Edu’s £26 million masterstroke is helping Mikel Arteta unlock Arsenal’s left-wing potential – Tom Canton

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The six summer signings made by both Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu have been transformative for the Gunners this season.

Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Odegaard, Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares joined Arsenal and have all had a hand in earning points for the side as they push towards their target of getting back into Europe next season.

However, the acquisition of the two 21-year-olds, Lokonga and Tavares, have been the most surprising considering how unknown the pair were prior to their move to the Emirates.

The duo joined from Anderlecht and Benfica for a combined figure in the region of £26m, both have shown some excellent displays in their stints in the side so far this season. Another example of Edu’s improvement to the recruitment sector of the club.

It has not been a perfect season for either player by any means. Lokonga suffered against both Palace at home and Liverpool away.

However, in both matches following the tricky performances the Belgian responded. He was brilliant in the 3-1 home win over Aston Villa and ran the show from the left of midfield in yesterday’s Newcastle victory.

Nuno Tavares also struggled at Anfield and was directly responsible for Liverpool’s second goal. However, despite what was clearly an overexuberant first 45 minutes against the Magpies, the Portuguese settled and assisted Bukayo Saka’s opening goal.

Both operating on the left flank, it was revealed after the game that they ranked in the top three passing combinations on the day.



Nuno Tavares' pass for Bukayo Saka led to Arsenal breaking the deadlock against Newcastle.
Nuno Tavares’ pass for Bukayo Saka led to Arsenal breaking the deadlock against Newcastle.

Sambi Lokonga passed to Tavares a chart-topping 42 times as the full-back sprinted down the left flank throughout the match.

Tavares supported Emile Smith-Rowe with 33 passes during the game as Arsenal’s left wing dominated the Newcastle defence. It was therefore unsurprising to see the breakthrough come from this flank with Saka recognising the increased threat and moving over briefly with great success.



Lokonga and Tavares ranked in Arsenal's top three passing combinations highlighting the dominance of Arteta's left flank.
Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares ranked in Arsenal’s top three passing combinations highlighting the dominance of Mikel Arteta’s left flank.

The balance provided by Tomiyasu to allow the left-back be it Tavares or Kieran Tierney to be so offensive should not be forgotten. The Japanese international has been disciplined and sturdy in his role.

Arteta is building a frighteningly agile side which has plenty of potential considering the average age of the group regularly around the 24-figure.

In fact, Arsenal’s back five, including Ramsdale in goal, were all either 24 years or younger.

The concern now will be that should the left grow significantly more dominant than Arsenal’s right, opposition sides will combat this by neutralising the threat. Arteta must ensure that the right flank remains threatening should sides look to nullify the left’s efficiency.

With some challenging fixtures just days away, the tests are coming and will reveal plenty more about this Arsenal side’s potential.

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Source by Football London

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