It was a long season last year for Arsenal fans who saw their team slump to 8th position in the Premier League table, only two points ahead of Leeds United and Everton on 9th and 10th respectively. This is not the level of football that is expected out of the club that won the Golden Premier League once.
However, Mikel Arteta has taken it upon himself to rebuild the club and he has decided that he is going to do it right. Every signing made by the Spaniard until now has been an ingenious one from Thomas Partey until Albert Sambi Lokonga’s signature this summer. However, what Arteta never thought he would lack at Arsenal was a goal-scorer. The Gunners have always had potent goal-scorers in their squad, and Arteta believed at least one of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang would be that man for him. While the two forwards did come through for him in the 2019/20 season and led the club to an FA Cup victory, it has all gone downhill from there.
Aubameyang does not look like the same person who signed his new contract at the start of last season, while Alexandre Lacazette is lacking the killer touch that made him so famous with Arsenal fans in his debut season. While a lot of this can be credited to not having a creator in the squad, the Gunners also lack a formidable forward.
The club have been linked with both Tammy Abraham and Lautaro Martinez this summer, but it remains to be seen who Arsenal sign.
Let us walk through both players and look at who would be the more sensible option for the club.
A) TAMMY ABRAHAM:
Chelsea’s go-to guy in the 2019/20 season, Tammy Abraham broke into Chelsea’s squad after an impressive loan spell with Aston Villa, where he became the top scorer in the Championship by scoring 25 goals in 37 games for the Villa Park outfit. Moreover, with Chelsea’s transfer ban confirmed, the then-manager Frank Lampard believed it was a no-brainer to bring the guy back from loan.
Abraham started 2019/20 in incredible form, and while his form did dither eventually, he ended the season with 15 Premier goals to his name helping Chelsea to a Top 4 finish. Last summer, however, Chelsea went out and spent £220million, with most of them coming on forwards. Abraham’s involvement, as expected, came down considerably, and while there will still hopes for a starting role under Lampard, Tuchel did not have the forward in his plans from Day 1.
While all worked well for Chelsea in the end, the Blues are now on the cusp of completing a move for Romelu Lukaku, which is a clear indication that Abraham will be leaving this summer.
So, what does he bring to Arsenal?
Although Tammy has been at Chelsea all his life, he was an Arsenal supporter as a kid, and thus, a move to the Emirates could be a dream come true for the player. The 23-year-old will certainly play for the badge, but that is not all he will provide.
As a center-forward, Tammy has shown that he is an incredible hold-up player and can bring others into the game. He knows the right runs to make while his mind acts as a predator when his team are in possession. One of the best goals of Chelsea’s 2019/20 season was scored by Abraham against Watford when Jorginho provided a sumptuous curved pass which Tammy lobbed over the keeper. While the assist was better than the goal, Tammy did a great job beating the offside line and getting there in time to score. These take predatory instincts, something he has in abundance.
He is also a handful in the air, evidenced by the fact that he won 58% of his aerial duels last season, nearly double than both Lacazette and Aubameyang. While this is an advantage during set-pieces, Tammy also uses this to win second balls and to draw fouls. He has an excellent awareness of his surrounding, and he often draws fouls when competing aerially with somebody, which in turn, provide free-kicks in useful positions.
The 23-year-old is also brilliant in applying pressure and cornering the opposition into an area. Cutting out passing lanes, forcing a back pass or a long ball– Tammy excels in these areas because he is a hard worker and he runs himself into the ground, with and without the ball. His thinking of the game is also far modern than what Arsenal have in their ranks in the form of Aubameyang and Lacazette. Like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, Tammy can swivel past challenges, make the sharp turn inside the box and make false runs to create space for his teammates.
From the Arsenal perspective, he provides Arteta with the option of playing with a proper centre-forward, who has a traditional number 9 build but has the qualities of a modern-day forward. He can facilitate the likes of Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pepe, and Emile Smith Rowe by acting as a point man and by scoring the goals they create. His ability to press, as mentioned before, is a must in an Arsenal team that do lack possession of the ball against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool.
Lastly, Abraham is a proven Premier League player and has already shown that he can comfortably score 15 goals in a league season. With the right development and consistent game-time, Tammy could always score more, courtesy of which Jose Mourinho is also keen on bringing him to Roma this summer.
Abraham is currently valued by Chelsea at £40million, and for a player who still has a long way to go and has several years in front of him, the 23-year-old could certainly live up to his price tag.
For all his good qualities, Tammy has his fair share of negatives. While he does provide Arteta with the option of playing with a proper centre-forward, Tammy fails to fit into any other formation. A two-man strike partnership will be hard because neither of Lacazette or Aubameyang are players who will wait for Tammy to head the ball in their direction to start an attack. Moreover, given how similar his qualities are to Lacazette, the Frenchman might have to be sold, especially if Abraham coughs up a lot of minutes under Arteta.
Further, Tammy lacks a certain finesse in finishing. While he does the basic things perfectly, he lacks the end product against quality defenders and teams in general. In the 2019/20 Champions League season, Abraham struggled against players of a higher calibre while he also struggled against the likes of Van Dijk and Harry Maguire in the Premier League.
His movement, although brilliant on occasions, is not all that great against teams that sit back and absorb the pressure. Tammy is an excellent player on the counter-attack, but he is a clueless figure in the box when opposition teams park the bus and head balls out of the box.
While all of these can be worked upon, Tammy is yet to show that he can come through in the tough times. Whenever a team is in a bad slump, you expect your forward to come through. Chelsea went through a similar period during the second half of the 2019/20 season, and Abraham failed to deliver. Although he will only get better with age and experience, Abraham has not ‘excited’ fans or shown anything to predict that he will become the main man at a Top 6 club in the future.
B) LAUTARO MARTINEZ:
An intelligent forward with the raw South American energy built in him, Lautaro Martinez joined Inter Milan in 2018 from boyhood team Racing club back in Argentina. With his swanky touches and inability to understand Italian football, Martinez’s career at the San Siro took off slowly as he only scored 6 goals in 27 Serie A appearances.
However, it all changed when Antonio Conte was appointed in 2019 and started playing Martinez up top in a duet with Romelu Lukaku. The pair worked wonders with each other, and Martinez finished with 14 goals and 5 assists to his name in 35 Serie A appearances, although they failed to win the Serie A. Last season, however, things took a different turn.
Martinez and Lukaku continued their strike-partnership but the pair were more experienced and had a better understanding of Conte’s system. Lautaro ran riot alongside Lukaku, as the Argentine finished the season with 17 goals and 10 assists and appeared in every single game of the season. Unlike the season before, Inter Milan did end up winning the Serie A, and a lot of it was down to the Argentine’s quality over the course of the season.
But what can he bring to Arsenal?
One of the most agile centre-forwards in modern football, Lautaro Martinez has shown in his time at Inter Milan that he can follow a system perfectly, while he can also suit into different formations.
In Conte’s 3-5-2, Lautaro featured more as the second striker to Lukaku and helped connect the midfield and attack brilliantly. His blindsided runs, movement when the team has possession, and killer finish in front of goal is everything Conte needed to complement Lukaku.
Although Lautaro scored 17 goals last season, he is also an incredible chance creator, evidenced by his 2.81 shot-creating actions per 90minutes. The Argentine features heavily in the final third because his link-up play is incredible while his ability to play short passes in tight spaces is admirable. Although not the tallest player on the pitch, Lautaro times his jumps perfectly, enabling him to have the best chance to win the aerial duels.
His best quality, however, is his dynamism and movement. The Argentine is an expert at beating the offside trap and knows how to time his runs. A man incredibly hard to dispossess, Lautaro attempted 73 dribbles last season and had a completion rate of 52%.
In terms of fitting in at Arsenal, Lautaro provides flexibility, goal threat, and the ability to be more fluid in the final third. Arsenal lacked a player who could take it upon themselves to create and score goals by himself last season, and while Martinez has still not excelled at it, he has the potential to do so. Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe love a forward who can be in the right areas at the right time to facilitate link-up play between each other. Martinez’s agility, speed, and technical qualities prove that he is a forward Arsenal have lacked previously.
The Argentine will also allow Arteta to play in different formations, and alongside a player like Lacazette, the two could really bring out the best in each other. Lacazette, who has shown that he can work as a point man, could be helped by Lautaro, who is an active runner. The Argentine’s ability to create will work well for Lacazette, who has lacked service from players around him over the last two seasons.
At 23, Lautaro is a commendable player and already has the experience of winning a league trophy, extremely important for this Arsenal side that currently lack that mentality slightly.
The Argentine will be available for €70million this summer, and given his talents and the number of years ahead of him, he could be the lethal centre-forward the Gunners have been looking for over the last couple of years.
Although Lautaro has shown his quality over the last two seasons, he is yet to prove if he can act as the central figure in the attack for the Gunners. Mikel Arteta is certain of signing an out-and-0ut centre-forward, something the Argentine has not proven that he is capable of being for a top club.
Moving on, his stature could be a problem in the Premier League. While Serie A has incredible defenders, it is not played at the same intensity as the Premier League, and the defenders are far more reckless in the English league. While Lautaro is not one to shy away from challenges, he might lose out on the aerial duels quite a lot, courtesy of which he might need another player alongside him to facilitate his game-play.
Moreover, Lautaro tends to completely disappear from games if things are not going his way. The Argentine drops his shoulders on an off day and does not have the capability to take the game by the scruff of the neck. While he would prosper in a successful team, an off day could trigger him to become a liability for the team.
Lastly, although Lautaro has terrific movement on the ball, he can do a lot more on it. The Argentine prefers creating rather than scoring sometimes and lacks the selfish nature a Premier League forward is supposed to have. While a lot of this can be credited to the fact that he has not had the opportunity as a lone man up front, his performances have not shown anything to validate him leading a frontline, especially in a team that is looking for a forward who will spearhead them back into Europe again.
Thus, while both Tammy Abraham and Lautaro Martinez have incredible qualities, they do have their limitations. At the end of the day, it could come down to Arteta’s needs in a forward and how he wants to shape Arsenal in the coming years. Alternatively, Arsenal could forego signing any player this summer and give the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Folarin Balogun a chance to succeed at the club. However, with Arsenal keen on getting back into Europe, it looks like they want a more proven player up top.
The only question being, who do they go for?