The 5 players Arsenal need to target next

The January transfer window is open.

I do not expect Arsenal to do much business as we already have a pretty full squad. Like the last few windows, signings will rely on departures.

We have a long list of players who could leave us in January – Pierre-Emerick Aubmeyang, Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Calum Chambers, Folarin Balogun, Pablo Mari, Mohamed Elneny, Bernd Leno and Saed Kolasinac. Some of these will go out on loan. Others will be sold. The majority will probably end up staying.

With incomings reliant on depatures, writing a “wish list for January” raises all sorts of different possibilites. So it is perhaps more sensible to look at players that I would like us to bring in over the next 2 transfers windows; I would expect the majority of those named above to be gone by the end of the summer window.

Dusan Vlahovic

The Serbian striker is on of the most in demand players in world football at the moment.

It is a toss up between Dusan Vlahovic and Alexander Isak as to who I think we should be targetting. Both are a simialr age and have a similar profile.

In the end I have opted for Vlahovic over the Swede due to him backing up his excellent breakthrough season (21 goals in 37 Serie A games) with 16 goals in 19.

Isak meanwhile has struggled this season with 4 La Liga goals in 15 games after scoring 17 in 34 last season.

Vlahovic is one of the hottest players in the world this season and there will be no shortage of clubs lining up to secure his services.

Manchester City need a striker following Sergio Aguero’s departure, whilst Bayern Munich might be looking to replace Robert Lewandowski over the enxt 2 transfer windows.

Liverpool might decide to upgrade on Firminho whilst Tottenham might enter the race if Harry Kane moves away. Juventus will always be in the race for a player performing well in Italy.

Mikel Arteta seems to want a “Giroud-type” upfront. Sacrificing a bit of pace in behind for a forwrd that can hold up play; bringing his young attacking midfielders into play.

Vlahovic seems to be the right type of striker, with the work rate, hold up play to go with his goals. He also fits in with the age profile of those around him.

The only question mark over Vlahovic is whether he stat pads his goal scoring record through penalties.

11 of his 36 league goals have come from the spot. Take thm away and 25 goals in 54 games is not as exciting.

That brings the Luke Jovic situation into play with a warning.

The Bosnian striker, with similar attributes to Vlahovic, joined Real Madrid after a good 18 months in Germany. since his move to Spain he has struggled.

A reported fee of £70million feels heavy for a player with just 18 months under his belt and whose goals are 30% made up from penalties.

But if not Vlahovic, then who? Isak is the only other on the radar.

I would not be surprised to see Arsenal try and bring in Valhovic in January if Aubameyang departs.

Dejan Kulusevski

With Bukayo Saka, Martin Odergaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe, you could easily argue that Arsenal have some of the most exciting young attacking options in world football right now.

The odd man out in the 3 behind the striker is Nicolas Pepe. The Ivorian has struggled for consistency since joining.

Paul Merson had it spot on when he said Pepe’s issue is he follows up a 9 out of 10 performance with 3 or 4 out of 10s.

Whilst you can do that at somewhere like Newcastle (Allan Saint-Maximin) or Watford (Ismaïla Sarr), you can not do that at Arsenal.

Pepe has 15 goals and 8 assists in 63 Premier League games. That is a goal contribution every 179 minutes

In the same period, Saka has averages a goal contribution every 204 minutes.

Whilst this would indicate Saka is “worse” than Pepe, the Englishman is 6 years younger, improving every game and contributes to the team even when not scoring or assisting. If Pepe is not scoring he contributes very little.

If we can recoup even £30million of Pepe’s transfer fee, we should look to invest it into someone that:

  1. Can play across the 3 in the middle – providing cover for Saka and Odergaard
  2. Has a high work rate to match his team mates
  3. Is under 23

Someone that ticks all of those boxes is Dejan Kulusevski.

The 21-year-old Swede has struggled for regular game time at Juventus this season; starting just 4 games. He is yet to register a goal or assist.

Whilst his out-put might be dissapointing this season, there is a lot about Kulusevski to like.

He is a tall, strong attacking midfielder who has both the pace and trickery to play out wide and the technical ability and work rate to play more centrally.

In 2019/20, whilst on loan at Parma, he regularly topped the “distance covered” charts whilst contributing 10 goals and 8 assists.

Talk is that Juventus might be willing to let him go for less than £30million. A snip for someone so young and talented.

Kulusevski would offer excellent cover for Saka and Odergaard; and could also play even deeper centrally if Arteta decides to go for a more attacking central midfield.

Georginio Wijnaldum

Arsenal’s transfer policy over the last 12 months is to bring in players under the age of 24 who are hungry and have a high improvement curve. Every player on this list fits into that philosphy. Except one. Georginio Wijnaldum.

Wijnaldum is now 31-years-old and joined PSG last summer from Liverpool for nothing.

The Dutch midfielder recently admitted that he is “not completely happy” at Paris Saint-Germain and feels concerned over a lack of playing. He might be looking to leave in December, on loan at least.

Arsenal are set to lose Thomas Partey and Mo Elneny to the African Cup of Nations. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is also on the verge of joining Roma at the time of writing. That leaves Arteta with just Granit Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga as his senior midfield options.

We need to bring someone in until the end of the season at least. And it feels like Wijnaldum is the right fit.

If we are bringing in someone to cover Partey for January, and compete for the first XI between now and the end of the year, they must be Premier League ready.

Wijnaldum played in England for 6 seasons for Liverpool and Newcastle. In his last 3 seasons under Jurgen Klopp for Liverpool, he started 34, 35 and 32 games. He missed just 4 games in total over 3 years.

He has the defensive work rate and ball carrying skills which would see him a like for like replacement for Partey. Mid-term he would also provide competition and cover for the Ghanaian who has struggled in his 18 months in England.

A case could easily be made that Arsenal should seek to extend a loan deal for a further 12 months in the summer.

With Arsenal likely to finish in a European spot, we need to add reinforcements in midfield, especially if Maitland-Niles finally leaves permanently and with Elneny’s contract expiring, Arsenal need reinforcements in the middle.

Sambi Lokonga is on the verge of being ready but Charlie Patino and Miguel Azeez are some way away.

Wijnaldum would provide a 3rd senior central midfield option alongside Partey and Xhaka; with Lokonga being the 4th choice. Azeez would then be promoted to 5th choice, getting plenty of game time in the cups and bench appearances.

Having Wijnaldum, Partey and Xhaka will allow Arteta to go more defensive if required; whilst also giving him options to rest and rotate.

His wages will be a stumbling block which is why Arsenal would likely go for a 12 month loan deal in the summer rather than a permanent signing.

Arsenal could offer to pay half of Wijnaldum’s £180k a week wages (£90k) whilst also paying a £4.7m loan fee to PSG – which would essentially cover the 2nd half of his wages without upsetting the applecart at Arsenal.

If a deal can be done for the first 6 months, I am all for Wijnaldum getting a further 12 months on loan at Arsenal.

Nathan Paterson

Arsenal have lost of right backs; and players that can play at right back.

Takehiro Tomiyasu has been a revaltion since signing. He is backed up by Cedric Soares and Calum Chambers. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Ben White can also do a job there.

But to move forward as a squad, we need a right hand side the same strength as our left where Kieran Tierney and Nuno Taveras give us quality and strength in depth.

Cedric Soares is an average Premier League midfielder. He is not as bad as some make out, but you would be worried if Tomiyasu had a long term injury. He turns 31 at the end of the season so does not really fit the “young and hungry” squad we have.

Meanwhile Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland-Niles need to resurect their careers elsewhere. both need regular first team football; not playing second fiddle to a younger player.

If we are looking for someone younger than Tomiyasu to play back-up to him, then Scotland and Rangers right back Patterson would be a good option.

Just turned 20-years-old, Patterson has not yet become a Rangers regular, but many of their fans consider him the best right back at the club.

Ahead of him he has long term Rangers servant and club captain James Tavernier; the English journeyman found a home North of the bored.

Whilst Tavernier might not be as good as Patterson, he is still amongst the best 2 right backs in the league.

With Rangers’ financial troubles, they might decide to cash in on Patterson knowing that it would not weaken their first team.

Patterson is quick and strong, capable of tucking inside in both defence and attack.

He will only improve at a better club playing against better opposition.

Patterson playing second fiddle to Tomiyasu will complete our defensive options for years to come.

Andre Onana

In the matter of 18 months, Bernd Leno has gone from being picked by Arteta of Emi Martinez to having one foot out of the door.

The call made by Arteta in 2020 was a big one. He decided to stick with the experienced German over Martinez; The Argentine stopper was the same age but had significantly less top end experience.

Martinez had an excellent first season at Villa, but has since struggled. Meanwhile Leno had an error strewn season.

In the debate between Leno and Martinez, Aaron Ramsdale has come out on top.

Leno will now leave Arsenal. Potentially as early as January. That will leave Edu out searching for another new keeper.

Both arthur Okonkwo and Karl Hein are talented, but neither would be ready to come in if Ramsdale picks up an injury.

With Europe on the horizon once more, Arsenal will likely return to having two top keepers – one for the league and the other for the cups and Europe.

This could reopen the door to former target Andre Onana.

Arsenal will want Ramsdale’s back up to be equally adapt with the ball at his feet, and Onana is just that.

Inter Milan are reportedly interested in the Ajax keeper following his drug ban. They would be able to offer him their number 1 shirt, with current first choice keeper Samir Handanović turning 38 at the end of the season.

Being first choice at Inter would clearly be more attractive than being 2nd choice at Arsenal. But that would not rule us out.

We would still be able to offer Onana close to 20 games a season if we qualify for Europe, whilst giving him a chance to battle to be Arsenal’s number one.

Arsenal’s wage bill also dwarfs that of Inter Milan; with the Italian side having just 4 players earning over £100k a week.

Onana might decide that playing occassionaly and living in London, earning more money, is just better than playing in Italy. Especially when you take into account the racial abuse black players receive week in week out in Italy; which will only be worse for a goal keeper.

Bringing in someone like Onana as a 2nd choice will be a huge statement that Arsenal are back.


Who would you like to see Arsenal sign over the next 2 transfer windows?

Keenos

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