Dominik Szoboszlai: The first piece of Arsenal’s creative puzzle?

By Max Taylor and Philippe Stengel (Graphics: Greg McNeer)

In recent months, Dominik Szoboszlai has announced himself to the world of football with some excellent displays for both club and country. These performances have sparked interest from a number of sides, including Arsenal. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the Hungarian star.

In Wenger’s later years at the club, Arsenal were a side brimming with technical talent, but the spine of the team was always lacking. Now, Arteta faces the opposite issue. The signings of Partey and Gabriel have begun to address the spine, but Arsenal lack creativity.

This season, Arsenal take just nine shots per game, average 1.1 expected goals p/90, and rank 2nd lowest in possessions ending in the attacking third. As you can see, the creative stats are grim reading. A player of Szoboszlai’s ilk can go a long way in solving these issues.

Szoboszlai’s Profile:

RB Salzburg most often operate in a 4-2-2-2 system, with the two wide players given plenty of positional freedom, often drifting inside to pick up space between the lines and creating central overloads. Szoboszlai typically plays on the left of midfield.

Szoboszlai constantly picks up smart positions between the lines, and from there, his intricate, incisive, and disguised through balls, accurate switches of play, and driving runs from deep all cause huge issues for opposition defences.

Blessed with serious shooting ability (especially from distance), Szoboszlai has averaged 2.76 shots per game throughout his Salzburg career – highlighting his willingness to test the keeper when given the opportunity. We analyze that here:

Szoboszlai is also incredibly smart off the ball. His subtle movements inside often drag the opposition fullback with him, opening up massive channels in the process. The Hungarian also notices gaps beyond the backline, and uses his pace to make darting runs in behind.

Szoboszlai, in his short career, has already established himself as a dead-ball specialist. Pinpoint from corners and lethal from direct free-kicks, he provides a serious threat from set-pieces.

Where could he fit in at Arsenal?

Arteta has utilized both a four and five at-the-back system this season, often rotating when in/out of possession. Szoboszlai’s positional flexibility makes him a prime candidate in whatever shape Arteta deploys. Here are two potential options:

Arsenal lack a player who excels in finding space between the lines, as shown during the game vs Leicester. Deploying Szoboszlai on the left gives him positional freedom, enables him to drift into the half spaces, and allows Auba to play as a 9 once again.

Aubamayeng’s issues in front of goal are not helped by the fact he’s deployed out wide – he’s recently been a peripheral figure. He’s attempting just 1.1 shots p/90 and has an xG of just 0.06. Putting him in his best position, and a creator behind him, may improve his fortunes.

Arsenal are also guilty of being too predictable in possession – they massively lack imagination in the final third. Adding a player who naturally looks to create will help, and forming a relationship with Saka will be vital – two youngsters capable of hugely influencing games.

It is important, however, for Arsenal fans to temper their expectations if a move happens. Not only is the step-up for him huge, but one player won’t solve Arsenal’s systemic creative issues, so patience is required. The first piece of the puzzle, but it’s not complete yet…

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