Leandro Trossard wasn’t Arsenal’s first choice. Instead, the Gunners wanted Mykhailo Mudryk to be their marquee transfer for the January transfer with the Ukrainian winger trailed for a number of months before he ultimately signed for Chelsea. Trossard, available for a relatively modest £21m, was widely seen as a consolation prize.
Nearly two months later and Arsenal might well be thankful they finished runner-up in the raffle. While Mudryk has failed to make much of an immediate impact at Stamford Bridge, Trossard has hit the ground running, registering an incredible hat trick of assists in the Gunners’ comprehensive 3-0 victory over Fulham on Sunday.
Signed to be a depth option, Trossard is proving himself as so much more. His creativity has given Arsenal another dimension with Gabriel Martinelli in particular thriving following the Belgian’s arrival at the Emirates Stadium in January. Mikel Arteta’s team are stronger for having Trossard on the pitch in red.
“He got three assists and could have scored two. I think he was really impressive,” Arteta said after Trossard’s performance against Fulham at Craven Cottage. “It makes a big difference in the team. We needed him today and his contribution was superb. It’s football intelligence. He’s really clever to understand straight away what we want, what’s required. He’s executed it really well.”
Arteta is right to highlight Trossard’s intelligence as this is the thing that makes him so special. His awareness of space means he can rotate through a number of different positions over 90 minutes, and this is exactly what he did against Fulham, unsettling the opposition defence by shifting from left to right and back again several times.
It says a lot about the improvements made on and off the pitch at the Emirates Stadium that they were able to pivot so quickly from losing out on their top transfer target to signing Trossard, a player who has acclimatised to his new surroundings so quickly it’s as if he’s been playing for Arsenal for years.
Victory at Craven Cottage kept Arsenal five points clear at the top of the Premier League table with Arteta and his players edging closer to the title. Back-to-back matches at home to Crystal Palace and Leeds United present the Gunners with a chance to pick up six points against relegation-threatened opponents before a trip to face Liverpool at Anfield.
Trossard will be required to produce even more between now and the end of the season although the return of Gabriel Jesus to fitness following injury will stiffen competition for attacking places in Arteta’s team. Emile Smith Rowe is also available again and another good option for the Gunners in the final third.
But Trossard’s versatility makes him as good an option as any for Arsenal right now. He has quickly forged an understanding with the likes of Martinelli and Oleksandr Zinchenko with Arteta clearly trusting of the Belgian international to understand and implement the rotational possession play that makes the Gunners so difficult to play against.
Mudryk might well become a superstar for Chelsea. There’s a good reason Arsenal were reportedly willing to spend up to £70m on the Ukrainian international and he could come good for their rivals at Stamford Bridge. However, it’s difficult to imagine how Mudryk could have had a bigger instant impact on Arsenal’s title chances than Trossard.
In many ways, fortune has favoured Arsenal in the transfer market. They wanted Dusan Vlahovic, but ended up with the more suitable Jesus. They wanted Lisandro Martinez, but settled for Zinchenko who now permits the Gunners to control games from midfield more easily. They wanted Mudryk, but signed Trossard, and are surely grateful for it right now.