When Arsenal’s pursuit of Mykhailo Mudryk was hijacked by Chelsea in January, the Premier League leaders were forced to move to Plan B but their quick pivot to sign Leandro Trossard has reaped rich dividends in a high-pressure title race.
Mudryk’s move from Shakhtar Donetsk to Arsenal looked a done deal with the Ukrainian winger also making no secret of his desire to move to Mikel Arteta’s side until Chelsea gazumped their rivals with a 100 million euros ($108.74 million) bid.
Arsenal’s top-four challenge last season imploded mainly due to the lack of experience and capable backups, but this time they moved quickly to recover from the blow and found a league-proven talent in Trossard.
The 28-year-old had started the season well with seven goals for Brighton & Hove Albion, which included a sensational hat-trick against Liverpool at Anfield.
But he was suddenly made an outcast after a falling out with new boss Roberto De Zerbi who had publicly reprimanded him.
“He knows very well that if he wants to play with Brighton with me, he has to work hard, he has to run, he has to be in the right way... I want only players who work hard and play for the team 100%,” De Zerbi had said in January.
Trossard’s last game for Brighton was on Dec. 26 and he did not play again until Arsenal came to his rescue and brought him in for approximately a third of the price for Mudryk as the club sets their sights on their first league title in 19 years.
Out to prove a point, the versatile Belgium international winger flourished, opening his account in February before providing seven assists for Arsenal - which included a hat-trick of assists in a 3-0 win over Fulham.
Mudryk, meanwhile, has struggled to adapt at Chelsea and has only one assist to his name.
With nine assists this season, Trossard now sits behind only Kevin De Bruyne (13) and Bukayo Saka (10) in the league’s assists charts despite missing nearly a month of action.
While Saka and Gabriel Martinelli topped Arsenal’s scoring charts, Trossard proved to be the ideal replacement -- either as an impact substitute or as a starter when the young guns needed a rest.
He fit in seamlessly into Arteta’s attacking setup in various positions across the front line and has been unlucky to have had goals ruled out by VAR. But his deft touches and spatial awareness made him a credible threat in the box.
With Saka benched on their return from the international break, Arteta handed Trossard 90 minutes for the first time since his arrival and he duly delivered with another assist for Gabriel Jesus in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Leeds United.
The victory extended Arsenal’s winning run to seven games as they keep second-placed Manchester City at bay with an eight-point lead and Arteta was full of praise for his January recruit.
“We knew about his quality and what he could bring to the team. He can play (on the) right, left, he can play as a midfielder, he can be a false nine,” Arteta said.
“He’s really contributing to the team. He’s taking responsibility to make that happen and we love him.”