xhaka has dribbled past just 27 players this year while Ceballos has completed 31 take-ons. Meanwhile, after 25 games this season, Auoar already matched his tally from last season of 72 successful take-ons.
Additionally, on average this season, he has carried the ball up the pitch 188 yards per game. The Frenchman knows how to singlehandedly drive his team forward. This is something we have sorely lacked this season.
Of course, if we are going to sign an offensively-oriented midfielder, it’s also important he offers goal contribution. This is certainly something Aouar could provide for us. Throughout his Lyon career, he’s played just over 1 key pass/90 on a consistent basis whilst he also enjoys having a couple of pops at goal per game. Thus, he is a player who would like to be heavily involved in our build-up play if he were to join Arsenal. 7 goals and 7 assists during the 18/19 season were representative of strong attacking return from the 22-year-old.
In addition, importantly for a player within a midfield 3, Aouar also offers adequate defensive output. During his last full season with Lyon, he applied pressure to the ball on 595 different occasions and successfully won it back 163 times. Consequentially, this shows that Auoar has sufficient ability regarding his work off the ball meaning he would be able to buy into Mikel Arteta’s pressing system. His capabilities with regard to winning the ball back and then driving forward is definitely a helpful trait for a mezzala to possess.
So, that’s Houssem Aouar. Not a number 10, not really a number 8 and certainly not a number 6. What is he? A mezzala. At just 22, he has the potential to become one of the very best in the world in this role. Quite simply, he could choose to join pretty much any club in the world right now. Why would he choose Arsenal? Well, there is no logical answer to that question. Nonetheless, Nicolas Pépé was in an almost identical position last year in terms of potential suitors. There may yet still be hope for Arsenal fans with this one.