“Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, never submit to failure,” if it’s good enough for Winston Churchill, it’s good enough for Arsene Wenger.
Thomas Lemar is the man the French coach wants, he admitted his interest while on their pre-season tour, but it looks like it is going to take patience – and more money to make it happen.
“He’s a player that we follow yes, we look at,” said the Arsenal boss on Tuesday. “We are looking at more signings. But there’s nothing really concrete about any signings.”
The 21-year-old Frenchman has been touted as a replacement for Alexis Sanchez, but except from being most comfortable on the same side, the similarities stop there.
Where Lemar fits, all depends on how the Gunners line up next season. We may not know fully until the Community Shield fixture against Chelsea on August 6.
If Wenger continues with the 3-4-3, the most natural role for Lemar would be on the left of the attacking three. New record signing Alexandre Lacazette would play through the middle, giving the team more mobility up front and then the choice would be between Mesut Ozil and Sanchez on the right.
When you are willing to go over £45million for a player, which still might not be enough to land the France international, you are going to play him.
Monaco are confident of holding on to the midfielder, but every player in their squad has a price and something close to £53million including bonuses could be the turning point in making this happen.
Sead Kolasinac is the perfect player to run the line at left wing-back. He has the engine, the power and the pace to become a destroyer in that role. Lemar is technical, he has amazing vision and a left-foot that could open a tin of beans from 25 yards.
What he doesn’t have is blistering pace. Rather than attempt to beat his man down the wing, he is perfect at using the runs from the full-back to create the half-yard of space he needs to create havoc.
Where Lemar excels is when he is allowed to come inside, take up the No.10 role through the middle and has the space and time to pick a pass.
That is perfect for the type of runs that Lacazette will make, and if you had Sanchez ghosting in off the opposite flank, or the runs of Hector Bellerin down the right, Lemar has the ability to pick you apart.
Playing 3-4-3 at the Emirates is somewhat akin to Monaco playing 4-4-2, but with more defensive protection. It’s a role that Lemar knows very well and how he finished last season with 14 goals and 17 assists in all competitions.
This is not to say he’s not versatile either. It’s his potential new boss who is less accommodating when it comes to new things.
Lemar would actually have been ideal back in the days of the invincibles, playing in the 4-4-2, yet, if Wenger isn’t going to play 3-4-3, the other obvious option is the 4-2-3-1 that started the previous season.
Ozil, if he stays a Gunner, will play as the no.10, with the former Caen midfielder on the left. You then limit someone like Sanchez playing wider on the left, or have to decide on picking Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – if he stays – over either the Chilean or Lacazette.
Lemar would still get the benefits of the new Bosnian signing down the left and one area where the Monaco man is underrated is his defensive contributions.
He attempted 2.9 tackles per 90 minutes in Ligue 1, according to WhoScored, winning 58%, plus he made one interception per 90. Both those metrics are better than Manchester City signing Bernardo Silva managed on the opposite flank and he was supposed to be the perfect Jose Mourinho player because of his ability and desire to track back.
Lemar has it too, so there would be no problem asking him to cover back.
One reason that formation doesn’t work with Lemar is the inside movement, his need to come inside and create through the centre.
Ozil would already be there and both players could get in each other’s way. It wouldn’t be ideal and the opposition gameplan was to show the Frenchman inside, and without him having the pace to challenge on the outside on his own, Arsenal would be predictable and easier to stop.
That’s when Sanchez and Alex Iwobi are better utilised, they have the speed to open up defences on the flank without support.
If that was Wenger’s plan, he would be better going for one of those other options he mentioned.
Although very similar, playing 4-3-3 goes back to Lemar’s strengths, because you want him to push through the middle and take up the space vacated by the German playmaker’s absence.
Both are left-footed with excellent vision and ability to pick a pass others can’t see. Lemar is more physical and has qualities closer to a wide man, but you need to give him freedom to find his best form.
With the former Real Madrid man in the same team, you would expect them to get in each other’s way.
Lemar is the real deal, that’s why Wenger is pushing forward with the transfer, unwilling to take Monaco’s rejections as a final answer.
He would add undoubted quality to the attack and his relationship with Lacazette and potential link with Sanchez could be more than enough to fire the Gunners into the top four.
Continue with 3-4-3 and it’s ambitious but exciting move. Keeping Sanchez and Ozil creates problems and would limit what all three would be able to achieve.