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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Why Arsenal should have signed Russia superstar Golovin and NOT Trossard

Exclusive by Alessandro Schiavone from Montecarlo

AS Monaco 3-1 PSG

No one is sugar-coating a player who scored as little as 14 Ligue 1 goals between 2018 and 2022.

No one is hyping up someone who pretty much went off the radars after being tracked by Europe’s biggest clubs including Juventus and Chelsea following a successful home World Cup in 2018 and after making waves at CSKA Moscow before that.

No one is adulating an attacking midfielder who never really showed a lot of ambition by settling down at Russian-owned AS Monaco and the dolce vita that comes with living in the French Riviera.

Yet Aleksandar Golovin’s red-hot form this campaign has far from gone unnoticed among French football’s observers.

Twelve goal involvements, broken down into six goals and as many assists, are a major reason why AS Monaco proudly sit in third place, on course for Champions League qualification and should odds-on favourites PSG keep drawing here and losing there, who knows what may lie in store?

Golovin got his first taste of fame on this orbit when his well-executed free-kick beat Petr Cech in a UEFA Europa League game against Arsenal in 2018.

After that he accepted Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev's alluring Monaco offer even though he could have gone anywhere, including giants like Juventus or Chelsea at the tue. That was only a year after the club had reached the semis of the Champions League with the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Radamel Falcao and Fabinho. So both their stock and pulling powers were high at the time.

But with the exception of some wonderful displays spread over four injury-hampered years, it's only in this campaign that Golovin has truly come of age.

And my question now for Mikel Arteta is: why did you not try and get him instead of Leandro Trossard as you bid to win a first Premier League crown since 2004 for the club?

Crucially, he’s still young, which means he has a huge potential resale value if things went well. This has raised questions as to why he was he not considered when the deal for Mikhailo Mudryk collapsed?

Belgian Trossard may be an established Premier League player who needs no time to get accustomed to English football, fine. And Arsenal needed someone who could hit the ground running to help them to Premier League glory, d’accord. Besides, Trossard is also a big-game player. Someone with a knack for popping up and scoring against the Premier League’s finest sides and often away from home as he did against the Gunners for the Seagulls last season. Those three points triggered Arsenal’s decline and put paid to their Champions League hopes in the end. But all things considered, Golo would have provided the X-factor the North Londoners have been lacking since the turn of the year. They have lost two and drawn two, let’s not forget that. Meanwhile, the Stade Louis II outfit have yet to lose a game since resuming post-World Cup league duties and could face Arsenal in the Europa League deeper in the competition having come away from Bayer Leverkusen with a 3-2 first-leg win last week.

That said, the prodigiously talented Golo could have been the difference between losing and winning at Everton, getting the three points or drawing with Brentford, while his great imagination on the ball would have caused Man City the one or the other problem a week ago. And contrary to the ex-Brighton and Hove Albion winger he's largely unknown to Premier League defenders meaning he would have had an easier ride as they don’t know how to defend against him.

Trossard, on the other hand, remains a lethal player in front of goal but his way of playing has already been worked out after nearly four campaigns in English football.

Before scoring in Monaco’s 2-1 win at Stade Brest last weekend, he was at the heart of his side’s 3-1 rout of the Parisians less than a fortnight ago.

Capital Football attended that unlikely yet sensational 3-1 win over a second-string PSG side bereft of Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Marco Verrotti ten days ago. And such was his impact that one could only wonder what might have been had Arteta added him to the likes of Eddie Nkethiah and Bukayo Saka. The trio would have proven a real handful for any team.

In that game against the serial French champions, he outshone his counterpart Neymar. Amazingly, whenever he had the ball, Christophe Galtier’s defenders were holding their breath.

The tactically clever Russian international was everywhere. Playing on the left in a 4-2-2-2, he showed a full awareness of his surroundings on and off the ball. He scored the opener, linked the play, came short, put his body on the line, even defended when needed as he showed when he ran back to take the ball off Pembele in a dangerous area. Against the backdrop of thousands of PSG fans protesting against their players’ failure to roll up their sleeves for the cause by ‘wetting the shirt’, Golovin did just for Monaco, pulling the strings.

To their envious glances. In the first half he ran all the way back to take the ball off Pembele in a dangerous zone before he gave substitute Ismael Gharbi a baptism of fire with a tough yet innocuous challenge moments after coming on. If only PSG had a player linking defence and attack so well things would have looked differently.

A joy to watch, Golo didn’t stop running until he was recalled to the bench in the 78th minute. Throughout he gave PSG a number of puzzles to solve down the left wing thanks to a series of good combinations, changes of pace and smart lay-offs.

He loves cutting inside and on more than one occasion he left a couple of PSG defenders trailing thanks to simple yet efficient feints with his peach of a right foot.

And his unrelenting ability to dictate the pace of the game combined with his generosity without the ball make him the first name of head coach Philippe Clement’s team sheet.

His tap-in goal for the principality club’s opener was a well-studied goal. The Russian was lurking around the six-yard box and when Ben Yedder’s initial effort was blocked. The effort ricocheted handsomely into his path before he slotted it home. An easy goal? Maybe. But you need footballing intelligence to anticipate how an action is going to unfold. Then you need to keep your composure and find a hole in a crowded box to aim the ball at and score. All that, with the towering 6ft 5 in Donnarumma covering a big chunk of his goal. Not so easy after all.

Golo then started the attack which led to his side’s third goal. He picked out Ben Seghir who released Ben Yedder. And the former Seville man did the rest to compound matters for the capital cliub.

Unlike Trossard, who turns 30 at the end of next year, the Russian has a lot more room for improvement in him and is yet to reach his full potential. Watching him play, Arsenal may wish they had signed him as another club probably will, should his rich vein of form continue.

His contract is up in the summer of 2024. But with talks over a new long-term deal 'proceeding well’ according to L’Equipe, there’s a consensus that he may never come as cheap as he would have January without only 18 months to run on hia deal.


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