Arsenal need midfield reinforcements, and we should be making a move in January.
We need to improve on Mohamed Elneny as Thomas Partey’s cover.
The Egyptian is a solid player, and the one-year extension was the right move.
That decision has allowed Edu and his team to clear their heads as to what exactly we need.
Last summer we might have considered the incoming man being a Partey replacement, co side ring his injury record. But with the Ghanaian’s form (and fitness) this year, replacing him is not on the agenda.
That means we should now be looking for someone who can cover him in the short term, and replace him in the long.
Partey is the best in the world plying as that single pivot defensive midfielder, so it does not make sense for us to get in another big name in this area (no Declan Rice).
Likewise, get the likes of Youri Tielemans and Sergej Milinković-Savić out of your mouths. Neither are defensive midfielders or can play that Partey role.
Tielemans has played deeper this season, but he is not a defensive midfielder.
For Leicester, he plays as the slightly more advanced of a two-man midfield; with either Boubakary Soumaré or Wilfred Ndidi as the deeper defensive cover.
Tielemans on his own as that single defensive midfielder would be a disaster. He neither has the awareness or stamina to do that job.
As for Milinkovic-Savic, he always comes across as a player that everyone raves about but have never seen.
People look at his size, stature and nationality and immediately think “midfield enforcer”. Paul Pogba is similar – the Frenchman often mislabelled as a defensive midfielder due to being big and black, when he has almost always played further forward. The Serbian has never played defensive midfield for Lazio.
If we were talking about replacing Granit Xhaka, then Tielemans and Milinkovic-Savic would be names to mention. But we are talking about getting in cover for Partey. Neither are suitable.
What we need to be looking for is a young, talented defensive midfielder who we can develop over the next 2-3 season to eventually replace Partey full-time. Basically succession management.
We should be looking at players aged 20-22. Players that would see joining Arsenal to be understudy to Partey as a step up from playing regular football at their current clubs.
They would understand that they would see plenty of game time as they continue their development, and as long as they work hard and keep improving, they will be in pole position to replace the Ghanaian in 2-years time.
The two obvious candidates are Palmeiras’ Danilo and Moises Caciedo of Brighton.
Danilo would be the cheapest of the pair – fee rumoured to be around £20-25m. Caciedo, with his Premier League experience, would cost double that.
The Brazilian would be available in January, the current Brasileiro Série A season finished in November. Brighton, meanwhile, would unlikely want to see Caciedo leave until the summer.
With the above considered, Danilo is a realistic January transfer target.
Whether he (or Caciedo) develop into Partey’s replacement is still to be seen.
They will have 2-3 years to prove they can do that job. And if they fail to progress, expect Arsenal to sign an off-the-shelf replacement for him in around 2025 or 2026.
For now, we can take the risk on a young, exciting talent.
We don’t need to replace Partey yet. Just sign some better cover and competition.