Mikel Arteta is tempted by the idea of fielding all four of Arsenal’s young attacking stars – Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard – as part of an exciting new forward line.
The Arsenal boss has plenty to ponder in terms of team selection with Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka both among the goals in the weekend win over Brentford.
But now Arteta has a selection headache as Martinelli is back from suspension for Thursday’s game against Wolves and, prior to his red card, the Brazilian’s form had warranted a starting spot with Emile Smith Rowe coming off the bench as of late.
So far this season, in Arteta most favorably formation of two-pivot, he has predominantly left out of one of the young quartet and instead Alexandre Lacazette has led the line.
Fielding Martinelli, Odegaard, Saka and Smith Rowe together would be a bold call by Arteta, particularly as they have an average age of just 21, but the Spaniard has admitted that it is a tempting proposition.
“They have played together – Emile played as a left attacking midfielder, which is another position he can play,” he said.
“I am tempted, yes, because they want to play and when you see players training and playing the way they do, you want to throw them all on the pitch. Unfortunately, 11 is the limit.”
To field all four, one of them would need to lead the line and Arteta believes either Martinelli or Smith Rowe could do so.
“It depends on the role you want them to play and the role you want from the nine,” he explained.
“They have very different qualities, they would change our structure and the spaces that we would attack, the positions that would threaten, how they fix the opponent in certain areas. It would depend on the behaviour of the opposition as well, to understand which context would benefit both of them.”
“They have changed quite a lot of positions as well and we have to be careful sometimes with how much we change them. But the moment they are ready, it is another opportunity to use them as well in the future.”
Given their ages, the idea of all four playing together seems a long-term prospect rather than an immediate one. Lacazette has been leading the line recently and he has also stepped up to become captain since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left.
The Frenchman has struggled for goals this season, finding the net just five times, but Arteta has backed him to deliver towards the business end of the campaign.
“[Lacazette] knows as a striker what is demanded of him, and that is to be involved in goals and the chance creation of the team,” the manager said.
“He is doing a lot of things right in attack, and out of possession as well. He needs to continue to do that.
“The ball will go in the net very soon. He has been unlucky because he has had the chances to score as well, some goals in the last few weeks.
“He needs to continue to do that, to generate those chances for his team-mates, to be in front of goal in the positions we ask him to be in. The goals will come.”
The kids are alright. The kids are more than alright, they’re darn fantastic. And now Mikel Arteta has the most welcome of conundrums on his plate when selecting his Arsenal forward line.
Fitting the four players into his attacking system may prove difficult as Lacazette is seen as the core of the team right now despite just only three goals to show for it. However, without a doubt, his work rate is what none can offer in the team now.
It’s now the great question of our time: how do you get Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli into the same team?