Following Arsenal’s frantic 4-3 win over Luton during the midweek, the Gunners find themselves sitting top of the league by two points over Liverpool. More significantly, they are now six points clear over the reigning champions Manchester City. Next up for Arsenal is high flying Aston Villa. We caught up with former Liverpool winger John Barnes to discuss the form of Arsenal so far ahead of what will likely be a fascinating title race.
In this article:
- Rice has taken Arsenal to another level
- Odegaard is Arsenal’s Kevin De Bruyne
- Arsenal don’t need to sign another number nine to win the league
- Selling Smith-Rowe could leave Arsenal exposed
Rice Has Taken Arsenal To Another Level
When Arsenal spent over £100 million on Declan Rice, there were suggestions that the Gunners had paid too much for the England international. Manchester City also showed interest in Rice, but he ultimately chose to join Arsenal. Mikel Arteta and Edu, key figures at Arsenal, played significant roles in convincing Rice that a move to Arsenal would be beneficial for his career.
According to Barnes, Rice has had an impressive start at Arsenal. His game-winning goals against Manchester United and Luton are notable highlights. Additionally, Rice has brought a new level of physicality to Arsenal’s midfield, an aspect that has particularly caught Barnes’s attention.
“Arsenal needed balance. They had good attacking players but they were frail.
“He’s given them strength in the midfield area. Yes he gets forward and can contribute with goals but that’s not what he was brought in to do. He’s there to protect the back four and drive the team on. He’s got good leadership skills and he’s given them a steel in the midfield.
“Thomas Partey had it as well but Rice takes it to another level. Rice has been a fantastic signing.”
Rice is priced at 1/12 on Sky Bet to make Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the 2024 European Championships, and if the midfielder keeps up this strong run of form, then you’d imagine that his price will continue to shorten as we edge closer to the tournament getting underway. If you’re looking for a sign-up offer that offers a sizeable amount in free bets, then be sure to use the Sky Bet bonus code.
Odegaard Is Arsenal’s Kevin De Bruyne
Following a sluggish beginning to the season, Martin Odegaard has recently hit his stride. Last season, he was an integral part of the Arsenal team, known for his ability to drop back and assist in advancing the play through the thirds. Additionally, the Norwegian midfielder enhanced his game by frequently positioning himself near and around the penalty area, contributing goals. Barnes has likened Odegaard to Kevin De Bruyne, considering him Arsenal’s standout player and referring to him as Arsenal’s ‘main man.’
“He’s Arsenal’s Kevin De Bruyne. He looks to get on the ball and be creative. Yes Arsenal have the likes of Saka, Jesus and Martinelli but he’s their talisman.
“He works hard and for someone so young he’s got a very mature head on his shoulders. It doesn’t surprise me that Arsenal are now creating more chances with him back. They’re top of the league and that’s because their main man Odegaard is back and fit.”
Arsenal Don’t Need To Sign Another Number Nine To Win The League
While it’s widely acknowledged that Gabriel Jesus has been a significant addition to the Arsenal team, one major critique of the forward is his goal-finishing ability. Jesus excels in skill, hold-up play, involving others in the game, and work rate, making him an outstanding signing. However, there are questions about whether Arsenal will need to venture into the transfer market eventually to acquire a clinical number nine. This is a concept that Barnes explicitly disagrees with, particularly given Arsenal’s near success in winning the league last season.
“Well they almost won the league with him last season so I don’t see why they can’t.
“They play in a way that enables other players to score goals. It’s not just about Jesus. Haaland scored 50 goals last season and Arsenal almost won the league.
“Jesus gives Arsenal work rate, he has great hold up play, brings people into play and will get you close to 20 goals in a season. Arsenal have a great chance to win the league. I don’t think they will because City are still favourites.”
Selling Smith-Rowe Could Leave Arsenal Exposed
Emile Smith Rowe’s reported interest in moving to Aston Villa raises intriguing questions about his career and Arsenal’s strategy. A transfer to Aston Villa, a team performing well, could be a beneficial move for Smith Rowe, especially considering his struggle with consistent game time and injury issues at Arsenal. It could offer him more regular playing opportunities and a fresh environment to showcase his skills.
From Arsenal’s perspective, considering a sale ahead of the January transfer window might make sense, particularly if they are looking to invest in other areas of the squad. However, Mikel Arteta’s decision to part ways with the 23-year-old attacking midfielder should be weighed carefully. Smith Rowe has been on Aston Villa’s radar for some time, and a move there could rejuvenate his career.
Barnes supports the potential transfer but cautions that it could backfire on Arsenal. Losing a young, talented player like Smith Rowe might be regretted later, especially if he reaches his full potential at Villa. This scenario underscores the delicate balance between short-term gains and long-term planning in football transfers.
“Smith-Rowe is currently part of the Arsenal squad and when called upon you know he’ll do a good job. For him to leave Arsenal could leave them exposed should a Trossard or Martinelli get injured.
“If he wants to play regularly then he may have to consider leaving but Arsenal will want to keep him because they know he’s a good player and when called upon will at least maintain a good standard and quality as the others.
“Like Antony Gordon, if he were to leave I’m sure he would do a great job at a club like Aston Villa.”