Scouting for rough diamonds

by & filed under News Review.

Today’s post is brought to you in association with Mike McDonald. He writes over at Gunnerstown, today he’s bringing you a scouting report from the Championship. Follow him on Twitter here.

“There are no easy games in the Premier League”

That’s always been a thing. In the past, the challenge for teams like Arsenal was overcoming the ‘smaller clubs’ work ethic, physicality, and direct style.

The challenge has changed. The team most likely to come last play some of the best football when they click, are often the lower placed teams.

What does this mean for Arsenal? Well, I’ve found 24 players from the teams below Arsenal that we could look at for the next transfer window. I’m particularly thinking of those that could get relegated.

As you’ll see, they would either improve our squad and most of them would improve our starting 11. Three will be relegated as we know, so those players price should drop too.

Let’s do this based on Arsenal’s needs rather than by team.

Back-up/3rd choice goalkeepers

I was convinced that Martinez would leave before Leno got hurt as he’s perfectly capable of being first choice at a good club. He may be encouraged to stay now if he keeps up his good form. Not sure how this will go so let’s assume we may need one.

I’d love to pick Fabianski as he’s greatly improved but he’s not coming to be back up again.

Matthew Ryan (BHA), Ben Foster(Watford), Freddie Woodman (Newcastle-currently on loan at Swansea).

Ryan is a good keeper but gets no press. Foster has improved with age and has great distribution. Arsenal have an interest in Woodman already. He may come as a package with his father who is a talented Academy coach. As you’ll see in the video, Woodman is a specialist PK saver and seems to have a strength in reaction saves.

Random fact…. Woodman is the Godson of Gareth Southgate

Right-back/right wing-backs

Hector Bellerin may stay at Arsenal. My thought is that if he does it will be based on patience for a guy who has been through a big injury and/or because we need his leadership.

It’s becoming hard to justify his demise. I’ve never been a big fan as I think he limits himself. It’s driven me crazy for years watching a laser fast player run down the wing, stop and pass it backwards. He could’ve pushed himself to use his pace to learn a trick and change of pace and added the embarrassing deficiency of not using the outside of his foot. Breathe, Mike. I’m just bothered by those who underachieve and because he’s such a good guy, it’s overlooked.

I’m thinking that there is a reason that Cedric got four years. He would’ve accepted two. He’s probably better than we realize.

Jeremy N’gakia (WHU) and Max Aarons (Norwich)

N’gakia is a new name to most. It will come as little surprise that he fits the profile of many young defenders… fast, quick, athletic and strong. He’s refused to sign a contract and he’s free this summer.

Like many under 20’s he will need space to improve his decision making.

Max Aarons will end up somewhere other than Norwich. He’s likely the hottest young PL right back. I’ve got a feeling City will see the Walker/Cancelo duo as ageing/unsettled. Could transform our right side, but do we have the funds to rebuild our midfield, get a CB and afford a RB too?

Left-back/left wing-backs

Everyone talks of Max Aarons. Rightly so.

Jamal Lewis (Norwich)

Do Arsenal need a LB/LWB more than a RB? I’ve come to that conclusion (see end of blog).

Jamal Lewis, like Aarons, is a modern full-back with a similar toolbox. Would probably cost the same as we’d get for Kolasinac and cost 50% of wages.

Centre Backs

So far, you’ve probably looked at the options above and been somewhat underwhelmed.

This list will change that. Most of these players start for Arsenal.

Tyrone Mings (Villa), Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Ben Godfrey (Norwich), Issa Diop (West Ham), Jamal Lascelles (NU), Lewis Dunk and Ben White (BHA)

Mings and Ake would start for Arsenal and no doubt be our best CB’s. Mings is underrated for me. We are told these days to watch and judge our CB’s firstly on their ability to play out from the back. When I watch football I see CB’s passing to each other 50 times a game and forward’s three times. I see blocking, heading, organizing, tackling etc..

Tyrone Mings loves to defend. He loves that list.

Nathan Ake can do everything. If we matched him with Saliba you can defend 20 yards higher.

Dunk and Lascelles might be more industrial but as I said above, aren’t those qualities used more often anyway?

Diop is not a favourite of mine but I think I look at West Ham defenders the way the market looks at Arsenal defenders!

Godfrey and White (did you know that the highly-rated Leeds CB is on loan from BHA?) are younger and like Saliba, potentially top class. Do we look to partner Saliba with another youngster though?

Defensive Midfielders

One of these is an interesting thought. The other probably too expensive and the third, off to Spurs.

Phillip Billing (Bournemouth), Declan Rice (WHU) and Pierre Emil Hojbjerg (Saints)

Rice is an ever-improving ball-winning DM. His improvement is seen in his ability on the ball as his move from centre back has needed time.

Don’t stick your nose up at Billing. He’s better than you may realize. Oh how we could’ve utilized a tall, quick, athletic ball-winner this season.

Hojbjerg, like Billing, is a consideration as a very good squad player for Arsenal. A natural and highly impressive leader in an era when there are few. Simplistic yet effective modern midfielder.

Centre midfielders

Arguably the biggest need of improvement at AFC.

We currently look like a midfield put together by an executive who spends too much time on YouTube and has the life issue of falling in love too easily.

Arsenal didn’t need Ceballos when they had Guendouzi. They didn’t need Torreira because they needed a taller, more athletic DM.

Abdoulaye Doucoure

If the Thomas Partey rumours are true, I doubt we get Doucoure too.

Probably could’ve/should’ve signed Doucoure two years ago.

Attacking Midfielders

Another area of desperate need at Arsenal. Doesn’t have to be a number 10, but as we know there are wingers who stay wide and others who drift from wide into central areas. This is the ‘drifters.’

Jack Grealish (Villa), Todd Cantwell and Emiliano Buendia (Norwich) and Miguel Almiron (NUFC)

Here are four different options for the same role.

Grealish would be a huge upgrade for Arsenal. I think most of us realize that he will go to City or Utd and that we can’t financially compete or in current stature. Shame.

Cantwell is a Gooner. Like that. Personally, I don’t think he’s our level. That’s a pivotal role with much expected. Buendia is a different beast though. A diamond in the rough. Two footed, highly creative and great stats for a team bottom of the league.

I’m also a big fan of Miguel Almiron. As a Brit abroad, I’ve got to see him often when he was at Atlanta.

His acceleration is elite as is his directness. Much like Theo, he will get better results if he learns to slow his wheels before he passes or shoots.


Do Arsenal need a winger?

If Aubameyang leaves looking at rumours (Kluivert, Veron etc..), it looks like perhaps we are going to sign one.

My thought is that Arteta wants one wide player inside (Auba) and the other on the paint (Pepe) and that this doesn’t suit Pepe. If Auba leaves, Pepe plays inside forward (phew!) and the wider player is on the left.

Allan Saint-Maximin (NUFC), Ismaila Sarr and Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) and Jarrod Bowen (WHU)

Bowen has electric speed and potential but like Cantwell, not sure he’s Arsenal level.

You may not like Deulofeu. I don’t know many that rate him. I think he’s got fantastic feet. Some players are average at average clubs. Some stay average at bigger clubs. Some just needed to be around better players. I think Delefeou falls into the latter category.

I have a theory on Sarr. Do you remember when the equally fast Adama Traore showed up in England? Lacked end product but huge potential. Just wondering if Sarr will figure it out like Traore, as he is a wonderful last twenty-minute option.

I was amazed when Saint-Maximin went to Newcastle. His take on numbers at Nice were second only to Messi. Unless NUFC improve quickly, he will end up at a far bigger club.


I can’t see Lacazette staying. No way. His ego has been damaged by Eddie, he has some value in the market and honestly, it’s just not working.

Danny Ings (Saints)

The questions are being asked now. Is Ings capable of repeating this seasons stats at a bigger club? His Liverpool career was hampered by injury and lack of opportunity.

I’m a believer that players are unfairly judged by their look and name. Maybe he should get a hair transplant before people start noticing and believing he’s older than he is. Change his name to Danielo Inglo?

I really don’t know if he’d work at Arsenal. Undecided.

The decision

I’ve picked my Arsenal 20/21 squad already. It’s changed three times then again after I scouted Teun Koopmeiners at Alkmaar. I’ll let you check out his elite passing ability!

My 20/21 Arsenal squad includes one of the 24 listed above…. Nathan Ake.

I considered 12 of the list.

I kept all of current GK’s. After seeing our right back inverted as an extra CM, I kept AMN as first choice. Perfect role for him. I wonder if Osei-Tutu will be a factor?

I spent the money I think we will raise from sales on our midfield in particular and preferred Partey, N’didi and Koopmeiners, but thought hard about Billing as a back up DM.

I would’ve loved Grealish or Buendia but money sent me to West London to get Willian on a free, as it did when I chose free signings, Edinson Cavani, Malang Sarr and Santi Cazorla.

Would you buy from the clubs below us?

Hard to argue that the list of 24 isn’t very interesting!


170 Responses to “Scouting for rough diamonds”

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  1. Emiratesstroller

    Un na naii

    I don’t think that Saliba will be loaned out, but I do see him starting off as a bench player.

    I agree with you that if Ceballos is retained it would be better that he stays on a
    loan basis. Whether RM will agree to that is debatable.

    In any event I don’t think that the club is so impoverished that they cannot afford to buy Partey and Szoboszlai if both Guendouzi and Torreira were sold.
    Sokratis and Mavropanos would cover cost of Mari and I think that there will
    be one or two departures from academy which could generate revenues e.g.

    Also I don’t think that Arsenal is as impoverished as some plead. The journalist told me yesterday that he believes that Arsenal’s cash balance is still
    over £120 million and that is considerably higher than most other clubs in EPL
    and European football.

  2. Dark Hei

    Arteta is also benching, Ozil, but nobody is up in arms.

    I like MG as a player, I think he is really good.

    But then, he isn’t some club legend that I am emotionally attached to. If he goes, he goes. If he comes good, good for him too.

  3. Graham62

    Nice to see yet another team under Mourinho enjoying themselves playing anti-football.

    The fact that this time it’s Spuds, makes it even more special.

    Can’t believe that some folk on here wanted Mourinho to come to Arsenal.

  4. Un na naai


    On Saliba. Yes what I mean is that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go on loan again. The kid is just 20 after all and as we all know that’s baby terms in the premier league.
    I keep seeing his name presented as the immediate answer when the likelihood is that he won’t even be a starter. He’s going to have to spend 3-4 years learning and adapting not just to the league but to the city and the new culture. He’s just a boy. A huge statured and very talented boy but a boy all the same. It’s naive/ridiculous to expect so much so soon from such a young lad. If 24 year old Pepe and 26 year old pires didn’t hit the ground running in the premier league then how can they expect Saliba to?

    Some of our fellow players had better get used to the idea of seeing Mustafi, Luiz, Mari and chambers more regularly because that’s the pecking order.

  5. Chris

    When the Mourinho Spurs relationship goes completely down the toilet (And it will) it is going to be great to watch. It is already souring.

    He is already cracking up if he is getting wound up by a tweet from Arsenal.

  6. Mr Serge

    Love the spuds implosion it’s fantastic
    Don’t like any of the rough diamonds barring Declan rice but he will be super expensive

  7. Valentin

    In my view technically Saliba is already at a level higher than all our CBs. The only thing he needs to adapt is the physical intensity and the lax refereeing standard.
    With that in mind, I can’t see the point of loaning Saliba again, especially to a foreign club. How is he going to adapt to playing in the EPL if he never plays in it.

  8. T

    I think that Pukki is by far the best player in norwich and he would easily score over 20 goals for us in a season even if he was second choise behind eddie. Also he is better at linking up play than either of our cfs and tops it of with good workrate. If he could be poached for 10-20m it would be a great bargain.

    Also jack grealish would be a great addition to the squad. The current squad really is screaming for a flamboyant but reliable beast to anchor the midfield. I think that he would make us much more reliable and resilient outift.

    Also i see no need for a playmaker. Mikel has excellent choises in pepe and saka for the coming seasons.

  9. Pierre

    Saka did score at the weekend, but his performances recently have been sporadic at best.
    I say, play him where he receives the ball in areas where he can do most damage.

    Since lockdown , I can’t remember Saka going on a mazy run with the ball and I can’t remember him putting in a delivery into the box that is his speciality.

    Arteta likes to play Tierney and Aubamayang on the left and he also likes Xhaka left /centre midfield.

    At the risk of repeating myself( but I will) , Saka creates a conundrum for Arteta, and he is no closer to solving it than he was a month ago.

    He’s played him on the right a few times and Saka looks uncomfortable has been noticeable that Willock plays the right channel much better as he looks comfortable in that area of the pitch.

    It’s pointless playing Saka as a CAM as at this present time nothing goes through the middle due to the fear of losing possession and getting caught on the break.

    to be effective , Saka has to play either left wing back , left midfield or in Xhaka’s position left/centre mid.
    His immense talents are not being utilised to the full potential at the moment…give him the ball in the left channel and he will cause maximum damage.

    No doubt some on here will misinterpret this as me knocking Saka and rating Willock above Saka as a player, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

  10. Aussie Gooner



    Loaning him out again is ridiculous. We paid good money for him, he needs to get into the team now and start learning the system.

    I hope to God that Saliba hits the ground running – if he is not better than what we have at the moment – sell him now and get someone who can play NOW not in 2 years time! Despite his injury problem, I have high hopes for him

  11. Valentin

    8 CBs may seem excessive, but we have 2 longish term injury: Mori and Chambers. So until the winter TW, we have only 6 CBs with first team experience on our books: Mustafi, Luiz, Holding, Saliba, Sokratis, Mavrapanos.

    So if Arteta continue with 3 at the back and we qualify for Europe, 6 players for 3 positions does not seems too much.

    Once Pablo Mori has recovered, Kolasinac will be gone. His only advantage is that he is left footed and can play both left CB as part of a back 3 and LWB.

    I expect Sokratis to be gone once Chambers is available again.
    Mavrapanos may fetch some money from the Bundesliga, but why get rid of potential long term CB in favour of a short term player such as David Luiz.

    Of course thing will change if Arteta decide to switch back to a Back 4, promote some of the U23 players or purchase another experienced CB. The last option seems unlikely sis we can forget about Upamecano coming this summer.

  12. Sid

    Pukki is average

    Buendia is the sixth most creative player in Europe’s big five leagues
    In the EPL he is behind KDB and Trent only,
    put him next to Pepe Auba teams will be cautious
    The best defense is controlling tempo rather than having a CM chasing the ball around

  13. Emiratesstroller


    As I posted yesterday Saka is at the moment a “utility” player in squad with no
    set position in the team. This is no different than how Sterling was used in his
    formative years.

    It will take Saka and Arteta at least a couple of years to find the best position for him in the starting lineup. I think that Saka understands that very well,
    because he is an intelligent player and wants to play regularly in team.

  14. T

    Sid so you want another go with a younger version of ozil?? Sure buendia can dribble and pass. His defending is shit thou. 1 good stat doesnt make a good player. Pukki was voted the best player in championship 1 year ago btw. He is well above awerage.