Amadou Onana drops back in three-way race for Arsenal after Man Utd washout

Will Ford
Onana Everton

Amadou Onana will need to play a whole lot better than that to beat Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo in the race to the Emirates.

Say what you want about Frank Lampard, but he attracts some very talented footballers to play for his football clubs. In a week in which the Chelsea legend returns to Stamford Bridge amid mysterious fanfare, we’re reminded of the huge role he played in luring big name players to west London.

Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz are among those who credit Lampard with persuading them to join Chelsea, citing the manager’s passion and winning mentality; Amadou Onana gave a similar hat tip to his former Everton boss.

“He called me every day to talk about football, the place I would have in the team and what I could improve.” Onana “owes” Lampard, and amid reports the Belgium international is ‘almost certain’ to leave the Toffees this summer, perhaps he would be considering a longer stay at Goodison Park were Lampard still at the helm.

Then again, maybe not.

Onana is rumoured to be among a trio of midfield targets for Mikel Arteta, along with Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo. And with Arsenal presumably in the enviable position where all three of those players are willing to forego a left nut to be part of the revolution – and given their respective price tags are seemingly set to be much of a muchness – the rest of the season could well be a straight shootout to see who will be granted the pleasure of playing alongside Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard in the Gunners midfield.

Onana’s afternoon at Old Trafford was a missed opportunity at best and a blot on his copybook at worst. He, Idrissa Gueye and Alex Iwobi were given the runaround by their opposite numbers. Scott McTominay, Marcel Sabitzer and Bruno Fernandes had ludicrous space at times, with Onana spending much of the game out of possession and seemingly not doing all that much to win it back.

Fernandes was brilliant, but sat deep in the quarterback role it’s not all that difficult to imagine him swarmed and bullied by Onana, who did nothing but stand and watch while the Portugal international passed the ball in front, through, behind and over him.

As if to suggest he had a niggle, but perhaps to save his own blushes after his forgettable display, Onana could be seen sat on his haunches moments before he and fellow spectator Gueye were replaced by Tom Davies and James Garner on the hour mark.

Reported Arsenal targets Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo

Injury or not, this was a game against a big club that passed him by. And these are the games the Arsenal scouts will be looking at, when players they’re interesting in signing come up against teams near the top of the Premier League.

It’s all very well putting in commanding displays against relegation rivals, but it will be dominant performances against high-level midfielders, even in defeat, that will prove more significant for Onana and to Arsenal’s level of interest in comparison to his competitors for a transfer.

And although he made no glaring errors, the fact that Onana did nothing of note, good or bad, could prove costly in his bid to manoeuvre himself above Rice and Caicedo in the race for the Emirates.

Arteta values character as much as pure football ability. He wants footballers who will fight when the odds are stacked against them and be the individual to lift a team rather than someone who waits to benefit from the lifting.

Onana will be playing Premier League football next season whether Everton stay up or go down, and although he would likely have more suitors if they do get relegated, playing a big role against big sides in big games to help Sean Dyche’s side avoid the drop gives him the best opportunity of the move we all assume is now top of his list.