The Premier League season is just under a week away, but Arsenal still have plenty to get done in the transfer market.
The Gunners have already made three signings this summer in Ben White, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares, but Edu’s work is far from over.
The club are looking to sign a goalkeeper to play back up to Bernd Leno and a creative midfielder to reduce the burden on Emile Smith Rowe, while they could be on the hunt for a right back if they can sell players first.
Interestingly though over the past few weeks it appears that another transfer priority has emerged for Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal have been linked with several centre forwards recently with Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez the latest on that list.
This may seem somewhat surprising when you consider that the club already have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Folarin Balogun, Gabriel Martinelli, Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah on their books.
However, the fact that the Gunners are still being linked with Martinez in particular, would suggest that Arteta wants a different type of number nine from the ones he has on offer.
In a press conference in May Aubameyang shed something of a light onto what exactly this is.
“As a centre forward I try to be involved more in the game because the coach is expecting from our number nine to give some solutions to play during the game,” the 31-year-old said.
In other words the Spaniard wants a striker capable of dropping deep to link the play, creating space for his teammates around him to exploit.
Unfortunately though, Aubameyang does not have the capabilities with his back to goal to fulfil this role to the levels that Arteta wants, due to his natural inclination to look to use his pace to get in behind opposition defences.
Lacazette meanwhile, who has generally been Arteta’s other preference as a centre forward, is strong in this area and far prefers dropping deep to be involved in the build up where he can link play deeper.
However, the Frenchman then lacks the mobility to get forward to get on the end of chances created by the quick transitions and thus has a somewhat underwhelming goal tally during his time in England having failed to hit 15 Premier League goals once in four seasons.
Neither are particularly good in the air either which, given the number of crosses Arsenal generate from their wingers like Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe and of course Kieran Tierney, means that they often struggle to take advantage of the chances generated for them.
It is for these reasons that the Martinez links make so much sense.
Despite being just 5ft 8ins the Argentine is excellent in the air and has managed four headed goals in each of his three seasons in Serie A.
Martinez is good at dropping deep to help the build up but also has the pace and mobility to get forward and be on the end of the transitional attacking chances that his team creates.
On top of all of that he is also excellent at leading the press from the front. He averaged 0.34 tackles per match in the attacking third of pitch for the Nerazzuri last season putting him in the 82th percentile for strikers among Europe’s top five leagues last year (as per fbRef), while his 4.66 successful pressure per 90 also rank him in the top 18% of forwards in the big five.
The Argentine is more or less the exact blueprint for what Arteta wants in a number nine and at the age of just 23, he has the potential to get even better.
Of course there are things about his game that can improve. His finishing for example could become more clinical, with last season being the first time he has outperformed his xG in an Inter shirt, and even that was by just 0.11 goals.
But stylistically it’s easy to see why Arteta is keen on the 23-year-old.
Arsenal undoubtedly have other deals they need to get over the line first in the goalkeeping and attacking midfield positions, while it is likely that they will need to sell players before they can move for the Copa America winner.
But with qualifying for Europe a must next season, it’s easy to see why Martinez has emerged as a priority despite the Gunners’ plentiful options at centre forward.
Source by Football London