Houssem Aouar and a through-ball to get Arsenal fans dreaming again
As Unai Emery toiled at the Emirates and Mikel Arteta took a little while to start delivering results, the Gunners eventually slumped to an eighth-place finish, their lowest in 25 years.
They’d only lost one more match than runners-up Manchester City but drew 14 times in total – nobody else in the division managed more. So often they’d require one moment of magic to turn one point into three and so often it never came.
With Aaron Ramsey at Juventus and Mesut Ozil now well into the period of his career that will likely come to be remembered as his ‘wilderness years’, Arteta is still looking for that inspiring creative presence in his midfield – something he had a bounty of as assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit more than 20 goals for a second consecutive season, making it a brilliant 54 goals from his first 85 Premier League appearances, including plenty of crucial ones, like both goals in the win over Liverpool late last term, both goals in the FA Cup semi-final victory over City, both goals in the final against Chelsea.
Arteta has his Thierry Henry at Arsenal. But he’s still waiting for a Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires or Cesc Fabregas.
So it should be no surprise that they’ve reportedly set Aouar as their top target.
The bend on that…🤤
Throwing it back to this Houssem Aouar delight from Lyon v Leipzig earlier in the campaign 😍pic.twitter.com/Lkww2yoZ9O
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 26, 2020
“There’s the lift they so badly needed,” was the line from BT Sport commentator Dan O’Hagan after the 22-year-old Frenchman send a beautiful bending effort right into the postage stamp against RB Leipzig.
Lyon were distinctly second-best in their Champions League clash with the Bundesliga outfit back in December, deservedly two goals behind at half-time and looking destined to crash out of the Champions League at the group stage.
Toiling in Ligue 1, having sacked Sylvinho, with fans yet to be won over by new coach Rudi Garcia thanks to incendiary comments he made whilst in charge of bitter rivals Marseille – the kind of toxic environment mirrored in north London around the same time before Arteta began to turn the ship around.
“An inspirational moment from one of their most promising young players. Houssem Aouar lifts the mood here in Lyon.”
Back in the game, Lyon went on to equalise through Memphis Depay, drawing 2-2 and taking a point that proved vital in qualifying for the last 16. And it came from Aouar’s sparkplug moment of inspiration.
It’s something that Lyon fans had increasingly come to expect from the academy graduate, born in the city, getting better season after season after first breaking through in 2017.
Take the above pass as an example. A moment of beautiful calm amid the chaos of an ill-tempered and fierce Derby Rhônealpin between Saint-Etienne and Lyon.
Aouar had already set up Depay’s early opener, and as the second half opened up against 10 men, he took the opportunity to put on an exhibition, showing stunning vision and even better execution to carve open the defence with a perfectly-weighted through-ball with Kenny Tete finding himself in behind and able to tee up Mariano for a tap-in.
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It’s the kind of moment that ought to make Arsenal fans dream.
If Aubameyang can score 60 goals over the past two seasons in a creatively stunted side, imagine how many goals he might score with Aouar playing behind him.
If he can look so special in a struggling Lyon, imagine how good he’ll look in a side on the ascendancy, one that looks to have found a distinctive and defined playing style under Arteta.
You only need to watch Aouar play to realise he’s one for the dreamers. Stay positive Arsenal fans, it just might happen.