Arsenal’s Aouar need: What the Frenchman brings and why Arteta is so keen

The Eleventh Aouar

Houssem Aouar has been linked with Arsenal for a significant period of the transfer window.

It is reported that he has become Mikel Arteta’s primary target – overtaking Atletico midfielder Thomas Partey.

The Frenchman is wanted by the Spanish tactician to improve his midfield options. The Gunners reverted to a central midfield two last season, after changing from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-3 formation.

Whilst this move has made a significant difference when it comes to defensive solidity, Arsenal have also lacked an element of creativity in the central area. Aouar would help to provide that.

The creative key

Aouar’s ability to find space and create chances has proven key to the Gunners’ strong interest. In terms of position, Aouar favours the left-hand side of the pitch. He can play in a flat midfield three as a number 8, or in a more advanced central number 10 position.

Houssem Aouar heat map 2019/20. The chart displays Aouar's favouring of the left-hand side even with a preferred right foot. (Source: Wyscout)

Houssem Aouar heat map 2019/20. The chart displays Aouar’s favouring of the left-hand side even with a preferred right foot. (Source: Wyscout)

Both Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny have performed excellently in their two appearances together this season. Against both Liverpool and Fulham, the pair displayed positional discipline and controlled possession well.

However, as shown below, in the game against Fulham, their passing was skewed towards the flanks in which they operated. Only Xhaka found a couple of accurate central passes during the game.

Xhaka (left) and Elneny (right) passing into the final third vs Fulham. Displaying a favouring of their flanks and a lack of central passing.

Xhaka (left) and Elneny (right) passing into the final third vs Fulham. Displaying a favouring of their flanks and a lack of central passing. (Source: Wyscout)

The Gunners managed to create enough at Craven Cottage to score 3 goals. However, their creativity was heavily reliant on new signing Willian. The Brazilian claimed two assists in west London.

Aouar would present Arsenal with the opportunity to add more central creation. The Frenchman is incisive, and adept at finding passing lanes between the gaps in opposition defences.

Aouar passing against PSG in Coupe de la Ligue final. Displaying the focus on more central creativity. (Source: Wyscout)

Aouar passing against PSG in Coupe de la Ligue final. Displaying the focus on more central creativity. (Source: Wyscout)

Alongside Memphis Depay, Moussa Dembele and Karl Toko Ekambi, Auoar has great tools to work with at Lyon. If he is to join Arsenal, the thought of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ahead of Aouar is obviously majorly tantalising for Gunners fans.

Take the ball, pass the ball

It was not surprising to find that Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City were also tipped to move for Aouar – though any concrete links are yet to materialise. The Frenchman’s ability to find space in busy games, making himself available to receive the ball, before converting a passive piece of play into a threatening one, is top class.

LYON - FRANCE: Aouar displaying his ability to find space in close quarters to receive the ball. (Source: Wyscout)

LYON – FRANCE: Aouar displaying his ability to find space in close quarters to receive the ball. (Source: Wyscout)

This capacity for creating space could be exactly what Arsenal need. The Gunners have long struggled to carve out clear-cut chances against top clubs – notably away from home.

The high-press tactic employed by so many sides of late has resulted in teams who move the ball quickly proving very successful. Aouar fits this profile, and that is what Arteta wants.

LYON - FRANCE: Aouar's first time pass sets Dembele through to score. (Source: Wyscout)

LYON – FRANCE: Aouar’s first time pass sets Dembele through to score. (Source: Wyscout)

For Arsenal, the biggest problem this transfer window has been a lack of activity. However, it is the lack of movement out of the club which has proven the key issue. For the north Londoners to fund the reported £50 million fee which Aouar is commanding, they must first move members of Mikel Arteta’s current squad on.

See also: Arsenal reportedly rebuffed in latest cash + player swoop for Houssem Aouar

Houssem Aouar to Arsenal links intensify with Mikel Arteta ‘in love’ with Lyon star


This article was edited by Tom Canton.

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