Arsenal need to go “all in” on a defensive midfielder

The recruitment of Leandro Trossard, Jakub Kiwior and Jorginho in January means that we have two players for every position:

White Saliba Gabriel Zinchenko
Saka Odegaard Xhaka Martinelli

Tomiyasu Holding Kiwior Tierney
ESR Vieira Jorginho Trossard

The only two position which see a huge drop off from first team to second team is Partey to Elneny. Albert Sambi Lokonga has also proved himself not to be a great option.

Arsenal have been linked for some time with a new “6” and new “8”, and many of us expected us to sign someone in January having missed out on Douglas Luiz on deadline day in the summer.

We stayed quiet on the central midfield position for much of the window, and saw one of our long term targets join Nottingham Forest – Danilo.

The lack of activity in these positions indicated one thing. That we would go big on a central midfielder at some point.

Then the news about Moises Caicedo broke. We were then unable to get the deal over the line.

So come the summer, central midfield is where we need to heavily invest – and specifically cover and competition for Thomas Partey.

Partey has missed the last 2 games with injury, and if we were not already in for a top class midfielder, his latest injury would have changed that opinion.

Since joining us, his career has been blighted by muscle injuries. We have tried to manager the situation this year, but his body has failed him again.

The best defensive midfielder in the world when fit, our last two seasons have collapsed at the same time he has picked up an injury. It will be devastating if his latest injury is the reason we stumble in the title race.

We do not have a great deal of business to do this summer – Jorginho, Trossard and Kiwior have added squad depth in places where it lacked. The defensive midfielder could be our only major signing. that means we could be looking to spend close to £80million on someone.

We already know our 3 main targets. I have blogged on the enough. But a quick summary:

Declan Rice

I recently blogged on my views on Declan Rice.

My gut had always been that he is “too advanced” in his career to join us. That it would be pointless signing such a developed player when we already have Thomas Partey.

But when you look at how many games Partey misses, a case can be made for having two top players in that position.

For West Ham, Rice has also been a driving force going forward, meaning that he provides that Xhaka cover alongside competing with Partey.

Some pundits have also said that his long term future could be as a ball playing central defender.

Signing Rice could mean that Rob Holding is sold. We then have Rice or White as the injury replacement for William Saliba.

The transfer fee also previously scared me off Rice – West Ham were demanding in excess of £100m. But recent valuations have been in and around £80m. And that will only drop further if they are relegated.

With Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City not in the market for someone of Rice’s mould, that leaves the path free for Arsenal and Chelsea. And Chelsea seem to prefer Moises Caicedo.

Arsenal could further reduce the fee if we let Kieran Tierney go the other way.

“Cash + player” deals are rare in football. There a lot of moving components:

Player A needs to want to join Club B
Player B needs to want to join Club A
Club B need to want to sign Player A
Club A need to want to sign Player B

If West Ham do stay up, they will be in the market for a left back – Aaron Cresswell is now 33. Tierney would be a good option for them.

Likewise, Arsenal would clearly want Rice.

As for the players, Rice’s first choice would be a return to Chelsea – his family still live neasr Cobham. But if that deal fails to come off, then a move to Arsenal would be a no brainer.

Tierney is then only difficult one.

Would he want to take that “step down” to West Ham? There are plenty of “pro’s” including not having to move and getting regular first team football.

I think Rice will become our first choice.

Moises Caicedo

If Rice ends up going to Chelsea, that leaves us in the driving seat to sign Caicedo.

I actually think Caicedo is more suitable for us taking into account his age and playing style.

He is more similar in style of play to Thomas Partey and just 21-years-old, can be more gradually bought in to replace the Ghanaian.

We showed our hand in January, but Brighton held firm.

The deal failed to go through and I would not be surprised if Arsenal are back in for him in the summer.

Rice and Caicedo on the market. You almost need Arsenal and Chelsea directors to get together and decide who they each want. and agree not to enter into a bidding war for the other target.

Martin Zubimendi

Arsenal’s Stats DNA has pointed to Martin Zubimendi as an alternative to Rice and Caicedo.

The Spanish midfielder highlights why having stat based recruitment is so important.

It allows you to find players of similar attributes as your main target, but might now have the “big name”.

Zubimendi has a £52.8m release clause, making him the cheapest man on this list. But many statisticians show his output is not do dissimilar to Declan Rice.

Earlier in January, reports were that we had triggered the release clause, but Zubimendi had decided to remain at Real Sociedad until the end of the season.

This is admirable as he is born and bred in San Sebastián and joined his home town club at 11.

Sociedad currently sit 3rd in La Liga. Zubimendi clearly feels an obligation to secure his team a Champions League spot for the first time in a decade.

However, there is talk that Zubimendi might also be waiting for Barcelona. Have they given him the heads up they will move for him in the summer?

I think he is the Plan B to Rice and Caicedo who are Plan A’s.

The only concern will be is if he gets a move early in the window and then we miss out on Rice/Caicedo.

And we do not have the funds to spend £50m+ on him and then “sign another” later in the summer.

They way I see it is simple.

Rice is valued at around £80million. Zubimendi has a £52million-ish release clause. Caicedo should sit between the two.

If Brighton still demand a huge fee for Caicedo, then Rice at a similar large fee makes more sense. Or alternatively we go for the much cheapr Zubimendi.

If we can battle the fee for Caicedo down to closer to what Zubimendi will cost, then the Columbian becomes our first choice.

In the summer, I expect one big signing – a defensive midfielder – and that is probably about it.

The squad is now in the position where we make one or two big signings a summer, and then the rest is as players leave. A bit like where Man City are right now.

Who would you prefer?



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