Arsenal have endured a dreadful January. The Gunners have failed to register a single victory in the new year. To add to that, their pursuit to replace a misfiring Aubameyang with Dušan Vlahović has yielded nought. While captain Lacazette has done his level best to play in the role Arteta has assigned to him, his lack of ‘clinicality’ continues to hinder Arsenal’s growth. The transfer deadline is less than 24 hours away and with Vlahović no longer an option, it’s time to go all in to secure Alexander Isak, the Real Sociedad talisman.
WHY ALEXANDER ISAK?
Isak has been on the radar of Arsenal since the end of last season. His exploits in La Liga at La Reale Arena in the 20/21 season were backed by an amazing display at the Euros for Sweden. He has expressed his desire to play in England and has invited interest from many Premier League sides but none have managed to entice him, yet. The Swede’s pacey profile & ability to function in fluid formations dictated by positional play make him an instant pick to become the last piece to Arteta’s jigsaw.
Standing tall at 6ft 3in, he isn’t the prototype striker to practice positional play. Despite that, the No.9 is highly technical. He thrives in tight spaces due to his excellent close control and slight maneuvers. While receiving the ball, he slightly backs into the defender only to drop his shoulder at the last minute and burst away from the defender.
His pace makes him a serious threat when he plays in between the two central defenders, waiting to make a run in behind. When he doesn’t make a run in behind, he drops a little to pick up a pass, dragging the defender tracking him out of place. This intelligent movement from Isak enables a midfielder to make a run into the vacated area and receive a pass. David Silva has been known to make use of this space while playing with the striker at Sociedad. In a situation where the defender doesn’t follow the striker when he drops down, it enables Isak to play a ball over the top on the half-turn to the wide player, usually Oyarzabal.
Under Imanol Alguacil, an underrated practitioner of positional play, the ex-Dortmund man has developed severely. But, how will he function in Mikel Arteta’s system?
INVOLVEMENT AT ARSENAL & ARTETA’S SYSTEM:
Mikel Arteta has done his best to implement his version of fluid, flowing, positional football at the Emirates stadium, under the circumstances. After a tepid start, the team has finally adapted. The only missing link- a potent striker. Arteta’s system has seen Laca play as a striker, also taking up the role of a ‘False 9’ quite often. While the Frenchman has done a good job in this role, he has been inconsistent and struggled sometimes to link up the play.
In Isak, Arteta will have a striker comfortable in dropping to link play. Having been an integral part of Alguacil’s system, the Swede is well versed in the conditions Mikel wants to create. His physicality enables him to hold up play, while his teammates make the ideal movements to receive the ball. If he doesn’t find a suitable passing option, he is also adept at dribbling, averaging 1.4 successful dribbles per game. He likes helping in the build-up phase and he is immensely comfortable on the ball.
The Sociedad talisman is also extremely fast and his intelligent movements upon arriving inside the box make him an imminent threat on goal. He is known to use his height and physicality to win challenges inside the box. The sign of a true striker.
Having been part of a team which likes to press high, Isak boasts of great stamina and pressing skills. Real Sociedad have often used their pressing as an offensive strategy and Alex is constantly involved. At Arsenal, Arteta has implemented various pressing styles inspired by his mentor Pep Guardiola. His team like to press high and this makes the job of the frontline to force the opposition into making a mistake. If Isak is involved, the Gunners would definitely have a more effective press.
(All stats are from scoresway.com and Sofascore)
Last season, the Swedish sensation bagged 17 goals in the league for the Basque side. This season, however, the striker hasn’t been as impressive in front of goal. Bagging only 4 goals in 18 league games he has endured a slow start to the season. He has also struggled with niggles and injuries this campaign.
In the Europa League, he has been better. Having bagged 3 in 5 games, the striker has been crucial to Sociedad’s cup run. His distribution has been fairly consistent as well. Despite accumulating only 1 assist in the league, he has made 7 key passes with the success rate of 73%.
Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in a UCL spot heavily lie on their ability to acquire a good striker. At 22, Isak has a lot to give and he has the potential to thrive in the Premier League, under Arteta. By no means has the forward enjoyed his best season as a professional player but his contribution to the team is more than just statistics. The man dubbed as the next Zlatan Ibrahimović has a strong mentality and a change in the atmosphere might be all the motivation he will need to start firing again. Tick tock Arsenal, time to act.