What Odegaard did to elicit Zinchenko’s clapping as Arteta shows the key to Martinelli form
Arsenal were aiming for a dish best served cold on a night when the mood inside the Emirates Stadium was boiling hot. For a time, it appeared that the payback over Everton that they desired would not be forthcoming, as a turgid 40-minute period went without incident. The Toffees defended deep in numbers, like they did at Goodison Park, and as Arsenal sought a winning formula, their passing was overcooked and underseasoned. Then there was the “magic” moment.
Oleksandr Zinchenko grabbed the initiative and dribbled from his left back slot over to the right wing area, defeating three Everton defenders on the way. Upon entering the opposing half of the field, the Ukrainian passed the ball to Gabriel Martinelli and Ben White before perfectly positioning himself to spot the gap in the rigid Everton backline that Bukayo Saka had discovered on the edge of the box and supplying the winger with an inch-perfect pass to take advantage of it.
Zinchenko marched the match to the rhythm of his own drum from then on, commanding everything. With 109 touches, he had the most influence of any Arsenal player on the game, and as his heatmap below shows, he was everywhere on the night.
It’s unusual to see your left back have this much influence on the squad, but Zinchenko is no ordinary left back. His night was topped off with a fantastic ball into Eddie Nketiah in the build-up to Martinelli’s second, and Mikel Arteta was quick to point out the importance of Zinchenko’s expertise against deep defenses like this.
That’s why we brought him, because he brings something different to the team,” the Spaniard said in his post-match press conference. “His mentality and his quality to do certain things that allows us to be more unpredictable, to generate a lot of threat every time we’re in ball possession. He’s played those kinds of games against low blocks 200 times and that’s very helpful.”
Martin Odegaard, who stamped his claim as the most technically gifted player in this Arsenal group with a slide-tackle-cum-Cruyff spin to get away from Alex Iwobi, definitely had the moment of the night. Zinchenko could only applaud and raise his palms above his head when he saw the skill. In actuality, the Ukrainian deserves the standing ovation for bringing Arsenal to new heights this season.
It seems difficult to imagine that only a little more than ten days ago, people were debating whether Gabriel Martinelli’s form was a problem. At the turn of the year 2023, the Brazilian had fallen short of the extraordinarily high standards he had set for himself, and it was scarcely surprising to see him dropped from Arsenal’s starting Lineup for their trip to Aston Villa. He has, however, scored four goals in three games since then. So, what has altered?
Simply said, the solution is Leandro Trossard. Throughout two games, the Belgian has stepped in and played the false nine role, reviving Martinelli’s early-season form. Whereas Martinelli had been stationed stubbornly out wide in matches against Everton away, Brentford at home, and even the Manchester City league battle, the Brazilian is suddenly interchanging positions all over the pitch like he did when Gabriel Jesus was in the team.
In the build up to Bukayo Saka’s opener he is on the right wing, and for the first of his two goals he’s pressing in a central position to take advantage of Saka picking Idrissa Gana Gueye’s pocket. Martinelli then appears in the traditional number nine position for his second goal, ready to slot in a low cross around the six yard box.
Trossard, on the other hand, was equally content to buzz around Everton’s big central defensive duo of James Tarkowski and Michael Keane. While it took some time, the Belgian’s unpredictability allowed him to break free on the left wing and play in Martin Odegaard for his second assist in as many games. Trossard has restored the fluidity of the Arsenal attack, and Mikel Arteta remarked after the game that the continual switching of places had brought out the best in Martinelli.
“Probably,” he said when asked the question. “Relationships and chemistry build naturally. He has, when you see him play with Fabio (Vieira) there’s even more chemistry because they love each other so much and they have that way of looking at each other and understanding what’s going to happen. He’s building that with Leo and he feels a bit more freedom to move into certain areas. Now his confidence his high again. He’s scoring and producing goals and is in a good mood.”
It’s difficult for Nketiah, whose goals have maintained Arsenal in the title fight in Jesus’ absence. Yet, with Trossard bringing out the best in those around him, it’s difficult to argue that the Belgian shouldn’t start against Bournemouth on Saturday.