Arsenal currently find themselves lying in 10th place and have had a largely underwhelming season so far but have found some form. Current manager Mikel Arteta was appointed in December 2019 and has taken charge of 46 league games during which Arsenal have averaged 1.5 points per game. Over the past 10 seasons, the average points total needed for Champions League qualification has been 69 points, ranging from 63 to as high as 76, or 1.82 points per game. At their current pace, Arsenal are set to finish around the 55 point mark. Barring a big turnaround in form and some poor runs from teams above them, they look set to miss out on qualification for Europe’s premier competition for the fifth year in a row. They could also struggle to qualify for the Europa League through the league if their performances don’t improve and could find themselves without European football if they can’t win the Europa League this season.
Since arriving at Arsenal, Arteta has favoured either a 4-2-3-1 formation or a 3-4-3 depending on his available personnel. Arteta has turned to the 4-2-3-1 more times than the 3-4-3 so far this season so the squad depth table was constructed using the 4-2-3-1 as a starting point.
The Arsenal squad is just a bit thin in some key areas, in terms of quality. New signing Thomas Partey has struggled with injury since the start of the season and hasn’t put together a run of games leaving Elneny starting a lot more games than Arteta might ideally like. Generally, Arsenal are lacking a bit of depth in the middle of the pitch too, Odegaard signed on loan in January, but there is little chance of making that a permanent signing in the summer so Arsenal will be looking at an alternative for him as well to compete with Smith-Rowe who has impressed recently.
The Gabriel signing in the summer looks to have been a good one but Arsenal could do with finding another quality centre back to go alongside him. David Luiz has had a solid season but he is ageing and there are still questions over his consistency and ability at times. William Saliba has been sent out on loan to Nice and could still prove to be an important player for Arsenal but it appears that Arteta doesn’t quite trust him yet so it would make sense to look at another centre back.
With Martinelli and Saka, Arsenal have two talented wide options on either side of the pitch. Saka is more than proving his importance to the team and has been a key player this season. Martinelli has been hit by injuries as well this season and hasn’t been involved very much. The signing of Willian has proven to be a bit of a disappointing one and Nicolas Pepe is yet to justify his expensive price tag since joining Arsenal. Aubameyang has been deployed on the left this season but it isn’t where he is most effective so signing a winger that can be a threat from wide areas would make sense.
Aubameyang is having a rare down-season by his standards, with only 5 goals so far this season, he has been played out wide a fair amount this season but he has struggled to find form or be as involved in games as much as you would expect from a player who has been so important for Arsenal in the past. Lacazette is Arsenal’s top league scorer with 8 this season, and although he has struggled to hit as many goals as he did in France with Arsenal he has been able to consistently hit 10-15 league goals a season, the only difference being Aubameyang’s goals aren’t there to supplement his this term and while there is no doubting Nketiah’s finishing ability, his link-up play and all-round game is lacking slightly at the moment. There’s every chance Aubameyang could come back into the goals towards the end of this season or next season but he is coming towards the latter stages of his career and it might not be a risk worth banking on, despite Aubameyang’s new contract until 2023.
Arsenal have a long term left back in Kieran Tierney and Cedric can provide adequate cover on both sides, even if he is not the best. Hector Bellerin is a player I feel Arsenal could improve on or at least provide some competition for. Bellerin underwhelms on both sides of the ball and with full back being such a key position in the modern game Arsenal could do with looking for an upgrade there in my opinion.
Arsenal’s Play Style:
Arsenal rank amongst the middle of the pack for a lot of attacking metrics this season. 10th in terms of xG created and 13th for goals scored. They’ve taken the 9th most shots but are 4th worst at hitting the target with a conversion rate of 10.2% which is fairly low down in the league.
Arsenal record the sixth-highest number of touches in the opponent’s box but they struggle to convert these threatening positions into high-quality chances.
Defensively, they concede the 12th most shots against but have the 6th best xG against with 29.5 which suggests that they don’t tend to allow as many high-quality chances but don’t prevent shots from further out as they start in a deeper/middle block when defending, and have only conceded 23 goals, the 3rd fewest. When pressing, Arsenal have the seventh-lowest PPDA at 12.11, meaning the opposition completes an average of 12 passes before Arsenal make a defensive action, but their challenge intensity (how many defensive actions a team is doing per minute of opponent ball possession.) Is 12th lowest, comparable to that of Burnley and Everton.
This brilliant visualisation from @biscuitchaser using Fbref data shows how Arsenal press higher in the oppositions final third but the press is a lot less urgent in the midfield and defensive thirds.
Arsenal have one of the lowest PPDA against, so teams give them more time on the ball before pressing them compared to other teams, so Arsenal have plenty of time on the ball and have played the 5th most passes in the league. However, they only play the 11th most progressive passes, with the 7th most progressive runs, coupled with the 5th highest number of passes per minute of possession suggests that Arsenal, either by design or default, are less direct at attacking the opponent and are more considered when it comes to trying to find a killer pass.
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Any centre back target for Arsenal is going to need good on-ball ability. They tend to get a decent amount of time on the ball, so good passing ability would be ideal to provide Arsenal with more options to play passes to break lines against teams that look to sit back and frustrate them. In Gabriel and Mari, Arsenal have two centre backs who are quite active in defence when it comes to clearances, tackles and attacking aerial balls. Rob Holding and Luiz are less active, making relatively few tackles, pressures or aerial wins compared to their teammates, A defender that can improve those aspects to help when Arsenal are under pressure would be a good addition.
Edmond Tapsoba (22)
It’s no secret anymore that Tapsoba is a top prospect at centre back. Signed by Leverkusen from Vitoria for circa £15m the Burkina Faso international has impressed for the German club over the last two seasons. His passing is one of his key strengths and he is very comfortable on the ball. He has the ability to play those line-breaking passes and he ranks highly for progressive carries so is able to bring the ball up from the back himself. He is composed under pressure and can beat players off the dribble if needs be.
He has the pace to play in a high defensive line if Arsenal push up the pitch, is strong in the tackle and reads play well. He would help Arsenal to put more pressure on attackers in defensive areas too as he is always looking to win the ball back. It might be a hard get for Arsenal with no European football and would be an expensive acquisition but one well worth considering. The transition from the Bundesliga to the Premier League has been something of a mixed bag in recent times so that might be something Arsenal would be wary of.
Estimated Cost – £35,000,000-£45,000,000
Takehiro Tomiyasu (22)
The Japanese international is naturally a centre half, but last season was converted to a right back in his first season at Bologna. He was able to get forward but was often used to create a back three. This season, however, with more top-level experience under his belt, has been moved back to his natural position.
Having been used at RB, Tomiyasu is another centre back who would be comfortable on the ball and can pass well with both feet. He would be more than capable of bringing the ball up from defence and isn’t afraid to dribble past players that press him. He is a good receiver of the ball too which would help Arsenal in possession. His ability to play at RB would not only be helpful to Arsenal in terms of versatility but Tomiyasu would also be a good fit for Arteta if he was to play a 3-4-3 as he is comfortable defending wide areas and covering the RB area, similar to Tierney.
He is an important fixture in the Bologna side so they would be reluctant to lose him, and would demand a decent fee but they tend to finish in the lower midtable in Italy so the draw of the Premier League and competing for European competition may appeal to Tomiyasu.
Estimated Cost – £20,000,000 – £25,000,000
Nikola Milenkovic (23)
The Serbian plays in Italy for Fiorentina, and is another defender who is comfortable on the ball and confident to bring the ball up from the back. He is perhaps less proficient in the passing department than the other two but is still very capable with a good range of passing. He is a solid defender, strong in the tackle and in the air and has improved his 1v1 defending so far this year, and is difficult to get past for attackers.
He is a right place right time kind of defender with good positioning and would help lock down the middle of the defence alongside Gabriel as well as proving to be a decent goal threat last season too with 5 goals. He is another defender playing for a team in the middle of the Serie A so is a realistic acquisition for Arsenal especially if they can promise some sort of European qualification in the near future.
Estimated Cost – £25,000,000 – £30,000,000
Bellerin is certainly not a bad option for Arsenal at right-back, and so I wouldn’t necessarily consider it to be a priority position to improve. But at the very least they lack a bit of depth here. @TiagoEstv writes here about the tactical importance of left-backs and remarks on the impact of being without a first-choice left-back for teams and how some managers will adjust tactics to compensate for the drop in quality at left-back by putting more emphasis on the right-back in possession.
We can see here that Bellerin is capable in possession but doesn’t quite provide Arsenal with the progression or penetration they get from Tierney on the left, which is why it’s a position they might look to improve for greater balance in the team. Arsenal might also be sensible to invest in a better, back-up specialised left-back by the same logic.
Zeki Celik (24) –
Celik is a Turkish international who has impressed during his time with Lille in Ligue 1. He was recommended in tour Newcastle Recruitment Analysis where Thomas, who is far better versed in French football, has outlined Celik’s key strengths.
Coupled with being effective in possession, Celik is also a strong defensive full-back, which would provide a good balance to Arsenal’s backline when at full strength as Tierney often finds himself pushing high up the left-hand side. With the finances of French football all a bit up in the air, Arsenal would do well to take advantage of an opportunity to acquire a player for less than he might usually cost.
Estimated Cost – £15,000,000 – £25,000,000
The Barcelona man joined Real Betis on a two-year loan in 2019 after a relatively complex involving Barcelona, Betis and Atletico Minero. The Brazilian has been a key player for Betis, with almost 60 La Liga appearances for them so far. He has proven to be effective on both sides of the ball. He picks up good attacking positions to receive in dangerous areas as well as being comfortable carrying the ball himself from deep positions to progress the attack. He is also a strong tackler and measuring in at 6ft. He is tall for a right-back and he can be dominant in the air against smaller wingers and also makes it difficult for strikers who try to pull of the centre backs. He has a decent passing range and has been slightly more comfortable passing off his weaker left foot so far this season. He reads the game well and is able to step in and cut out attacks consistently.
Emerson might be a difficult get for Arsenal as he is set to return to Barcelona for the first time at the end of this season so they might want a look at him, but with Dest probably ahead of him, he might be more accessible.
Estimated Cost – £20,000,000 – £30,000,000
Jayden Bogle (20)
Signed from Derby by Sheffield United in the last summer, Bogle took a little bit of time to acclimatise to the Premier League but he has been impressive for a struggling Sheffield United side more recently. His player profile from @insightMrkt shows that Bogle is a good attacking full-back, and is dangerous in the final third whilst also being a solid defender in both tackles and aerially. He has shown a good ability to find space in attacking areas and in the box and has been a pretty good goal threat from right back. Bogle might not be a signing that comes in to make an immediate impact on the starting line-up but he would be a brilliant back up to Bellerin with one eye on developing him to replace Bellerin within the next year or so.
There were a few questions over Bogle’s defensive qualities at Derby and suggestions he performs better in a back five like he is playing at Bramall Lane. But he has shown that he is a capable defender in the Premier League and would be a good homegrown option that could be a starting right-back for years to come. He isn’t necessarily going to be a creative right back as you can see that he doesn’t have a tendency to cross very often or play passes into the box but he can be dangerous on the end of moves drifting in from the right and might suit Arsenal’s 3-4-3 system more at the moment.
Sheffield United look set to go down this season, and Bogle might be inclined to stay, with the promise of being the club’s first-choice right-back and they wouldn’t necessarily be under much pressure to sell as they aren’t paying big wages to hardly any of their players. Although it doesn’t seem unlikely that Arsenal could tempt him to move to the Emirates. He left Derby for a relatively small fee, around £4m, and would command a bigger fee than that but he could prove to be a shrewd signing.
Estimated Cost – £10,000,000 – £15,000,000
With Odegaard set to return to Real Madrid after his loan, Arsenal are looking a bit short in the middle of the pitch, especially if they continue to play 4-2-3-1. It’s an area of the team that they have needed to strengthen for some time, and while Xhaka, Ceballos and Partey offer some good options and all are good passers of the ball they are all a bit lacking on some key areas. Xhaka has a good passing range, retains the ball well and can carry the ball forward well but struggles to turn much of his possession into tangible attacking returns or situations, with fairly low xA, shot-creating actions (SCA) and xG involvement. He is also a bit passive on the defensive end coupled with some inconsistent periods in his time at Arsenal.
Partey is a midfielder that is effective on both sides of the ball, his ability in possession is impressive, he progresses the ball well for Arsenal through his passing and carrying, he rarely gives possession away cheaply and is difficult to tackle when he is in possession. He is also the best defender of the three, he presses well and is a strong tackler and is generally impressive in duels. Partey, though, is usually a midfielder that is involved in attacking moves in the earlier, deeper stages and so, similarly to Xhaka, he isn’t someone who Arsenal can rely on to be consistently creative in the final third. These issues could be in part attributed to the system they play in as they are usually playing behind four more attacking players which may explain why they receive the ball in attacking areas less.
Ceballos is the one out of the three who is able to create goal-scoring opportunities more regularly with impressive xA and SCA per 90 numbers. Ceballos doesn’t usually find himself on the end of chances, but he is also tidy in possession, an adept ball carrier and can play through teams with his passing too. His drawbacks come on defence although he is still a fairly capable defender, he positions himself well to cut out passes and has shown he can press well on occasion but he is quite weak aerially and not the best tackler.
If Arsenal continues to play 4-2-3-1 then they might look at finding another Partey-esque midfielder who can be a defensive presence in front of the back four as well as being able to move the ball into attacking areas and the front four well. But if Arteta looks to move to the 3-4-3 more regularly the might want a midfielder who can provide more of a goal threat going forward too.
Florian Neuhaus (23)
The German might not be able to provide a physical defensive presence in midfield as he is sometimes a bit lightweight in physical battles but he has good awareness and aggression to intercept moves and passes but is often afforded less defensive responsibility at Gladbach. On the ball, he is very impressive. He shows good composure and intelligence to see and pick the right pass to progress the ball from midfield into more attacking situations. He receives the ball well and in dangerous areas.
He is a threat to the opposition, he has 4 goals and 4 assists in 21 appearances this season and has demonstrated good goalscoring and creative abilities in his 3 years at Gladbach. I could see him being a successful partner to Thomas Partey where Partey is able to work from deeper positions and picks up a bit of slack for Neuhaus defensively while Florian can operate higher up the pitch and a more direct creative threat. With Marco Rose set to leave Gladbach at the end of the season they might be reluctant to lose many of their big assets until the new manager has had time to assess his squad.
Estimated Cost – £35,000,000
Manuel Locatelli (23)
Locatelli’s numbers for Sassuolo are impressive over the last year. As well as having great technique he is also a very capable defender. Numbers may be inflated playing for a team with more defending to do generally but he is very active on the defensive end. He is defensively disciplined as well as being a good tackler, and an effective presser who recognises pressing triggers well. He is comfortable playing with both feet and is a fairly press resistant midfielder which would help Arsenal against the top teams. His passing range is impressive and he uses his body effectively to evade opposition players as well as putting them under pressure and shielding the ball. However, in high demand, Arsenal would face a lot of competition for the Italian with Juventus currently leading the charge to sign him.
Estimated Cost – £35,000,000-£40,000,000
Patrick Berg (23)
The Norweigan plays for Champions Bodø/Glimt, and while the step from the Eliteserien to the Premier League seems like a big one and a move that doesn’t happen very often. His former teammate, Jens Petter Hauge has shown that it is more than possible to make the jump for Norway to the elite European leagues. Berg is a deeper-lying midfielder, so would be one to facilitate more attacking players in front of him such as Ceballos or Smith-Rowe in central areas.
He is important for dictating the tempo of play and picking passes to more advanced teammates. He has an impressive range of passing and can play very well off both feet making him a dangerous passer in almost all situations. He strikes passes well and can play to wide areas as well as punching vertical passes through the midfield. He is happy to receive the ball in deeper positions and make angles for defenders or for backwards passes for fellow midfielders to create new angles to pass from. He can often find himself defending the midfield alone in transition situations if the rest of his team are caught high and he has the composure and awareness to pick the right moment to pressure situations or step across to make interceptions as well as having good lateral movement to cover vacant full-back spaces at times too.
Physically, he might struggle, at just 5’9” he isn’t very imposing and struggles aerially and while he isn’t slow he doesn’t have explosive pace either. His agility and balance are impressive and that helps him to be quite a press resistant midfielder too. His dribbling isn’t his strongest area either as he looks to progress play with passing rather than carrying the ball himself.
He has some areas to work on but would be very comfortable playing in a deeper role in a possession-based system. He might be better suited to a midfield three to compensate for his lack of physicality. Bodø/Glimt’s hottest property, Jens Petter Hauge moved to AC Milan for around £5,000,000 and Berg is a couple of years older than him so would probably be available for a similar or slightly cheaper price. More if a risk then other options definitely but a player with a lot of potential upside for Arsenal.
Estimated Cost – £5,000,000 – £10,000,000
Since his expensive arrival, Nicolas Pepe has yet to meet the expectations of the Arsenal fans and the signing of Willian has not worked out like many would have hoped so far. Aubameyang has been forced out to the left for large portions of the season which is less than ideal. Arsenal have found inspiration from youngsters in recent times, Gabriel Martinelli (19), Emile Smith-Rowe (20) and namely, Bukayo Saka (19) have been exciting for Arsenal over the course of the season. Martinelli has been sidelined recently with a few injuries and knocks, Smith-Rowe is making his first real impact in the first team after a loan at Huddersfield last season and Saka is really excelling and looking to be locked in Arsenal’s starting line up for years to come.
Despite impressive performances from all three Arsenal would do well to manage their minutes at such a young age and try to make sure there is not too much pressure on them to deliver week in week out. Pepe and Willian aren’t the quality that Arsenal need to help their youngsters on and off the pitch if they have ambitions to return to the pinnacle of club football.
Mikel Oyarzabal (24)
The Spaniard is a well-established player for Real Sociedad now and has been a key player for them over the last four seasons, scoring 45 goals and getting 28 assists for them over that time. Oyarzabal looks like beating his best goal tally in a season with 10 already so far in 18 appearances. He has found himself on penalties the past 2 years with half of his goals coming from the spot over the last 2 seasons but in years before that, he has shown he can still be a goalscorer with 25 non-penalty goals in the 2 seasons prior. He can be a dangerous dribbler as well as passing well from wide areas and in the half-space.
He doesn’t have explosive speed but has good acceleration and tracks attackers in wide areas well too. Composed on the ball and technically proficient with very good close control, he has played off the left for Real Sociedad so finds himself playing quite narrow sometimes, being left-footed, which probably helps him be such a goal threat as he is comfortable making runs into central positions and finding himself in front of goal. He would be an expensive acquisition for Arsenal, Scoidead are having a fairly successful season and wouldn’t be under too much pressure to sell.
Estimated Cost – £50,000,000+
Matheus Cunha (21)
The Brazilian is naturally a striker but has been playing as a winger or wide forward regularly for Hertha Berlin. This means that he often finds himself occupying more central areas and drifting into the middle of the pitch whilst his team are in possession. This means that Cunha can be a big goal threat from wide areas and these tendencies might suit Arsenal if they look to get Tierney involved in the attack, he will have a lot of the wide areas to work in. He is physically impressive, with good pace and acceleration as well as being 6ft tall he is a problem for defenders to deal with.
Combine this with his technical ability and it means that Cunha can be a very effective 1v1 attacker who is a very good dribbler and can beat his defender with quick feet and clever use of his body. Being a natural forward means he can sometimes lack some involvement in defensive situations and doesn’t always press with good intensity but he does rank highly for interceptions, pressures and tackles when compared to other attacking midfielders and wingers. Cunha tends to be the endpoint for attacking moves, despite being an important outlet for Hertha Berlin, he has relatively low assists and xA as well as having a very low pass completion rate of 66.8%. He likes to shoot from distance, and has demonstrated a good ability to do so can add a different threat to the attack.
Estimated Cost – £30,000,000-£40,000,000
Moussa Diaby (21)
Diaby would offer less of a goal-scoring threat but is a very quick, agile, direct ball carrier. He has provided 7 assists for Leverkusen so far this league season and can deliver dangerous crosses into good areas as well as playing more precise pick outs in the box. He works well in tight spaces and has quick feet with a good first touch. He is left-footed, playing off the left usually but he is capable of playing on either side and can also comfortably use both feet to play if he needs to. He receives in dangerous positions well and looks to utilise his pace by running in behind. He maintains his width well but also looks dangerous when coming infield. He is positive and looks to play forward whenever he can. He is probably most effective on the break isn’t as dangerous in slower attacks with less space to run into.
His dribbling and close control is his main strength which is helped by his pace and agility and he would be able to create dangerous situations with his running. He tends to keep his passing shorter and simpler allowing him to move off the ball into space. For Leverkusen, he is rarely involved defensively, doesn’t press much and is pretty weak in the air. He could definitely do with improving his physicality but has some good attributes to be a better presser in a different system.
Estimated Cost – £30,000,000 – £40,000,000
Andre Silva (25)
The Portuguese striker is having a mightily good season with 18 goals in 20 starts so far for Eintracht Frankfurt, off the back of 12 goals last season, he looks to be finding the form that earned him a move from Porto to Milan a few seasons ago where he struggled for chances and had a decent season on loan at Sevilla in the middle of that with 9 goals. A striker with a decent turn of pace and good hold up play. His physicality and first touch allows him to bring his teammates into play with good link up and layoffs. He might not be able to replace the 20+ goal seasons that Aubameyang has had recently, although he is well on his way to hitting 20 in Germany, but he would help to facilitate goals for other players in the team. He is much more involved in build-up and creation than Aubameyang is, who looks to get end the end of moves and isn’t really involved in much chance creation.
Estimated Cost – £30,000,000-£40,000,000
Amine Gouiri (21)
Gouiri joined Nice from Lyon for a little over £6,000,000 at the start of this season and has been an important player for them so far. He has 15 goal contributions in 26 appearances for a quite poor Nice side. He has been used down the middle and on the left which offers some nice versatility. He is technically impressive, his first touch is very good and this combined with his agility makes him a difficult player to defend. He is able to create chances for himself using his good close control and awareness of how the game is developing around him. He has quick feet and quick thinking which makes him dangerous in tight areas and can go by a defender before they are ready to engage him. He is also able to drop deeper to influence the game with a good passing ability, he can link the midfield and attack easily and combines well with teammates to play little one-twos or pick put attacking runs with penetrative passing into the area.
He lacks a bit of physicality and has struggled to be a lone frontman at times but he works well when playing off another striker or someone that can hold the ball up more effectively so he may be better suited to playing as a wide forward in Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3 with a striker that can work better as a focal point. Playing off another striker allows Gouiri to move into positions to receive passes in and around the area where he can look to turn and find passes to other runners. He has struggled a bit with injuries so far in his career which may explain some of his physical issues but at 5’11” there is the potential for him to develop into a striker who is able to work as the main man and combine his technical proficiency with some more physical prowess and clinical goalscoring.
The financial landscape of French football means that Gouiri might be available for a lower price than he might usually command but at the same time he is only young, having an impressive season and is a valuable asset so might end up costing a fair amount.
Estimated Cost – £20,000,000 – £30,000,000
Youssef En-Nesyri (23)
Maybe a suggestion a bit out of the left-field but Sevilla’s frontman is putting up impressive goalscoring numbers in La Liga this year, with 0.83 goals per 90 minutes he has 13 non-penalty goals in just over 1400 minutes for La Liga’s fourth-placed side. He isn’t the type of striker to be creative for other players in the team with low assist, xA and passing numbers.
He would offer a focal point for attacks, being a direct option for crosses and long balls, he wins a good number of aerial duels and despite his generally poor passing statistics he holds the ball up well and can bring others into play with simple short passes or winning headers before moving away into goalscoring positions. Arsenal are a team that presses high from the front before dropping off in the deeper two thirds and this is a style the En-Nesyri would be comfortable playing in. He recognises pressing triggers well with 27.5% of his pressures being successful, as well as pressing in a relatively high volume compared to other forwards across the top 5 leagues with 17.2 pressures per game.
He is also able to win a fair amount of tackles and interceptions which would be very helpful for Arsenal in starting attacks from areas deeper in the opposition half. He might operate similarly to Aubameyang, looking to get on the end of chances in the box with less involvement outside the area but can also create chances for himself, with slightly more dribbles completed per 90 than Aubameyang. He’d be less likely to penetrate with dribbles or distribution from deep as he has low progressive runs and passes per 90 but he is a good finisher in the box who makes intelligent runs and can find space in the area well for himself.
Estimated Cost – £20,000,000 – £30,000,000