Arsenal are entering what is a pivotal period during the end of the season whereby manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu will tackle the transfer market and hope to progress the side and improve the squad.
The financial reports which were published recently and have since been broken down (our own analysis can be found here) reveal that the Gunners have spent more than £560 million on transfers between 2015 and 2019. Despite this, the club regressed in league standing and have been caught, overtaken or left behind by clubs whose recruitment has been smart and effective.
Therefore, this summer needs to be different for Arsenal. With a strong crop of young players around the squad from Bukayo Saka to Gabriel Magalhaes and several more starlets coming through the promising academy, the focus in the market must shift.
The word ‘transformative’ was associated with the acquisition of Thomas Partey and in the brief amount of time, due to injury, that the Ghanaian has been performing he looks head and shoulders above the other Arsenal midfielders.
The Gunners need to target players which will have an equal or greater impact in similar and other areas of the pitch. Players reaching or having just reached their prime career years, typically between 24 and 27 years of age. Closer to the younger side and the player has more sell-on value and protection of the investment, closer to the other end and more experience and quality will likely be found.
Below are 5 examples of players in this bracket in differing positions which the Gunners could look to realistically bring in to drastically improve Arteta’s team. Of course, signing all 5 is more fantasy than realism, but the point being more players of this type should now be what Arsenal look for.
The 5 transformative signings
Piotr Zielinski – Napoli – Poland – 26 – Transfermarkt value: £36 million
The first player to look at revolves around Arsenal’s central and attacking midfield areas. Arsenal moved to sign Martin Odegaard in January on loan until the end of the season and, based upon his performances, would likely be happy with signing the Norwegian international on a permanent deal.
However, should this not be the case for neither Real Madrid or the player, a possible alternative and even better option is that of Napoli and Poland international Piotr Zielinski. The 26-year-old midfielder has played in Serie A for a number of seasons, and in a number of midfield roles.
From a sweeping deeper midfielder, progressing gradually forwards into a solid central midfielder and also an attacking midfielder of an advanced number 8 or even 10 role.
Zielinski provides Napoli with an incredible amount of energy in the midfield and is often seen enacting progressive runs and driving the ball further up the pitch. The Pole could form a dynamic and scary partnership with Partey at Arsenal, or even play ahead of the Ghanaian behind the attacking 3 which Mikel Arteta likes to utilise.
The versatility of the signing means that the possible development of youngster Emile Smith-Rowe would not necessarily be blocked. With how malleable both players are in regards to positioning, similar to how Odegaard and the young English talent have played together, Zielinski opens up opportunities rather than closes doors.
With several years left on his deal and playing in his prime, a significant fee would likely be needed similar if not higher than Partey’s to bring the Polish international to the Emirates.
Tomas Soucek – West Ham – Czech Republic – 26 – Transfermarkt value: £27 million
Tomas Soucek along with compatriot Vladimir Coufal, former Hull City winger Jarrod Bowen and a number of other smart signings, have propelled West Ham from relegation battler to European qualification challenger.
The Hammers have had a brilliant season and much has been down to the effectiveness of the Czech Republic international in midfield. Signed from Slavia Prague in January of 2020, the east London club made the deal permanent in the summer for £15 million.
Despite notably being someone that plays in the more defensive third of the pitch, helping to recover possession and progress the ball into the attacking third, the Czech Republic international has scored 8 goals this season adding to the 3 he scored at the end of the last Premier League campaign.
Standing at 6’4, Soucek’s stature deceives with his movement on the ball and how he covers ground both offensively and defensively. He would continue the trend of Arsenal wanting to add physicality and quality to their team but would again not come cheap having just signed and impressed in England.
Could the Gunners tempt him to make the brief trip to north London? Where both sides finish could have a big influence on any potential deal.
Ricardo Pereira – Leicester City – Portugal – 27 – Transfermarkt value: £28.8 million
Many might immediately brush off the idea of Leicester City letting go of one of their top signings over the last couple of seasons. Since arriving from Porto, Ricardo Pereira has gone on to become one of the league’s most coveted full-backs. An ACL injury ended his last campaign early and delayed his start to the current season.
Since returning, however, he has done well to continue where he left off. Arsenal must look to upgrade their right-back position with continually disappointing performances from Hector Bellerin so far this campaign and a seemingly vulnerable area on their right-hand side in both an offensive and defensive capacity.
The idea of replicating the success of Kieran Tierney with someone of equal quality on the right is a tantalising prospect. Pereira is of a level which would fulfil that fantasy. But why would Leicester sell one of their best players to a rival?
The Foxes have shown in the past their willingness to sell some of their prized assets with the likes of Harry Maguire, Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez all moving onto higher profile English clubs.
The table may not reflect Arsenal’s standing as a step up from Leicester as of now, but with Timothy Castagne and James Justin at the club, the west midlands team may look at Pereira as someone who they could profit on and still have quality in reserve to then upgrade elsewhere such as left-back.
It is a situation Arsenal could attempt to be ruthless in, signing quality from within the Premier League is a tactic Arsenal have been reluctant to exercise in the past but could do in the future.
Nico Elvedi – Borussia Monchengladbach – Switzerland – 24 – Transfermarkt value: £28.8 million
Centre-half is a position which many may feel is not necessarily an area of great necessity to upgrade in. With two competent left-sided centre backs in Gabriel Magalhaes and Pablo Mari they are set in that area. However, on the right, whilst Rob Holding has signed a new deal, once David Luiz moves on this summer, behind the Englishman is unproven youngsters in William Saliba and Konstantinos Mavropanos.
Both have had their issues, be it fitness-wise with the Greek, or more social and professional problems with Saliba. However, much is expected from the Frenchman after a high-profile arrival.
Should this either not work or the club feel he needs further time to develop elsewhere, the Gunners may look to bring in quality regardless. A possible option for the club is Borussia Monchengladbach and Swiss international defender Nico Elvedi.
The 24-year-old has just 1 year left on his contract at present and could be available for a cut-price deal dependant on the number of suitors. A mobile, good passing and consistent player, Elvedi has aided in Gladbach’s rise under Marco Rose.
He is part of a developing Swiss national side which fellow Bundesliga defenders Manuel Akanji and Kevin Mbabu in addition to Newcastle defender Fabian Schar have helped progress. Elvedi has outcompeted the competition to be a regular at club and international level and at 24 has plenty more years to give and improve.
Should Arsenal wish to pursue a favourable deal in an area which there is never any harm in bolstering, Elvedi is a quality option the club could look into.
Youssef En-Nesyri – Sevilla – Morocco – 23 – Transfermarkt value: £13.5 million
Youssef En-Nesyri was covered in 101: 5 more strikers which Arsenal could realistically look to sign this summer. He also makes this list, if you want to know more about the striker’s abilities and background in addition to other striking options then click here.
Ultimately, Arsenal do need to go down a different route in regards to their striking department. For the initial future, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is still going to be around the club considering the contract extension given to him in the summer of 2020.
With the possible departures of Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun, Arsenal will need to enter the market and reinforce with only young unproven talents available from their academy.
Whoever is brought in needs to be someone who can provide physical and aerial threat and a consistent goal tally. En-Nesyri has continued to improve and deliver since arriving at Sevilla from Leganes. The Andalusian club have seen the Moroccan become their key threat having outcompeted Dutch striker Luuk de Jong to be their starting forward.
At 6’2, he provides the height and is far from leggy in the runs and dribbles he makes although does not typically prefer to carry the ball and instead relies on service which, with Arsenal’s range of creators, will hopefully not be an issue.
Strikers are few and far between in the category Arsenal need, but En-Nesyri may be an underrated option waiting to take the next step.
This article was edited by Josh Barker.
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Premier League table
|1||Manchester City FC||28||37||65|
|2||Manchester United FC||28||23||54|
|3||Leicester City FC||28||16||53|
|6||Tottenham Hotspur FC||27||18||45|
|7||West Ham United FC||26||9||45|
|9||Aston Villa FC||26||11||40|
|12||Wolverhampton Wanderers FC||28||-9||35|
|13||Crystal Palace FC||28||-17||34|
|16||Newcastle United FC||27||-17||27|
|17||Brighton & Hove Albion FC||27||-8||26|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||28||-36||18|
|20||Sheffield United FC||28||-29||14|
|Salah, Mohamed||Liverpool FC||17|
|Kane, Harry||Tottenham Hotspur FC||16|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United FC||16|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur FC||13|
|Bamford, Patrick||Leeds United||13|
|Calvert-Lewin, Dominic||Everton FC||13|
|Vardy, Jamie||Leicester City FC||12|
|Gundogan, Ilkay||Manchester City FC||11|
|Wilson, Callum||Newcastle United FC||10|
|Watkins, Ollie||Aston Villa FC||10|
|Rashford, Marcus||Manchester United FC||9|
|Sterling, Raheem||Manchester City FC||9|
|Barnes, Harvey||Leicester City FC||9|
|Zaha, Wilfried||Crystal Palace FC||9|
|Lacazette, Alexandre||Arsenal FC||9|
|Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick||Arsenal FC||9|
|Maddison, James||Leicester City FC||8|
|Ings, Danny||Southampton FC||8|
|Soucek, Tomas||West Ham United FC||8|
|Mahrez, Riyad||Manchester City FC||7|
|Player||Team||Red Cards||Yellow Cards|
|Gallagher, Conor||West Bromwich Albion||0||8|
|Maguire, Harry||Manchester United FC||0||8|
|Bellerin, Hector||Arsenal FC||0||8|
|Milivojevic, Luka||Crystal Palace FC||1||7|
|Hayden, Isaac||Newcastle United FC||0||8|
|Lundstram, John||Sheffield United FC||1||6|
|Evans, Jonny||Leicester City FC||0||7|
|Egan, John||Sheffield United FC||1||6|
|Bissouma, Yves||Brighton & Hove Albion FC||1||6|
|Grealish, Jack||Aston Villa FC||0||6|
|Tielemans, Youri||Leicester City FC||0||6|
|Shaw, Luke||Manchester United FC||0||6|
|Klich, Mateusz||Leeds United||0||6|
|Doucoure, Abdoulaye||Everton FC||0||6|
|Hojbjerg, Pierre||Tottenham Hotspur FC||0||6|
|Xhaka, Granit||Arsenal FC||1||5|
|Romeu, Oriol||Southampton FC||0||6|
|Kante, N`Golo||Chelsea FC||0||6|
|Phillips, Kalvin||Leeds United||0||6|
|Luiz, Douglas||Aston Villa FC||0||5|
|Kane, Harry||Tottenham Hotspur FC||13|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United FC||10|
|Grealish, Jack||Aston Villa FC||10|
|De Bruyne, Kevin||Manchester City FC||10|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur FC||9|
|Rashford, Marcus||Manchester United FC||7|
|Cresswell, Aaron||West Ham United FC||7|
|Digne, Lucas||Everton FC||6|
|Sterling, Raheem||Manchester City FC||5|
|Maddison, James||Leicester City FC||5|
|Firmino, Roberto||Liverpool FC||5|
|Ward-Prowse, James||Southampton FC||5|
|Werner, Timo||Chelsea FC||5|
|Neto, Pedro||Wolverhampton Wanderers FC||5|
|Shaw, Luke||Manchester United FC||5|
|Robertson, Andrew||Liverpool FC||5|
|Bamford, Patrick||Leeds United||4|
|Vardy, Jamie||Leicester City FC||4|