Arsenal’s need three important signings to put their season into overdrive, namely an attacking midfielder, a backup goalkeeper and a central striker.
The coronavirus pandemic put football on hold fifteen months ago, as clubs pondered their financial future with a return nowhere in sight. The game returned in June 2020, and clubs went into last summer’s window with caution; to maintain their finances and get ahead on bargain deals. However, the current summer has divided football clubs into two sects; the English clubs and the rest of Europe.
Since UEFA relaxed Financial Fairplay rules to help cubs recover from the pandemic, English clubs alone seem to have benefited from it. The Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Aston Villa and even Arsenal have made huge forrays into the market, each one reaping the benefits from having wealthy owners.
Let’s stick to Arsenal here, and at one glance, they have signed three players, all in a younger age bracket. However, only one goes straight into the starting lineup to possibly improve the side. Ben White, a £50 million arrival from Brighton, was signed as a replacement for David Luiz, while Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares are notable investments. All three cost the club over £75 million combined in transfer fees.
More pressing issues remain unaddressed within the squad, while glaring gaps were evident in Arsenal’s opening day defeat to Brentford. The Gunners struggled terribly to create clear goalscoring chances or to bring the ball in central attacking areas. They constantly pushed the ball wide to usual suspects Keiran Tierney, Emile Smith Rowe and Nicolas Pepe, although there were no options centrally when the crosses came in.
The Brentford loss was no blueprint to Arsenal’s problems; it was a mirror image of the side during the first half of last season. The gaping holes were visible, and there certainly is a personnel problem at Arsenal, something they need to fix and in three particular areas of the pitch.
The Gunners will need a goalkeeper, an attacking midfielder and a striker. There are other areas, such as right-back and central midfield, but those are not essential currently. With only about two weeks left in the transfer window, new signings might still come in as Arteta hinted recently.
The Hard Tackle now analyses the ideal player suited for each position based on how they improve the team, their availability in the transfer market, and whether they will join the Arsenal football club.
Goalkeeper – Andre Onana
These days, a goalkeeper’s CV needs more than just shot-stopping — distribution, actions with their feet, reaction under pressure, playing out from the back, among others. Bernd Leno certainly showed a willingness to adapt to a new role under Arteta with some early Neuer-like sweeps, but he seems to have stuttered a bit since the end of the last term.
Secondly, the uncertainty around his future is also baffling. Either the player wants out, or the club does, as there is no talk of a new contract despite having two years left on his deal. Arsenal certainly have paid attention to this situation and relentlessly pursued Aaron Ramsdale all summer before recently ceding their interest.
Ramsdale might not be the answer to the style Arteta seeks; but Andre Onana might be. The Ghanaian has played a similar role at Ajax and excelled. His unfortunate doping ban exceedingly complicates things that would only let him play around January, even though his ban probably ends around November.
Arsenal are exploring the option while also being linked with Freddie Woodman, another young age profile keeper. The Newcastle United stopper had an excellent season in the Championship with Swansea City and could be available if he sees himself behind Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow in the pecking order.
Make no mistake by thinking any goalkeeper signing will be an instant first-choice at the club. Leno is ahead in that aspect, and Arteta seemingly has no problems with the German’s status. However, the manager would like to develop the new arrival into the mould he seeks, to be prepared to take over the reins from Leno at some point, possibly next season.
Attacking midfielder – Martin Odegaard
Arsenal have to sign an attacking midfielder at all costs. This area has become imperative to their style of play, and they currently do not have a player to switch things up. Last season Arsenal failed to score in ten home games, including eight in the league, which highlighted a lack of chances for the strikers.
The issue prompted Arteta to unleash Emile Smith Rowe, which realistically only boosted the attacking play but failed to provide a solid solution. While Smith Rowe is widely perceived as a No.10, he excelled playing on the left side of the Arsenal attack. Arteta recognised this and signed up Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid to inadvertently stumble upon a solution.
Odegaard returned to Madrid at the end of the previous season, and Arsenal have had a whole summer to find a replacement. They haven’t found one for some reason, although multiple reports suggest the Norwegian remains their No.1 target, and a move might still happen before August 31.
Alternatively, their other target James Maddison would cost over £60 million. Arsenal have never indicated their unwillingness to pay such a fee, but they could always sign someone cheaper. It brings us to Houssem Aouar, who the club chased the whole of last summer and didn’t sign after Lyon’s demands increased dramatically.
The Frenchman is available for nearly £20 million this summer, although surprisingly, Arsenal are showing minimal interest. Aouar and Maddison bring a goal threat with their direct style of play. In theory, they could increase Arsenal’s goal threat, but the club already have Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pepe and Smith Rowe to provide that.
The team currently lacks a player who could dictate the tempo of their attacks and bring the ball into dangerous positions for those mentioned above to score. And Martin Odegaard is that player. The Norwegian’s impact on the team last season cannot be exemplified via his goals and assists contributions, as the team looked better with him. He tends to stitch together the attack, and last season got the best out of Smith Rowe, Saka and even Pepe.
Arsenal need to take advantage of the uncertainty around his Real Madrid future and sign him permanently before the window closes. As a bonus, he could be available for a much lower price than Maddison and is someone Arteta knows very well, thanks to the six months he spent on loan at the club.
Striker – Lautaro Martinez
Arsenal lost to Brentford on Friday without scoring a single goal. They did attempt 22 shots, which tells a story. So it seems creating chances is not exactly the only problem, but a glaring need for a striker surely is. Even with 22 shots, the Gunners couldn’t score a goal and needed to put those chances in.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might be declining since last season, and his pre-season form could have suggested this theory. The striker saw many chances fall to his feet but failed to score a single goal in pre-season. As alarming as it may be, especially when he is the club’s highest-paid player, they cannot afford to let him occupy an important position without results to show for it.
Similarly, with Alexandre Lacazette, who is not particularly in decline, but Premier League defenders would have figured out his monotonous style of play. Moreover, the more he drops deep, the more Arsenal are starved in the box for a goalscoring presence.
Our choice for Arsenal to sign would be between Lautaro Martinez and Dusan Vlahovic. Both those Serie A strikers are reportedly available for transfers if a right offer comes in. The north Londoners surely have the money to spend on quality, long-term strikers.
The Inter Milan man, who has been heavily linked with local rivals Tottenham, offers a similar style of play to Lacazette, but with more presence in the box to finish off chances. He can also create moments of magic on his own and could bring prolific numbers by the end of the season. It will be a costly deal but surely a worthwhile investment. Vlahovic, a much younger alternative, offers similar attributes to Martinez.
Arteta would have liked Tammy Abraham due to his ability in the air and presence in the box. However, the Chelsea man has joined AS Roma, despite waiting for Arsenal to approach, which never happened due to the club’s inability to move out their current strikers. The club should do their best to move at least one of their current strikers, not including Eddie Nketiah, and sign one of the Serie A stars to complete their transfer business.
Arsenal have gained some unwarranted reputation of pinch spenders over the years. However, this summer, nobody seems to know their exact budget for transfers. While everyone expected the club to spend on an attacking and central midfielder, they paid £50 million for a central defender.
In alignment with the relaxation of FFP rules, Arsenal’s owners might lend a helping hand by investing in the playing squad, which could indicate the club could be ready to splash good money before the window ends.
They need players for the three aforementioned positions and, ideally, sign the names mentioned above. The club rightly needs a re-build, and there is no better market than this one. Arsenal could look forward to having a season worthy of finishing in the top four and getting back to their old spot in the Champions League by signing the right players.