The search for a striker is about to begin at Arsenal, as Mikel Arteta looks for the perfect man to lead the team into the next phase of his project.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford last summer felt like a masterstroke for some, considering he brought goals to the table. Manchester United were immediately considered title challengers, while some sections suggested the Portuguese forward could help them immensely in the UEFA Champions League.
Unfortunately, neither of those outcomes came through and being the star name he is, much of the blame for the team’s failure has come on Ronaldo’s shoulders. Chelsea made a similar move by bringing back Romelu Lukaku, who has not fit Thomas Tuchel’s system. And the Belgian’s failures indicate a severe lack of research before paying a club-record sum.
Clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester City have stopped signing players on the basis of their reputations and past achievements. Instead, data plays a huge role in identifying a professional matching the manager’s specifications, even for transferring a squad player.
Arsenal have joined this bandwagon after making plenty of expensive mistakes following Arsene Wenger’s departure. The Frenchman was very specific with his targets and signed players that suited his system. In Mikel Arteta, the Gunners have a similar manager with a terrific talent ID, who also happened to sign Willian in the past.
Last summer, Arteta showcased his true value by bringing in players that initially did not resonate with the feelings of Arsenal supporters. Take the example of Ben White, whose capture led to Arsenal being criticised for the £50 million outlay and the defender’s lack of strong Premier League experience. The oft-used argument was the comparison with Raphael Varane, a four-time Champions League winner, who cost less.
Alternatively, Aaron Ramsdale, a goalkeeper, signed for big fees after suffering back-to-back relegations with Bournemouth and Sheffield United also garnered scepticism. Both players have been immense for Arsenal’s growth and making them top-four favourites. They lead the group that is out to prove Arteta’s talent identification is spot on, rather than being just a mere bout of luck.
After a successful start to his squad rebuild, Arteta enters the most crucial transfer window of managerial career. Arsenal require a solid striker, and this is a part where he cannot afford to go wrong. The right player needs to come in, bring in goals and fit the system created by the youngest manager in the Premier League.
What is the Arsenal-type striker?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had the talent of scoring plenty of goals, and when he was on song, the club thrived. Alexandre Lacazette, perhaps less prolific than Aubameyang, brings others into play and sets the tone for fluid attacking moves. However, his lack of output shows the problems in the box, as the Frenchman tends to miss plenty of great chances created for him.
Arteta wants a physical, prolific striker who will fit the system without a hitch. The January pursuit of Dusan Vlahovic at least revealed what the manager was looking for, and considering the Serb won’t be a target, quite a few come close to his talent.
The pool of strikers Arsenal like is probably a small one, albeit with some talented individuals in it. Alexander Isak, Jonathan David, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tammy Abraham, Victor Osimhen and Darwin Nunez could be jotted on a fresh piece of paper titled ‘priority shortlist’.
Other names such as Ollie Watkins, Ivan Toney and Luka Jovic have been mentioned, although Arteta is likely to move in a different direction. So from the small pool of strikers, let us look at three possible key targets the Gunners may like to have in their squad next season.
Darwin Nunez: Benfica, €80 million
Some of Darwin nuñez’s Goals this season so far ????. pic.twitter.com/xpTLjZgNCL
— FerAs (@iFer10r) March 25, 2022
Erling Haaland would be a fantastic signing, considering Arsenal need a striker, there is a good, young project in place, and the team looks competitive. But the Norwegian international is not going to end up at Arsenal, and the next best options after the Borussia Dortmund man right now are probably Darwin Nunez and Victor Osimhen.
Sticking with Nunez here, Arsenal have already initiated talks with the player’s representatives regarding a summer transfer. The 22-year-old Uruguayan international brings physicality, athleticism and final output to the table, the qualities lacking in the current Arsenal strikers.
Without dwelling too much on his characteristics, Nunez can become a brilliant focal point for the attack while using his ability to bring the wide attackers into play. The Uruguayan is a hard worker who likes to track back and get in on the battles with defenders and midfielders, much like Lacazette.
Nunez has 26 goals and two assists across all competitions in 33 games, which is equivalent to contributing every 83 minutes this term. These are numbers that top clubs seek from a striker. However, the Premier League is different from its Portuguese counterpart, although there is a player here who could be developed into a world-beater and might excel at Arsenal.
But the Gunners will have to fend off competition from several rivals, including Manchester United, to snap him up, making for an intriguing transfer battle for his services.
Victor Osimhen: Napoli, €100 million
Victor Osimhen has scored 15 goals in 20 starts for Napoli this season:
?? Serie A: 17 starts – 11 goals
? Europa league: 3 starts – 4 goals
Napoli’s main man this season. ?? pic.twitter.com/4GMmwb18t5
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 22, 2022
Arsenal fans on Twitter are already making video compilations of Osimhen and his physical runs into the box as well as his goals. Those clips certainly showcase how good the Nigerian striker is and why Napoli may have been wise to invest so heavily in him when he was unproven and cost so much money.
Osimhen is a physical specimen of a striker who likes to impose his strength when battling for the ball with defenders. The Napoli forward has seen his appearance reduce this term due to injury and participation at the Africa Cup of Nations but has still managed to post prolific numbers. He has 15 goals across all competitions in 25 appearances. There are also four assists to his name this term.
While Arteta would love the 23-year-old to lead the line for Arsenal, his price tag may prove problematic. Napoli invested close to €75 million in 2020 and will certainly want a massive profit if he was to be transferred. A price tag of €100 million has already been sounded out to prospective suitors, which again include Manchester United, to ward off interest.
However, Arsenal may yet try to approach and get creative with their offer. While no reports are stating the same, the Gunners can use Nicolas Pepe as a makeweight to reduce the price tag. Although Arteta would love to have the Nigerian in his squad, these are ambitious claims.
Gianluca Scamacca: Sassuolo, €30 million
Gianni Scamacca adding free-kicks to his repertoire ?? pic.twitter.com/BY3rCemfDO
— Uncle $harma ?️ (@RSharmzz) March 18, 2022
The ideal choice might have been Tammy Abraham, but he may not be willing to move back to the Premier League so soon. Moreover, he will cost a lot, considering how established he has become since moving to AS Roma. As a viable alternative, Gianluca Scamacca is a viable option for Arsenal if they cannot lure either Nunez or Osimhen.
Onlookers will dismiss the 6’4 striker as leggy and question his mobility. Surprisingly, Scamacca is a highly mobile and athletic forward for his height. The Italian international possesses excellent hold-up play ability and likes to bulldoze through defenders with success.
His goalscoring numbers are interesting, as he has netted 13 goals in 28 Serie A outings. After a slow start to the season, Scamacca is coming to the fore, scoring regularly, especially when starting games for Sassuolo. Moreover, the Italian is a brilliant presser, a characteristic Arteta desperately wants in his new striker.
Comparing career stats, Scamacca is on par with January target Vlahovic and possesses similar patterns to the Serb. Incidentally, Fiorentina had the Sassuolo man in mind to replace the new Juventus strike, but a move did not materialise. Arsenal could attempt an approach, although they may have to monitor him more closely before deciding.
Verdict: Darwin Nunez
The options are plenty, if not abundant, for Arsenal to choose from. Arteta is likely to sign one top name in the window to bolster his squad and probably intends to keep Alexandre Lacazette on a short term deal. The new striker, likely to be a youngster, cannot be burdened with leading the line right from the get-go and could be integrated steadily over half a season.
Hence, the club might keep Lacazette on, and the likely name among the options above is Nunez. The Uruguayan international, 22, seems to fit the bill for Arsenal and has the physical elements that the manager saw in Dusan Vlahovic. His game certainly is not one dimensional, as he also operates from the left.
Nunez ticks the box on Arteta’s primary requirement of scoring goals, which he regularly does. Signing him will allow Arsenal to close the gap on their rivals, as the Spanish manager builds a team that wants to win the Premier League at all costs and one which needs a striker of the Benfica man’s quality.