Assessing whether Julian Brandt is the spark Arsenal need in January
Arsenal have enjoyed a mini-renaissance since Boxing Day, winning three on the rebound, keeping two clean sheets and scoring eight wins against Chelsea, Brighton and West Brom.
West Brom’s victory was particularly interesting as Mikel Arteta’s side had won 4-0 against, admittedly, one of the poorest teams in the Premier League, but a side that nevertheless held Liverpool to a draw 1 -1 six days ago. .
It was the way Arsenal sent the Baggies that was most impressive – the Gunners’ second goal was a wonderfully inventive and fluid team move, as Arteta’s team played with creative sparkle and flair. adventure that they have largely missed all season.
Before Saturday’s victory at the Hawthorns, Arsenal had had a negative goal difference. Without Alexandre Lacazette’s brace in the second half in the Midlands, they still would.
Arsenal in the market
“What we need is pretty clear,” CTO Edu said in December. “We need a player with creativity in the middle, we don’t have that in the squad at the moment.”
The Gunners failed to land Houssem Aouar from Lyon during the summer transfer window and were subsequently linked with a move for Julian Brandt from Borussia Dortmund in an attempt to add some spice to their midfield ground.
But is he the man they need?
Despite their recent comeback, an attacking midfielder will undoubtedly remain a priority for Arsenal in January.
The Gunners got stronger defensively during the 12 months at the helm of Arteta, but that came largely at the expense of goals and any offensive excitement. Even after their hat-trick in successive Premier League wins, Arsenal remain 12th in the Premier League for shots every 90 minutes and 14th for key passes every 90 minutes. Only three teams outside of the last three have scored fewer goals than the Gunners.
Emergence of Emile Smith Rowe
A change in system, tactics and personnel dramatically improved Arsenal’s offensive momentum over the year, with Arteta’s 3-5-2 formation dropped in favor of a 4-2-3-1 . Bukayo Saka moved from left-back to right-wing, and the newly created number ten role was taken over by Emile Smith Rowe – with great success.
The emergence of the academy graduate doesn’t mean Arsenal don’t need another number ten. At 20, you can’t expect the youngster to play every game – especially in this most crowded season. But Smith Rowe’s success has reinforced the importance that Arsenal play with an attacking midfielder; someone who can move the ball quickly, is smart in their movements and is decisive and instinctive in the final third.
This is where Brandt comes in.
Number ten by trade, Arsenal’s current 4-2-3-1 lineup would suit the Germany international down to the ground. He could also be deployed on the left flank, or in a deeper midfielder role, and operated as a striker or a false nine – but the forward midfielder role is where he is most effective.
The missing piece of the puzzle?
Brandt has the subtlety, intelligence, and vision to pull the strings, break the lines and make things happen. He’s a risk taker – something Arsenal have been largely without this season.
He can slow down and speed things up as he chooses. His subtle and clever movement to drift into the distance and his signature feints and blends in tight spaces are irresistible.
Brandt’s criticisms at the start of his career are no different from those directed at Arsenal’s current attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil – a tendency to disappear in big games, lack of physicality when needed, lack of focus . But since taking on a more central role – initially at Bayer Leverkusen – in 2018, he has taken on the additional responsibility and thrived.
After moving to Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2019, Brandt looked superb once the Bundesliga returned after the lockdown. He shone in Dortmund’s 4-0 win over Schalke in May – playing a role in each of his team’s four goals.
However, he fell out of favor this quarter as Dortmund suffered a slow start to the campaign. The 24-year-old has started just six Bundesliga games this season, with just one assist.
If Arteta inspired Brandt to return to the player he was six months ago, given the impact Smith Rowe has had in such a short time, he could be a very nifty attacking addition.