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Arsenal’s Silly Season Is Well and Truly Upon Us

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The bells ring, once again, for another addition of silly transfer season – the biannual article in which a FIFA and FM enthusiastic Arsenal fan scours the databases for replacements and signings that Arsenal could realistically make, but honestly never will. 

After a somewhat crazy season that started with the prediction of possibly 6th place and international football and ended with a chance for 4th with all the succulent appeal of Champions League – and that with the tumultuous exit of our former top scorer, as well as loan exits for several former key players – Arsenal now have the chance to rethink their squad and bolster for next season.

Arteta has the chance to assess the current loan players, but bar Saliba and Balogun, it’s hard to expect any more to be serious contenders for a place next season. Henceforth, this list is based on Arsenal being able to ship the players who could be unwanted by the Gunners. .

Striker – Patrik Schick – €40m

Most eye catching stats: 0.97G per 90, 0.71npG per 90

I know this is not the most interesting player to start off with. Patrik Schick has recently been linked to Arsenal, if the Gunners are willing to cough up the likes of £50m. Personally I’d have no squabble about paying that type of money for his services. In the beginning of last season he had just come off a very good Europa Cup run, and most of us were cautiously curious, seeing how his league campaign would go, knowing he’s been traveling between clubs and countries for quite a while. With 24 goals and 6 assists in 27 games, it’s safe to say he’s been tearing up the Bundesliga so far. The only thing that calls against this deal is Patrik’s injury record. During his 21/22 campaign, he missed 68 days and 12 games with injuries and fitness. You might get more matches out of someone like Tammy Abraham or Gabriel Jesus, but the question is if wages are going to be a bigger problem.

Backup Striker – Jonathan Burkardt – €17m

Most eye catching stats: 0.46 npxG per 90, 5.62 ball recoveries per 90

Burkardt has been a rising star in the Bundesliga in the 21/22 season, netting 11 goals and 3 assists from an npxG+A of 16.4, while showing some consistent intent and drive. He’s been hailed for his intelligent runs and his ability to find space, while stats also show he’s contributing a lot to build up play and high line pressures. While some of these stats also mirror the task Mainz have instructed Burkardt in, he’s fulfilling his role very well. All in all Burkardt gives you the vibe of an intelligent player that’s ready to put in the work and looks comfortable at the helm of an attack. At the age of 21, this could be the chance to snatch him up and help him adapt to the Premier League before bigger German clubs try to lock him down. The biggest concern is that, with a market value of €17m, you could expect to pay a hefty premium for a player you’re essentially going to use as a back up striker for next season – but with how stretched the Gunners looked last season, I wouldn’t mind it at all.

Attacking Mid – Mikkel Damsgaard – €15m

Most eye catching stats: 26.78 pressures per 90, 0.16 defensive actions leading to shot attempt per 90

Now we’re getting into the part of the article where I expect the pitchforks to start coming out. Hear me out. As it is right now, Arteta has tried to create this level of competitiveness about the forwards. Emile Smith Rowe and Martinelli are combating each other on who is currently in form and who is scoring the goals and creating the chances. We all thought that Saka and Pepe would have the same type of battle on the opposite wing, but Pepe has been laxing his contribution, not really showing interest in knocking Saka off that throne. Last season we looked to invest in Kulusevski, before he moved to Spurs – we need that player who’s able to battle Saka on that right. Damsgaard, just like Schick, tore it up during the international tournament, but has missed almost all season because of a thigh problem. A quick and very direct player that’s comfortable receiving passes in tight areas, and as an addition, he does like to hit them goalwards. All that being said, he is right footed and Arteta has been consistent with his placement of left footed and right footed players. Albeit, with a market value of €15m it would be someone I’d suggest getting inside the stables this season.

Central midfielder – Kouadio Koné – €15m

Most eye catching stats: 1.94 dribbles completed per 90, 2.76 interceptions per 90

At this point, I’d like to remind everyone that this is, in fact, a silly transfer season. As such, my whole point is to find players that Arsenal realistically could sign, but probably wouldn’t. I’m very aware that Caqueret, Doucoure, Aouar, Ward-Prowse, Sanches and Arthur make a lot more sense, but I’d like to give Koné a consideration anyway. Koné has played the majority of Borussia Mönchengladbach‘s games in the league this season, snatching up an assist and two goals on the way. With a more athletic build and ability to drive forward, Koné would be able to give Arsenal the opportunity of a natural 8, which we’ve been asking for all season. As we’re slowly drifting away from the defensive double pivot and into a single pivot with two dynamic 8/10s, Kouadio Koné would be a great addition that, in a year’s time, could take over the mantle of Granit Xhaka. 

Backup Central Midfielder – Enzo Le Fee – €5m

Most eye catching stats: 3.81 shot-creating actions per 90, 24.33 pressure per 90

Enzo Le Fee has had some varying seasons at Lorient, initially breaking into the first team at the age of 20, before being sidelined to make room for Chelsea loanee Chalobah. This season though, he’s reentered the team, playing in 36 games, racking up a 2198 minutes and starting 66% of his games. Enzo is another one of these auxiliary types of players, able to play multiple positions in midfield, being played as both an 8, 10 and winger – or even intertwining between different roles throughout the game. While an npxG of 0.09, and an npxA of 0.18 is somewhat average, he did have 3.81 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes, putting him in the 3rd percentile of midfield players. As a way to ease the playing time for Martin Ødegaard, ensuring this transfer could turn out to be valuable.

LCB – Igor – €8m

Most eye catching stats: 67.2 passes attempted per 90, 92.5% passes completed per 90

Are you ready for the perfect backup to Gabriel? Here. This is the guy. Left footed, aerial pressence, destroyer type defending and a good passer. Perhaps a bit reckless, yes, but that’s what you can expect. Despite Igor doing more defensive work, and Gabriel scoring more goals, their passing stats are very similar – and so are their defensive stance, movement and first pass. They’re even the same age, give or take 50 days. For an estimated value of €8m, he would be a somewhat low-risk investment. And an excuse to rouse Gabriel up, knowing he has a similar player snapping at his heels. 

Backup Right Back – Malo Gusto – €9m

Most eye catching stats: 0.42 tackles in the attacking third per 90, 62.07 passes completed per 90

Malo Gusto is one of those players, where I expect the asking price will be much higher than the estimated value, because he has all the signs of a class fullback. Watching him play, you get an air of confidence and thoughtful process, as well as some sound defensive work. Gusto looks very comfortable in possession, able to hide his intention in 1v1 situations, while also putting the right amount of power in his passes. While he’s not being tasked to do the most spectacular work at Lyon, playing with a very technically gifted midfield pairing, he did impress me in his availability, off the ball movement and decision making. As Arsenal fans grow impatient with Cedric’s 6/10 performances and Tomiyasu’s availability, Malo Gusto could be the logical link, while players like Norton-Cuffy and Taylor-Hart gets a taste of the “Mens Game” on loan in the lower English Leagues.

Backup Goalkeeper – Lukáš Hrádecký – €6m

74.5% saves per 90, 34.31 passes attempted per 90

Okay, listen, I know, douse the tiki-torches, I’m quite aware Hrádecký is not a world class goalkeeper. I’m also aware that there’s a whiff of Runarsson over the suggestion. But he’s a very solid goalkeeper. I swear! He’s played 32 matches for Leverkusen in the Bundesliga this season. He’s saved 72.5% of the 153 shots on target against him this season, he managed a post-shot xG -GA of +0.06. For comparison, Ramsdale managed a PSxG-GA of -0.14, saving 72.1% of his 122 shots on target against him. He’s used to playing a sweeper keeper as well, being comfortable with the ball at his feet. As it looks like Bernd Leno might be going, acquiring Hrádecký as a rotational goalkeeper would just make sense, given we also have Europa League football to worry about, where an experienced goalkeeper would let the backside settle much easier.

Conclusion

As I said last season, the chance of any of these transfers getting through is close to zero. None of these players sit up on the top of any comparison tables – but, in my own opinion, these are most certainly players that would fit the playing style and system Arteta is implementing. And who knows, it might be one of these players who will feature for Arsenal – if not, I hope I have introduced you to some players to obsess over the next season.

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