Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock had fantastic ends to last season.
Joe Willock on loan at Newcastle was key to their survival scoring 8 goals in 14 games; whilst Smith Rowe became a key player in Arsenal’s revival in the 2nd half of the season.
But we might be in a situation where both end up leaving the club this summer.
Now over the years, I have been a huge champion of our academy and the fact that we now have so many academy graduates in and around the first team is something to be excited about.
But that does not mean we need to keep every single one.
Last season Arsenal were crying out for creativity and goals from midfield.
Smith Rowe provided the creativity and Willock showed for Newcastle that he can score the goals.
It is not hard to make the argument that both should be part of Mikel Arteta’s plans next season.
But what then happens when upgrades on the pair are available? And offers come in for them that are just too much to turn down?
Houssem Auoar is a player Arsenal have chased for some time.
He risks becoming a Julian Draxler-esque where we are linked every summer but never actually sign him.
If he were to join Arsenal, it would be this summer or never.
Last summer Lyon were demanding a £55.5m transfer fee for a player who was considered one of the hottest prospects in Europe.
12 months on and Lyon would reportedly accept a bid in the region of £25m.
A mixture of his drop in form, Lyon’s financial woes and Auoar having a year left on his contract has seen his price plummet.
Capable of playing left, right and centre behind a striker as well as deeper in an “8” role, Auoar is exactly the type of player we need to add to the squad. And at £25m we would be getting an absolute steal.
Still just 23-years-old, Auoar would start ahead of both Smith Rowe and Willock.
James Maddison was perhaps unlucky to make the England squad as Gareth Southgate went for Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Jack Grealish as his attacking midfield options.
“It’s an area of the pitch where we have unbelievable competition for places,” Southgate said during his squad announcement. “We just feel there are players ahead of James in those areas of the pitch.
Maddison’s season was hampered due to various injuries knee, hamstring and hip injuries.
It is the hip injury that is most concerning as he picked it up taking a corner and since his return Youri Tielemans has remained on set pieces.
Taking into account the quality of Maddison’s delivery, you have to assume that his absence from corners and free kicks is due to that hip injury.
I remember watching Maddison during his Coventry games and one thing that always stuck in my mind was his “unusual” technique of striking the ball – he tended to hit the ball with the back of the inside of his foot rather than middle.
This technique alongside the power and whip he gets on the ball puts a lot of strain on the hip. And if surgery has restricted his movement in that area, he might never be the same player again.
We would have to assume if he were to join Arsenal, we would give him a thorough medical to ensure that hip is 100%.
With 27 goals in his last 3 seasons, Maddison would certainly give something Arsenal are missing.
His striking of the ball from outside the area would also be a game changer when teams are sitting deep.
For Leicester City he has played left, right and centrally, showing that he has the versatility to rotate in and out of different positions – a key factor under Arteta as he looks to bamboozle opponents with attackers swapping positions during games.
A fee of £60m does seem big taking into account his recent injury record – but if he is fully fit it is probably his “market price” when you see what other attacking midfielders might go for this summer.
It is similar to the fee that is being floated around for Grealish, who I would say a fit and firing Maddison is on par with.
Aston Villa paid £38 million for Emi Buendia and are reportedly chasing Smite Rowe for a similar value. Maddison is more established and influential than both of these.
So with Maddison and Auoar potentially available for a combined £85million, and Willock and Smith Rowe being linked away for around £55million combined, should Arsenal sell 2 and invest a further £30million?
You perhaps have to be cruel to be kind.
Are Maddison and Auoar better than Smith Rowe and Willock? I would say yes. Would getting the pair for a net of £30million be a great deal? I would say yes. So should we upgrade? Probably.
I think the more likely solution is we end up with one – probably Auoar.
Auoar would then be alongside Smith Rowe competing to play with Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top.
But then Maddison, Auoar, Pepe and Saka as options behind the striker would be even more powerful.
The final thought is the last scenario is 4 players for 3 positions. Is that enough? Could we actually also keep Smith Rowe alongside Maddison and Auoar giving us 5 options behind Aubameyang.
Would Smith Rowe be happy with being 5th choice? And would Arsenal be crazy to turn down such a big offer from Villa? And can we afford to turn it down if we target both Maddison and Auoar?
Plenty to think about over your lunch break.