Leandro Trossard might be the best £20m Arsenal have spent in a decade

Sarah Winterburn
Leandro Trossard, Mikel Aretta and Edui with the Arsenal badge
Leandro Trossard, Mikel Aretta and Edui with the Arsenal badge

There has barely been a misstep in transfer dealings of the Edu and Mikel Arteta axis of Arsenal, with perhaps the figure spent on Fabio Vieira a rare and expensive exception, but the shrewdest money they have spent might have been the £20m they put down on the table for rebound option Leandro Trossard in January 2023.

Having been foiled in their pursuit of Myyhalo Mudryk, Arsenal pretended they wanted Trossard all along; it was an excellent move, born of necessity but also born of good old-fashioned common sense. That he cost around a third of the price was merely a bonus.

An intelligent, versatile and Premier League-ready player, we wrote at the time that Arsenal were far more likely to win the Premier League with Trossard than with Mudryk. We didn’t mean 2023/24, but the point absolutely still stands.

If signing Declan Rice was Arsenal’s version of Liverpool signing Virgil van Dijk – expensive but essential and essentially obvious – then Trossard is their Xherdan Shaqiri. Except significantly less square. And definitely more mobile.

The Belgian has come off the bench more often than he has started games this season and yet he is Arsenal’s second top scorer behind Bukayo Saka. That’s at least partly a symptom of Arsenal still needing a genuine striker, and Kai Havertz being only a partial success, but that’s still extraordinary. He has scored 13 goals in all competitions, matching the total of Luis Diaz from about 20 hours’ less football.

And those goals are so often ‘clutch’ goals. It’s not a phrase that’s easy to write without an internal cringe, but it feels apt here. The equaliser against Bayern Munich came on the back of the tie-saving strike v Porto, and there have been key Premier League goals this season against Everton, Chelsea, Burnley. There has been some bullying of the flat-track variety, but when games are tight and tensions are high, Trossard’s brand of trickery and ice-cool temperament have been key.

He offers a cleverer option than Gabriel Martinelli and a more potent option than Gabriel Jesus on the left wing, though to call him a winger would be reductive. As Trossard himself says: “He (Arteta) knows I like to swap positions as well during the game. We have those type of players as well and it creates a bit of chaos for the opposition team. I like it.”

He likes it and so do Arsenal fans, desperate to see Trossard on the pitch. But perhaps it’s the perception that he can change a game that keeps him so often on the bench; managers like the comfort blanket of an impactor, a phrase invented by Arteta to make players like Trossard feel special, but more than a buzzword when the impact really is so huge.

It would be unfair to linger on the gulf between the form of Mudryk at Chelsea and Trossard at Arsenal – they have nothing in common barring that winter interest from Arsenal – but Arteta and Edu must grin at each other at least once a week when they remember that they paid £20m for their 12th man.

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