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Why Leandro Trossard, Arsenal's two-footed finisher and big-game specialist, might be their real key player – The Radar

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Why Leandro Trossard, Arsenal's two-footed finisher and big-game specialist, might be their real key player – The Radar

It was quite something to witness the explosion of celebration that greeted Leandro Trossard's equaliser for Arsenal against Bayern Munich from the press box at the Emirates Stadium.

With his sweeping, first-time finish, following nimble footwork by fellow substitute Gabriel Jesus, the Belgian nearly took the roof off the place. He is making a habit of scoring crucial goals.

The latest of them called to mind the words of his former coach at Genk. "He can handle any situation," Michel Ribeiro told Sky Sports last year. "The goals he scores, they are not just against small teams. He always scores against big teams and world-class defenders."

Bayern's defenders can testify to that. So too can Porto's after the goal that set up Arsenal's shootout win in the previous round of the Champions League. Trossard's overall tally of 13 goals this season includes strikes against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool too.

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It is worth considering the context they came in.

His strike against City, in the 11th minute of stoppage time in the Community Shield, again allowed Arsenal to win on penalties. His goal against Chelsea clinched a point at Stamford Bridge. Against Liverpool, it was a late solo effort to seal a 3-1 victory. There was a winner away to Everton in September too.

Trossard's appetite for the big occasions was also clear during his recent return to former club Brighton, where he silenced the jeers of the home fans with a beautifully-taken third Arsenal goal.

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His knack for troubling top opposition predates his move to Arsenal. Consider the fact that the final goals of his Brighton career came against Chelsea, Manchester City and in the form of a sensational hat-trick in a 3-3 draw with Liverpool at Anfield.

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Despite those scoring feats, his £27m move to the Emirates Stadium was not seen as a particularly exciting one at the time. Arsenal, after all, had only turned to him after missing out to Chelsea in their pursuit of the far more expensive Mykhailo Mudryk.

As Mudryk flounders, though, Trossard continues to excel, albeit in changing ways. In the second half of last season, he was mostly a creator, reaching double figures for assists but only scoring once. This term, the numbers have flipped, with 13 goals and two assists.

Effectiveness has been a consistent theme. Trossard averages a goal or assist every 104 minutes in the Premier League, putting him behind only Callum Wilson, Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah, Cole Palmer and Diogo Jota in the division since his move to Arsenal.

The Belgian has become a major weapon for Arteta, particularly when used as a substitute. Six of his goals this season, including his strike against Bayern, have come from the bench. It is the highest total by any player not just in the Premier League but in any of Europe's major leagues.

Trossard typifies the tactical adaptability Arteta has sought to emphasise. "Every time you ask him to play, whether it's wide or as a No 9, it flows and he's a real threat," he said earlier this season. "He is so intelligent. He generates spaces and options for people."

His versatility is key to that. At Brighton he was even used as a wing-back. But, when it comes to goalscoring, his two-footedness, a major focus of the work done by Ribeiro and the rest of his coaches at boyhood club Genk, is the real difference-maker.

Trossard, although ostensibly right-footed, is just as comfortable on his left. "I think he is right-footed and left-footed," added Ribeiro. "That's a big key for us here, working on both feet."

Ribeiro pointed out that the same ambidextrousness can be seen in other Genk academy products Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco and Divock Origi. But Trossard is a special case.

His overall split of 13 Premier League goals on his left foot and 19 on his right leaves a difference of only 18.8 per cent, the third-lowest among current players with a minimum of 30 such goals. Only Jota and Christian Eriksen boast a closer-to-equal split.

It is a quality which gives Trossard, like Liverpool's Jota in particular, a considerable advantage in the opposition box. How do you show a player onto his weaker foot if he does not have one? How do you anticipate what he is going to do next?

It is a conundrum which did for Jota's Liverpool team-mate Alisson Becker in that meeting in February, when the goalkeeper, expecting a cross, or for Trossard to cut inside onto his right foot, was instead caught off-guard by his left-footed snapshot from an acute angle.

Another goalkeeper, Everton's Jordan Pickford, did not have time to react at all when Trossard unleashed a first-time finish, again with his supposedly weaker foot, from a Bukayo Saka cut-back to clinch Arsenal's win at Goodison Park in September.

Trossard's unpredictability works the other way too.

In between those goals against Everton and Liverpool, there was a cool finish in the 5-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace, when Nathaniel Clyne slid in to block an anticipated left-footed shot, only for Trossard to feint and go the other way to finish with his right.

The result of all this is that, while he is predominantly used on the left by Arteta, Trossard is capable of scoring from anywhere. Indeed, his Premier League shot map for this season shows four goals from the left-hand side of the box and the same number from the right.

He has only started 40 per cent of Arsenal's games in all competitions this season. But his goal against Bayern was just the latest reminder of his growing value to Arteta's side.

Despite his limited playing time, Trossard is second only to Saka in the club's scoring charts. With over a month still to play, this is already his most prolific season in English football.

With so many crucial fixtures to come, starting with Aston Villa, live on Sky Sports on Sunday, Arsenal now need him to continue in the same vein. Trossard, their two-footed finisher with an appetite for the big games, has his most important assignments still to come.

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