MIKEL ARTETA has a huge decision to make over whether Arsenal skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can lead the line in his starting XI.
In my own mind I have been weighing up what he offers in the role and comparing it to what Alexandre Lacazette offers and, in truth, trying to convince myself that our Gabonese talisman edged it.
Admittedly the thought process will undoubtedly have been influenced by the fact that the club has committed to Aubameyang and him to them.
Meanwhile French forward Lacazette has seemingly not been offered a new deal with his contract to expire in 2022.
No Arsenal supporter wants to see another Mesut Ozil situation on the horizon, so I am sure most would love to see a happy Auba, smiling on the pitch and scoring for fun.
However, this is perhaps not the player we have at present.
Against Tottenham and again in the second half comeback at the London Stadium, Lacazette illustrated quite clearly the attributes required of a sole striker, with excellent hold up play, the ability to bring the three players behind him into play and crucially an incredible work ethic.
Aubameyang can do this dirty work, when he puts his mind to it, and he is clearly a more accomplished finisher that his French team-mate, but he had not shown that he is willing to do the less glamorous side of the role consistently.
Jumping for headers he may not win, chasing down lost causes and leading the press are firmly NOT phrases you would associate with Aubameyang.
Of course, these are not his strengths and the simple answer, and perhaps the answer last season, was to evolve a system, or way of playing that simply played to his attributes.
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After all we have seen Arteta do this with the lopsided 3-4-3 last season to great effect.
George Graham forged a team designed simply to get the ball to Ian Wright, however unattractive that may have been, and Arsene Wenger did it latterly for Thierry Henry one might argue.
In all cases, setting up the team to service a lethal finisher worked to a degree, but in all cases, it made Arsenal less attractive to watch.
Moreover, something else has changed for Arteta since last season that will have changed his thinking dramatically.
In the past for Wenger, Unai Emery and Arteta, it was relatively simple to set the team up to play to Aubameyang and Lacazette’s strengths, by playing the French striker up top and Aubameyang from the left.
So, what has changed to prevent Arteta, reverting to this plan, as we saw him do at West Ham?
What has changed is the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe, the arrival of Martin Odegaard, the amazing consistency of Bukayo Saka and the pressing claims of Nicolas Pepe.
The first three particularly, move the ball quickly around the edge of the opposition area and a striker they can run beyond for a flick around the corner, or a quick give and go, makes Arsenal more effective, so Lacazette works better.
Add to this that placing our skipper back on the left, will lose one third of the creativity and vision in the three behind the main striker.
The dilemma for Arteta therefore seems to be how to find a way to fit his captain not the starting XI, without lessening the effectiveness of the team as an attacking force.
He has too many top-class creative influencers to not use them, but can he find a way to get Aubameyang’s goal threat into the team, without impacting the fluidity?
Even the simple things that can be easily overlooked, like how Smith Rowe and Saka as inside forwards allow their full-backs to bomb beyond them are now crucial in how Arteta wants his team to play.
Without doubt our young Spanish deep thinker has some new deep thinking to do in the coming weeks.
Either he needs to sit his captain down and explain what more he has to do in either role and make a decision on which, from the left or as the sole striker, or the alternative is the one that would have been unthinkable at the end of last season.
Of course, it is not Arteta’s role to negotiate contracts, it is his role to produce a winning team.
However, to have the club’s highest earner and captain on the bench as a game changer, so soon after the Ozil debacle is a huge call for a young manager to make.
I watch with interest so see how this plays out.
*Follow Dave Seager on Twitter…
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