When Mikel Arteta first took charge of Arsenal in December 2019, his first priority in the transfer market was a relatively strange one. Above all else, the Spanish coach seemed to want a left-footed centre-back.
The preferred foot of the player was deemed as important by Arteta. He isn’t too dissimilar to Pep Guardiola in that sense, who was his mentor of sorts for a number of years at Manchester City.
Pablo Mari was the man who filled the void at the time. The Spanish defender hasn’t exactly caught fire since his move to the Emirates, but his signing captured how much value Arteta placed on footedness.
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It is perhaps no surprise, then, that Arsenal are one of the most two-footed sides in Europe based on passes over the course of the past campaign. No outfit in the Premier League are more two-footed than the Gunners based on last season, with Leeds United in second followed by Guardiola’s Man City in third and Brentford in fourth.
In fact, of the 98 teams across Europe’s top five leagues, only one side proved to be more two-footed than Arsenal in Wolfsburg. Levante, AS Roma and Chelsea, by contrast, are the three most one-footed teams.
Arteta demonstrated an intent to change Arsenal’s footedness when he first arrived at the club and after around three years at the helm, he’s achieved exactly that. The Gunners boss appears keen to further add to the peculiar quirk this summer, with recent reports linking the club with a shrewd transfer move for Leeds United’s Raphinha.
The Brazilian is heavily tipped for a move to Barcelona, but the Catalan giants seem to be struggling to raise the required cash to fund his transfer, which could open the door for Arsenal. Crucially, Raphinha is left-footed and he’s part of a select group of players who tend to be relatively rare in the transfer market.
As a left-footer who is quick enough to threaten in behind, scores goals, provides assists and performs at a high level, players of his type aren’t particularly common. Mohamed Salah is perhaps the ultimate example but beyond him, the large majority of left-footed attacking players are either unattainable or tend to lack pace considering the likes of Kai Havertz, Paulo Dybala, Lionel Messi, Romelu Lukaku and Riyad Mahrez to name but a few.
At Arsenal, Arteta currently has Martin Odegaard, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel, Granit Xhaka, Kieran Tierney and Nuno Tavares as lefties to choose from in his squad. It remains to be seen as to whether Raphinha will end up at the Emirates but if he does, the two-footed balance held by the Gunners will grow even stronger.
Source by Football London