When you look at Arsenal’s immediate transfer priorities, a centre forward appears to be relatively low down the list.
In Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah, Folarin Balogun and Gabriel Martinelli the Gunners currently have five players capable of playing in the position. That could all change very quickly though.
football.london understands Lacazette will leave the Emirates Stadium when his contract expires at the end of this season, while Nketiah is expected to do the same despite being offered a new deal.
Aubameyang, meanwhile, will turn 33 by the time he enters the final 12 months of his contract next summer, meaning Arsenal could well be on the lookout for a new number nine.
Several players have already been linked.
Over the summer the most high profile names mentioned were Tammy Abraham of Chelsea and Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez. The former has since moved to Roma though, while the latter is reportedly set to sign a new deal to stay with the Nerazzurri.
This has led England international’s Ollie Watkins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin to have their names thrown into the hat in recent weeks, but one name who has been linked far less concretely is Brentford’s Ivan Toney.
The 25-year-old was top scorer in the Championship last season, breaking Glen Murray’s all-time record with 31 goals and has, so far, found the step up to Premier League level more than manageable.
It’s perhaps a little early to say off the back of such a small top-level sample size, but it would seem the former Peterborough forward may be just the man Mikel Arteta is looking for.
The Arsenal boss has a very particular style of football he wants to play.
It is for this reason that the club chose to go for the inverted right back Takehiro Tomiyasu, rather than a more attacking option like Emerson Royal.
It is no different in the centre forward position where Arteta is hoping to find a ‘Goldilocks’ player to suit his system. Back in a press conference in May, Aubameyang elaborated a little more on exactly what this was.
“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 deeper to link play and help bring his teammates into the game.
It was thought for much of last season that Aubameyang could not do this at all.
However, the Gabon striker has made great strides in this area this season. His goal against Tottenham is perfect evidence of this as the 32-year-old’s flicked pass round to Emile Smith Rowe showed shades of exactly what Arteta is looking for from his number nine.
What Aubameyang does not have, though, is the ability to compete consistently against central defenders who are good in the air. This was on full display against Brighton where he won just three out of seven aerial duels up against the sizeable trio of Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk and Dan Burn.
It is here where Toney excels.
The 25-year-old has won more aerial duels per 90 (5.9) than any other player in the Premier League so far this season. It is this strength in the air that caused Ben White such problems on his debut at the Brentford Community Stadium.
By way of comparison against the aerial might of Brighton’s back three, the former Newcastle forward won two-thirds of his battles in the air.
This occupies opposition defenders to create more space for other forwards to operate around Toney, which is part of the reason that Brian Mbuemo has made such a good start to life in the top flight.
As Arteta looks to evolve Arsenal into becoming a side that play out from the back, Toney is also capable of helping out here as well.
No player has made more passes per 90 into the final third (2.71) than the Brentford forward who also ranks in the 88th percentile for passes into the penalty box with 1.14 per 90 (as per fbRef ).
Arteta was asked to give his assessment of the 25-year-old striker before Arsenal faced him on the opening day of the Premier League season and was pretty complimentary.
“Well yeah, he’s shown his quality that’s for sure,” said the Spaniard.
This quality means that he is likely to cost a hefty fee if the Gunners are to bring him to the Emirates Stadium next summer.
As a result, signing him would undoubtedly be a gamble, but given how well he seems to fit Arteta’s demands for a number nine, it could well be one worth taking.
Source by Football London