With Mesut Ozil left twiddling his thumbs on his sofa, Arsenal’s alarming lack of creativity was exposed once again by Leicester City on Sunday.
And as Mikel Arteta’s stumbling side failed break to down Brendan Rodgers’ well-drilled defensive unit during an oh-so frustrating 1-0 defeat, you’d be forgiven for wondering how differently things could have panned out if the Gunners had signed a long-time transfer target.
According to The Mirror, Arsenal turned down the chance to bring Nabil Fekir to England before he swapped Lyon for Real Betis in an £18 million deal in summer 2019.
After putting those injury issues behind him and rebuilding his once glittering reputation in Andalusia, it didn’t take long before the London giants came calling once again.
For Fekir, however, the decision was an easy one.
Betis had shown faith in him when no-one else did in 2019 and the World Cup winner wasn’t going to turn his back on the La Liga outfit so quickly, even when a potential £44 million move to the Emirates once again presented itself.
Then again, it would be wrong to suggest one man alone would have solved Arsenal’s well-documented lack of creativity. Well, not the Fekir of 2020/21 anyway. Seven games into the La Liga season, Fekir has just one goal and a single assist to his name.
“We all know the ability Nabil has. He himself knows he has to do more on the field,” Betis boss Manuel Pelllegrini told Diario de Sevilla after another underwhelming display from his star man during a 2-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid this weekend.
“Hopefully he will find his football as soon as possible. We all expected a lot from Nabil due to his quality. He is aware he has to improve and we hope he will improve his performance in the next games.”
At his brilliant best, Fekir can change a game with one defence-splitting through ball – the kind of player who can unlock deep-lying back lines like Leicester’s.
But, as Pellegrini himself says, Fekir is currently a shadow of the man who took La Liga by storm last season.