Buckle-up kids, Mike McDonald is about to race you around the world with his stunning take on the best strikers going. Enjoy and give him a follow on Twitter @mike_mmcdonald
Do Arsenal need a center-forward? Yes.
Lacazette isn’t the answer, that’s obvious. He’s the one that needs replacing.
There are multiple options already at the club but all have doubts attached.
Aubameyang hasn’t convinced but does he simply need a creative player to give him slot passes?
What about the kids?
An inside left whose game looks more like a proper striker is Martinelli.
An off the shoulder, lightning-fast, two-footed goalscorer is Balogun.
The ultimate 6-yard box striker is Nketiah.
A player on loan that many say could be the best ‘footballer’ of them all is John-Jules.
A target man who has started fast for the U-23’s is Moller.
However you cut the fantasy ‘maybe’ talents, the reality is, we don’t have anyone ready to solve our problems right now.
When Arsenal decides to make a permanent decision on who their long-term center-forward will be, the talk is that he will be playing in a 4-3-3.
What this doesn’t inform however is what type we will settle on. The models out there show a variety. Liverpool use Firmino as a false nine and Salah and Mane play as inside forwards.
Arteta will know well that City use their center-forward as a penalty box striker with the creativity coming out wide.
Then you have the latest and greatest, Erling Braut-Haaland, who can hold it up, play and have the power to be in the box and on the end too.
With Arsenal’s current crop of forwards and Arteta’s inclination to prefer hybrid players, it is likely that we will go for a player that could be a rotational forward.
In this scouting report there are long-term, short-term, and loan options as Arsenal might throw what money they have at a creative player.
The next big thing
Darwin Nunez (Benfica) 21
We start with arguably the most exciting new opportunity. As much as I wanted to think that Arsenal could prove to be challengers this season and pay the release clause for Haaland, he will either stay or go bigger. I mention EBH because Darwin Nuñez is the closest to a replica.
Signed for a club-record fee in September, he has made an immediate impression. He has been linked to Barcelona, Juventus, and City already, yet only played a handful of games. I wonder why? Seems too soon. I go back to Haaland. Everyone has green eyes and wishes they could have signed him. They can’t so they look for similar. Nuñez is similar. Physical size, fast, strong, powerful, skillful, two-footed and without an obvious weaknesses.
Nuñez would give Arsenal the flexibility to bring him to the ball or play him high and in the box. With the accurate crossing ability of Saka and Tierney, Arsenal could really take advantage of a player like this.
Interestingly, he has more assists than goals so far this season yet it’s the goal scoring potential that is the main attraction.
Brenner (São Paulo) 20
I was in line for a ride at Disney last week and a Brazilian chap saw my Arsenal shirt. He asked me if I knew about Brenner being of interest to us. He was a São Paulo fan and told me that he was the next best thing in the league.
Brenner is a fast, super athlete. An eye-catching dribbler and a scorer of a variety of types of goals.
Arsenal could play him as a CF, LF or as a second striker as he’s played in all these positions. He offers a similar profile to Eddie as an athlete but more positional options and ability outside the box. This is the gamble on Nketiah. Do we keep him and play to his strengths as a box striker, play him as a super-sub or find a player who can do more, like Brenner?
At some point, Arsenal will go back to the Brazilian league to find another gem due to the success of Martinelli and the knowledge that Edu has of the league. I also wonder if they want to find a young Brazilian to encourage Martinelli to stay. I have a feeling that Arsenal is interested in Brenner if Balogun leaves.
Patson Daka (Red Bull Salzburg) 22
It’s always good to pay attention to those clubs that keep producing talent and more importantly see that talent flourish at a higher level.
After Haaland left RBS, Patson Daka took over.
The Zambian striker blossomed last season and has a goal per game ratio this season with 12 in all competitions.
At 22 years old he offers a perfect age profile and his attributes shine too. He is as quick as any of Europe’s quickest strikers.
What has big appeal too is that he has trodden a similar path to Aubameyang. From a small African country, he started with a smaller European club and has a very similar skill-set. Same celebration, more two-footed and far less fearful in the air than Auba. He could be mentored.
Although he has played both wide left and right, he is a striker and quite a frightening one too. At Arsenal he could offer the pace behind that Aubameyang does with a more rounded game than Eddie. If Arteta truly wants Auba on the left he’d have as close to a replica down the middle too.
Arsenal would have to move quickly as Spurs and Liverpool have serious interest. He may be more available than he was prior to his recent injury as Koita, his replacement, has excelled too.
If you were to computer design the perfect striker, it might spit out Patson Daka.
Other options: Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad) 21, Karim Adeyemi (Red Bull Salzburg) 18, Myron Boadu (AZ Alkmaar) 19
The False Nine
Liverpool is one of the best teams in Europe. Their main creative cog pre-Thiago has been Firmino checking back between the lines. Kane also has a lot of success with this type of system. There is a strong argument that this sort of striker would suit Aubameyang and Pepe in particular as they are best as inside forwards and closer to goal. A false nine would allow them to play in this way.
Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad) 23
A player with a growing reputation. Oyarzabal is a regular member of the Spanish squad and as I write his club team are top of LaLiga. They’ve made him captain at such a young age to try and retain his services.
He has played as more of a left inside forward but recently moved to a false nine. His main assets are his vision, finishing, and a delightful left foot.
If Arsenal were to acquire Oryarzabal I believe they would play him as a false nine. He would be the perfect age and skill set to unlock Pepe, Martinelli, and Aubameyang as his vision in central areas would be exactly what Arsenal need. His versatility would also appeal to our manager who seems to favour hybrid players.
Memphis Depay (Lyon) 26
In many ways, Memphis Depay is perfect for Arsenal. Approaching his peak, something to prove to English fans, versatility, and a technical level that we haven’t seen in central spaces at Arsenal.
I’ve never really been totally convinced by him. Maybe it’s his part-time rap career or perhaps it’s just the ‘look at me!’ vibes I get.
Depay could play in a variety of positions which might appeal to Arteta. Inside left forward, false nine or even a wandering ‘10.’ His inclusion would offer Arteta the flexibility to become unpredictable in his line ups… a facet I think he strives for. With the French league in trouble, he would be cheaper too. With his contract up in June, I’d say they’d sell to at least get something. Would he risk the Premier League again?
Paulo Dybala (Juventus) 27
Arsenal has been here before. Rescue the out of favour elite player. It would be a loan of course as he’d be £60M + and Utd are circling and have offered Pogba in a straight swap.
It seems like Dybala is waiting for Ronaldo to get bored of Turin as Juve hasn’t played both together much, but that doesn’t look like it’ll happening any time soon. I can’t quite believe that he is 27 and I’m unconvinced that the PL is for him.
Arsenal could use Dybala as a ‘10’ in a 4-2-3-1, a lone striker, or one of two, as he’s played in a 3-5-2 often at Juventus and Argentina. It’s the false nine option that intrigues though as it suits our other attackers. Arsenal would sell lots of merchandise which always appeals to teams in financial need.
Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) 22
Some might say that Edouard would be the perfect striker. No discernible weakness. Strong, fast, powerful, technical, hard to read, and a consistent goalscorer. I’ve always been a fan of having a tall, strong striker. There are so many moments in the game that you need one for. Hold up, aerial ability, strength, often occupies both CB’s, defending set-pieces etc.
The issue becomes whether they are as technical or nimble enough compared to someone like Depay, as there is a need for this too. Thankfully, Odsonne Edouard has very good feet.
There are two issues, however. He would be coming from a weak league and he hasn’t played at a level close to the PL yet. You might remember Arsenal rejecting Van Dijk who was in a similar position (yes, we had the chance to buy him before Southampton).
Every transfer is a gamble. All of them. This one would only excite me especially at the age of 22.
You could use him in many ways. High, off the shoulder or between the lines like Kane. I’d use him in all the above. That’s the joy of having someone who can do everything. Arsenal would offer such unpredictability which is always a defender’s biggest nightmare. Arsenal’s lack of power and aerial threat is painful. We play around this meekness. Arsenal signing Edouard unlocks multiple doors. I’d imagine that he has a big motivation to get noticed before the Euro’s. I think he knows that he will have to prove to Deschamps that he can do it at a higher level.
Luca Waldschmidt (Benfica) 24
This one is unlikely as Waldschmidt has just signed for Benfica and Portuguese clubs normally want above market value to sell. The interesting piece though is that much like Edouard, does Waldschmidt only get a Euro’s spot with Germany if he is playing in a stronger league?
Arsenal will meet Waldschmidt in February and they will likely find him an elusive character. He plays more as a second striker, much like how we have recently been using Lacazette. He is a technical dribbling forward with great balance and an eye for goal and a pass.
Arsenal could use him behind Aubameyang or in Pepe’s role as he’s played there too. He is an interesting prospect as he can create and score which are Arsenal’s two greatest needs.
The perfect age
Boulaye Dia (Reims) 24
One of the qualities that I’m sure the club wants in a center-forward is the ability to create goals for themselves. This is something that we’ve never really had with Lacazette. This is a lack for Eddie also who relies on service.
Boulaye Dia is different. If you watch his video you will see a player who has a tendency to rely on himself more than others. Perhaps this is due to playing for a small French team. There are many examples of great scouting, players we’ve never heard of before that I think of in N’golo Kanté and others. I get a sense when I watch Dia that he could be a top player. Powerful, extremely fast and a natural goal scorer who surely has a future beyond Reims. There have been rumours of Arsenal’s interest and the fact that he currently wears a similar jersey to Arsenal is appealing too! Although he would be a gamble due to levels, if it worked out he could solve the physical, aerial and speed issues at Arsenal and the need for a level of individualism at center-forward.
Serhou Guirassy (Rennes) 24
Another 24 year old. Another at a lower Ligue 1 team. Another that would offer us physical presence (see Weghorst) that is much needed. A player linked to Arsenal likely because of price and age. Fast, powerful and clever, Guirassy might be an interesting option.
The most impressive qualities I see though are his willingness to take on defenders with his pace especially when playing as a lone striker. This is a quality we do not currently have and one that all teams need as link play and passing options are not always available. I can see Arsenal wanting this profile as a bench option at the least and therefore a cheaper player would be needed. He’d have to convince that he is a better talent than the quickly progressing Moller in our U-23’s though.
Arsenal could however use a player like Dia or Guirassy as first choice CF and trust their eyes and take a risk. With many other attacking options this might work. Playing for Rennes maybe he could convince Camivinga to join him at Arsenal? Cheeky.
Other options: Angel Correa (A. Madrid) 25, Maxi Gomez (Valencia) 24
Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg) 28
What a name, huh!
What a presence though. Weghorst is the Vardy of the Bundesliga. Broke into top-flight football at 24 and 4 years later he has an impressive ratio of 1 goal in every 2 games in the Bundesliga.
Weghorst is the kind of player that I feel every club needs. Much like Giroud it is hard to argue that a huge target player doesn’t have value in your squad. Not only is he a target man but he’s 6 ft 6. A player with an advantage in any league at that height.
Beyond his aerial ability and goal-scoring record, Weghorst is a defensive menace as well as an obvious asset. His pressing is a feature of his game and his tackle success rate is number one in the Bundesliga, beyond Lewandowski. Arsenal could use him as an obvious upgrade on Lacazette in that AL’s biggest weakness is his one-dimensional movement whereas Weghorst has this as a strength. Big players often get a bad rap in regards to technical proficiency but like Peter Crouch did for many years, he averages 10 assists per season. Perhaps his most impressive quality is his shot to goal ratio which comes at an astonishing 72%.
The Dutch international may come to prominence at the Euros but is what seems an ideal foil for our current strikers offer value at 28?
Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli) 26
Milik is an interesting option. He has been a mix of good and very good for over 5 years and was available in the summer but nobody picked him up. I assumed that this was because he was too old and Napoli were asking too much, but he’s not. He is 26 and approaching his prime which makes me wonder why he lacks a big club? He always impresses.
In many ways, he is perfect for Arsenal as he is a mobile target player. There are so many reasons why our physically meek forward line could use some physicality and so Milik could bring this. He offers a dribble and shot and a compilation full of spectacular goals, most with his left foot. All this is good and needed but I can’t get past why Napoli put him on the market and he’s still there. At best I’d see a short-term loan.
Andrea Belotti (Torino) 26
A bulldog. A warrior. Would be a fan favourite. The thing is though… he plays in Italy. Is it just me that winces when we are linked with Italians? For some reason, I struggle with Italians because they rarely travel well.
Beyond this tainted thought, reality is, Belotti is a superhero of a player. He has continued at Torino when others would’ve taken their ego to a bigger club. Belotti can do everything. He is a two-footed, hard-working, aerial monster and Sanchez-like dribbler. A penalty kick expert with a bizarre celebration.
Arsenal could use him in multiple ways but all in central areas. Coming towards the ball, as a pivot or simply between the posts.
The question remains though as to whether he is a superhero who could superhero on any team or a big fish in a small pond? This video is worth watching as who watches Torino right? You’ll have to persist as it starts to show Belotti’s qualities halfway through.
Other options: Luka Jovic (Real Madrid) 22, Mauro Icardi (PSG) 27, Mariano Diaz (Real Madrid) 27, Duvan Zapata (Atalanta) 29
Raphael Leao (AC Milan) 21
If I was overly excited, I’d tell you that Raphael Leao will be an elite player. My sensible head tells me that there have been many with such devastating talent that haven’t taken it where it should so I’ll relax.
Raphael Leao is very good.
Not at the level or the achievements of Thierry but similar profile and skill set. Fast, quick, multiple ways of beating a player, perfect physical frame, and has potential in front of goal.
Leao plays on the left for AC Milan but much like Thierry (and possibly Martinelli), he looks more like a striker.
Arsenal could use him wide, moving a current player inside or take a risk and purchase him with view to making him a CF. The main issue he would solve at Arsenal is taking attention away from Aubameyang. A player who is so direct, fast, and skillful will always attract at least two defenders.
Marcus Thuram (Moenchengladbach (23)
Thuram is a very interesting player. He looks like a center forward playing out of position, yet is very efficient as an inside forward. Maybe this is because aesthetically he doesn’t glide like most wide players. It could also be that he is a striker playing wide as that is the modern trend on the left. He is a dribbler but somewhat of a reactive one. A strong player who would likely adapt to this aspect of the Premier League and has 15 goals a season in him. He would bring a goal threat that is much needed to Arsenal and more experience than Martinelli. Much like Rafael Leao he could play where he ordinarily does as a left inside forward or be converted centrally. Alternatively, he could be a hybrid player that switches in a rotational formation.
The biggest compliment I could pay to Marcus Thuram is simply that he has recently made the French squad which is arguably the hardest squad in world football to become a part of.
I wonder if Granit Xhaka would be interested in a swap deal and a return to Germany? That idea makes me smile very much!
Other options: Adama Traore (Wolves) 24, Richarlison (Everton) 23
Short term experience on loan
There are 3 players that you know that may well be available on a 5 month loan. All are 34 year olds but with most of Europe’s top scorers over the last few seasons being 29 plus, I think there is value to this. All three would add a physical presence that Arsenal need especially if they persist with aerial crosses.
Hulk (Shanghai SIPG) 34, Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) 34, Mario Mandzukic (Al Duhali) 34
A Premier League Summer
Will Arsenal wait until the summer and go big for Dominic Calvert-Lewin or take a chance on Danny Ings?
It’s so hard to spend all this time researching and writing this and come to the conclusion that I would not initially buy any of them.
Everybody loves a Christmas present but we have lots of strikers that haven’t had the service they need to truly judge them. We invested massively in Aubameyang and he will and should play. In the short and long-term, we have three players that could be the solution > Martinelli, Nketiah and Balogun.
If our in-house options fail, I’d wrestle between signing Oryarzabal as a false nine as he compliments our current attackers and Edouard as I know we need physicality too.
Before we buy a long-term solution however, surely it’s smarter to see if the solution is already here?
What will Arsenal do?
In my last post on creative options, I mentioned that reliable journalist, Fabrizio Romano, was talking about Arsenal doing something ‘special’ in the January transfer window. It could be that we get both Buendia and Aouar which would be special or it could be a special player. I have a hunch that we might be looking to see if we can get Paulo Dybala on loan in January to play as a Firmino type. Just a hunch. He is struggling to impact at Juventus and they may want to interest parties for the summer by cashing in as they are financially struggling somewhat.
With forwards like Aubameyang and Pepe who are far better at finishing than playing on the wing, it makes sense that Arsenal would have this type of center forward so as to bring the best out of two of our major investments. If by the end of the season it becomes obvious that we need a center forward next season the four players that I think Arsenal will have on a shortlist are Dia, Brenner, Odsonne Edouard and Mikel Oryarzabal.
The choice will depend on which system Arsenal want to employ. Over to you Arsenal.
Give the excellent Mike McDonald a follow @mike_mmcdonald and find him at Gunnerstown after every game.
What, you want MORE content? Check out the podcast I recorded with Alex and @iJohnnyCochrane (his How’s Your Father podcast is here). We had a tough chat about the ramifications of moving on Mikel Arteta. It’s a tussle of strong opinions in a difficult episode. ENJOY!