Today we have a @mike_Mmcdonald dropping another one of his fantastic scouting reports. Enjoy!
So, Thomas Partey needs a partner.
Xhaka is apparently leaving, Ceballos has left and many wish ElNeny would too. Willock has the goals we need from midfield but does he fit? Maitland-Niles has the modern profile but it’s doubtful he gets the opportunity. Azeez looks like the profile, but is it too early?
There is, therefore, a need for at least two new additions.
Ideally, all clubs want an all-rounder. A modern player that is strong, athletic, quick, safe in possession yet deceptive to create when needed. In particular, Arsenal needs goals from midfield as this deficiency has been stark.
Alternatively, would we accept a less athletic player who had elite ability to dictate play much like Fabregas did or a player that didn’t contribute as much in the middle but consistently scored 10+ goals a season?
Also, we need to be mindful of the African Nations Cup. Partey and ElNeny are already involved. Enough of the chat. You get the picture.
I’ve broken these options down into categories. Some you will know, some you will have heard of and some you will think I’ve made up 😉
Double Pivot with Partey
If we continue with the 4-2-3-1 or go 3-4-3….
Aurelien Tchouameni Monaco (21)
When Arsenal signed Thomas Partey, I made the comment that our first observation would be that we’d want his twin brother to partner him. I still feel this way even though he has been inconsistent and his shooting resembles bonus points from another sport. I took my time to research who this person might be and then I stopped when I found Tchouameni. Oh my! Click on this video if you only click on one.
Tchouameni (pronounced Chow-main-ee) is Partey’s long lost younger brother. Where he lacks in the experience that Partey has, he equalizes that with the impressive stat of being the midfielder in Europe with (by far) the most tackles in a season with 127. In a game where transitions are king, it might be smart to take a look at the best tackler in Europe. His interceptions are top 5 in France too. Beyond the defensive side of his game, his main strength is his ability to accelerate play with a deceptive ability to turn.
With such a well-rounded game, Arsenal could use Tchouameni in any midfield formation. He has played as a DM, CM in a two or three man midfield. His athleticism would also allow Partey to go forward without fearing the back door. A fantastic option but one currently being pursued by Chelsea. If Arsenal bought a more Premier League ready midfielder as well as Tchouameni this would give him time to settle and take the pressure off a 21-year-old.
Ruben Neves Wolves (24)
There are rumours of Ruben Neves attracting our eye and even a bid being imminent. The short story is that it might cause us the same athletic issues that Xhaka does but adds the potential for goals and set plays that our midfielders currently don’t offer if he’s played further forward than Wolves have recently. I think in our minds eye we are wanting a powerful athlete. With the potential exit of at least 2 first team midfielders (plus those on loan), we may get the athlete we wish for. So, beyond this thought what is Arsenal’s other main need? I think Arsenal have to provide goals from midfield and Neves certainly offers this threat. His age profile and experience is perfect as he wouldn’t have to adapt. The fact that he isn’t African helps in January too. Capable of sitting or pushing on I see Arteta liking his versatility in this shape. Neves checks more boxes than you’d initially think and if he is the only signing I think it’s a mistake. If an athlete arrives too, it may be a very good combination.
Sambi Lokonga Anderlecht (21)
Much like Tchouameni, Lokonga is the athletic profile that Arsenal need. Lokonga is currently a hidden gem but could come out of the woods soon. Axel Witzel may not make the Euros and this may elevate Lokonga’s opportunities for Belgium. A long legged, powerful central midfielder with impressive ball-winning ability. His passing range is equally impressive both short and quick and long-range too. His game reminds me of Diawara at Roma who I am a fan of.
Arsenal could use Lokonga as a DM but that might be a lot of responsibility for a 21-year-old. A CM in a double pivot would suit better, I feel. I’d use him as a rotational player who would gradually earn his starting spot. My concern is that Thierry Henry has recommended him. I’m not concerned about Henry’s scouting tip but more Arteta’s stubbornness and a feeling that I have that he wants to come across as his own man.
Zambo Anguissa Fulham (25)
Sometimes I feel that a kit can distract from an opinion. I watched Zambo Anguissa many times for Fulham this year and I found myself arguing over whether he was good enough for Arsenal. When I do this I try to imagine a player in the Arsenal kit. When I did this with Anguissa I felt good. I saw his line-breaking one-touch passes and reminded myself that Arsenal simply don’t have this option. I saw his incredible dribbling stats of which he is elite. I see his power, technical confidence and strength and I start to pine for him.
His age and PL experience primes him for this opportunity and would be an intelligent signing. Perhaps his greatest asset is his versatility giving Arsenal the choice to use him as a DM, CM or even AM. He can also play in a two or a three as a more conservative or ambitious midfielder. With Fulham going down his price will be attractive too.
Nicolo Barella Inter Milan (24)
Ordinarily, this would be impossible as Barella has had a great season at a club that won honours and will be in the CL next season. Conte left Inter as they are having to sell and so a player like Barella may become accessible. The risk with any Italian player is that they don’t tend to travel well.
Regardless, Barella is a top player. A tigerish CM who has elbowed his way into a very competitive Italian national team due to his all-round game and reliability. A technically excellent midfielder who will remind you of the much loved Cazorla as he switches the ball from right to left with such natural confidence. At Arsenal he could play as a playmaker or likely in a two but with his elite technical level he could play anywhere. Such fun to watch so take a look…
Do we match a physical player with an elegant player….?
Frenkie DeJong Barcelona (24)
I have a hunch.
Barcelona are hugely in debt and may well have to sell a big name. Beyond Arteta’s apparent powers of persuasion, I have no idea why DeJong would choose Arsenal. I do however think that Arsenal think that they could get this level of player and would try.
DeJong is the poster boy for modern-day possession football. Schooled at the best school at Ajax he not only passes and moves with such fluency but he has the most important ability that separates the good from the great… scanning. Cesc had it. All the best midfielders scan for color and have a picture of their next move. Some see DeJong as just a DM but he’s played CM/#8 and Centre Back at Barcelona as he reads the game so well.
If Arsenal were to snag him, he would be the quarterback, the centre of it all. He’d bring a tempo that is currently absent and we’d be getting a player moving into his prime years. Wishful thinking.
Maxence Caqueret Lyon (21)
This starlet is likely going to the very top. A delightful playmaker who matches intelligence with youthful energy and a fearlessness that ignores his small physique. He reminds of Modric, similar physique and abilities. Caqueret offers versatility which would suit our hybrid coach. He has played in all of the midfield positions but favours the playmaker role. As willing as ElNeny is to always be available but has far more desire to be progressive. I’d see him at Arsenal in a two with Partey or as the DM in a three. His versatility will make him a favoured pick in modern football. Oh, and he looks like Tintin.
Matheus Martinelli Fluminense (19)
You may have heard this name. He has been linked back in May. He would be a project player much like his namesake or even seen as a Brazilian companion for him.
MM is a deep-lying playmaker with superb vision, range of passing, ability to read the game, tactical intelligence and elegance on the ball. He matches these eye-catching qualities with a modern work ethic and most certainly a very reasonable price.
He would likely be 4th or 5th choice or loaned out but one cheaper project player is always welcomed. Only major concern is whether his development would be prioritized ahead of Azeez. Fine, but he’s got to be better.
Arteta seems to prefer hybrid players so as to confuse the opponent…..
Marcel Sabitzer Leipzig (27)
If there is a player in World Football that has played as many positions as Saka, it’s Sabitzer. He’s been seen at right back, DM, CM, #10 but mostly as a #8 with freedoms to use his full skillset. I find describing Sabitzer difficult as he can largely do everything but doesn’t seem to have a standout skill. One that probably fits the description as simply ‘a very good footballer.’ Due to this reliability, he has a high level of consistency. If one area of his game is temporarily deficient then he can lean into another area. Similar to Ramsey he offers a true goal-scoring threat both in and out of the box. Arteta would love his hybrid profile and could use him as an option to ESR or in a midfield three or a two with Partey. Moving into his prime years, do we give a four year contract to a 27 year old though?
Eduardo Camivinga Rennes (18)
You will have heard of Camivinga as the rumours started back in April or you will have seen Camivinga and wondered why he’d choose Arsenal. Arsenal might be a smart choice for Camivinga as we would be the next level for him as he is clearly got the potential to play at the elite level. He is a bouncy midfielder with a skillset that often looks more suited to the wing. A rapid change of pace as he frequently beats opponents to burst between the lines. A highly impressive list of defensive numbers with both his ability to regain and retain as well as intercept. I’m sure Arteta would like his left foot as if we lose Xhaka this would offer balance. If Arsenal were able to beat out the world’s elite to this supreme talent, he could play either as a true DM, CM in a two or three. I’d favour using his abilities to accelerate play as an 8 as the PL might be a test for a DM wanting to run with the ball.
Manuel Locatelli Sassuolo (23)
This guy has a fan club. There are many educated fans that I know that put Locatelli at the top of their wishlist. He is a bombastic midfielder. The type that gets the crowd to their feet. Tall, fast and with a love for slide tackling. Not just any slide tackle though. The one where he wraps his foot around it like Vieira did and run off with it. His versatility is more in his skillset than in his career path to date as he has been either a true DM or CM. Beyond the defensive side to his game, his offensive game is equally impressive. He has the most progressive passes per 90 in Europe with 12.89. 2nd was Cesc who is still threading the needle at Monaco. Much like Barella it is often hard to see an Italian translating his levels abroad and Locatelli is high on the list for Juve. If Arsenal were to snag him he would be a trusted lieutenant next to Partey in a two, I believe.
Federico Valverde Real Madrid (22)
Valverde is another that falls into the category of possibly being on the market to raise big money for a club in big debt. There is no way otherwise that Real would sell him. They will try to get money for Hazard and a few others first but they may have to sell a younger player. Valverde is a powerful central midfielder with a small yet explosive stride. A strong guy whose build would see him comfortably compete in the PL and add the needed power and athleticism to our midfield. His fee would be high and the fact that his Uruguayan international colleague struggled at Arsenal may be against us, but his versatility to play in all the midfield positions would make him very appealing to Arsenal.
If we go 4-3-3…..
Houssem Aouar Lyon (22)
A player from the Wenger era. Could we go back to a diminutive technical player? Aouar didn’t have the best season for Lyon and does have a tendency to hide when the going gets tough. He did however score 7 goals in 23 appearances and these are goals that Arsenal may need. He can play out wide left as a floating 10 or as I prefer, as an 8 in a 4-3-3. Arsenal do need a technical upgrade in midfield and Aouar was favoured last summer, so there is a decent chance that we go back, especially for the lower quoted price of 25-30M.
Ryan Gravenberch Ajax (19)
Gravenberch is a left 8. Watch the video and you may well see Pogba in his Juve days. He is tall and narrow and describes himself as a ‘snake’ and watching him you can see why. He is the king of evading challenges and married with his delightful touch and elite passing range, it is no wonder that he has been trusted at such a young age. Gravenberch has the necessary athletic ability to be a big upgrade in this area on Ceballos and Xhaka. He is also a set piece expert. With his broad skillset, Arsenal could move him into a two man midfield but it is as an 8 that he has flourished as he feels the freedom to accelerate the play.
Joey Veerman Heerenveen (22)
Veerman will be a new name to most, but like Koopmeiners and other players playing in the Eredivsie, they are becoming increasingly valued. Veerman is ordinarily an attacking midfielder and may prove to be an ideal backup to ESR, but I see qualities that would play him as an 8. His 17 goals and assists are eye-catching, albeit in a weaker league. What is more eye catching however is the video below. I always look for a players instincts, their first thought. Veerman’s is to create. This is how I feel about Buendia (tear) too. Veerman has such glorious composure and passing range too. At a price below 10M, he would make a good rotational option for both a three-man midfield option and as an AM.
My prediction is that Joey Veerman will end up being a top player.
If Arteta wants a left footed CM to compliment a rightie…..
Fabian Ruiz Napoli (25)
Many have seen Ruiz as a Xhaka upgrade for quite a while. Similar passing ability and aggression but with a little more pace and goal assistance. Ruiz also possesses quicker feet and is more skillful. He has a greater turning ability and hips that allow him to turn and accelerate, which is something Xhaka simply doesn’t have. Arsenal could use Ruiz in a double pivot and could comfortably have him hold in the back four as Xhaka does, but you lose his goal threat this way. In a 4-3-3, he would likely sit on the left but could play deepest.
Even though Napoli to Arsenal isn’t too much of a stretch, there would be others interested with a higher current standing.
Saul Niguez Athletico Madrid (26)
Even more of a long shot than Ruiz due to price and stature, but I’m thinking that Arsenal will actually go big on one or two players. Awaiting disappointment, I know. Niguez is an old fashioned player in my eyes. Back to the days when your central midfielders had to be all rounders. He can do it all…. Defend, quickness, dribble, pass, strength etc… An added advantage would be immediate chemistry with Partey. Arsenal could use him in any midfield configuration and in multiple roles. A bit of a dream signing.
Teun Koopmeiners AZ Alkmaar (23)
The closest Xhaka replica in Europe. A natural leader. Great passing range (outstanding in fact), strength and commitment. Unfortunately, he is slow like Xhaka but quicker to turn as his hips aren’t as wooden. Been captain of various teams. Played CB for 1/2 a season too. I’d be ok keeping Xhaka if we added another athlete so I’d say the same for Koopmeiners. He could play in a two or three but would have to have legs next to him.
I think the original ‘Partey plan’ was to get a DM so as to make him box to box….
Yves Bissouma Brighton (24)
Why are so many Arsenal fans pining for Bissouma?
I’d say because he is the closest to perfection that we need. He’s motivated to join, has outstanding regain and retain ability, understands where space is, has ability to move the ball rapidly and win it back with the same adjective, has great feet (used to play AM at Lille) and is in our price range. Perhaps the biggest benefits for me are the fact that he doesn’t have to adapt to PL football and the fact he’d give wings to Partey who could trust his athletic ability and go forward. Only downside is that currently he is going to the AFCON in January (as is Partey), but that would be up to the club to secure coverage rather than a reason not to buy. Although he’s a true DM, his experience and feet could see him play in any midfield formation at Arsenal.
Guido Rodriguez Real Betis (27)
I like the look of Rodriguez. I just wish he was 25.
A very well balanced athlete with anticipation to match. Will be the fittest player in your team too. His right foot is like a 5 iron and his defensive posture is unmatched, allowing him to win more tackles than most. Arsenal will need to regain aerial ability as Xhaka is good in the air and Partey, although tall, isn’t. Guido is strong in the air and built like a CB which helps.
Arsenal seem interested in him and so I wonder if we move 4-3-3 as he is almost exclusively a true DM.
Florentino Luis Monaco (on loan from Benfica) (21)
One you likely haven’t heard of. One you likely will very soon. Luis is a hidden gem much like many that start in Portugal. A true DM and the closest I’ve seen to Bissouma. Nicknamed the ‘Portuguese Makelele’ Luis is a tenacious tackler, a wall. He matches this with elegance and vision and a natural engine. Arsenal, in my opinion, need to invest in one of these many younger central midfielders/DM’s either way, and Luis would be a wise choice. With his rounded skillset he could also play in a two.
Young and potentially elite
A project player or maybe another player of Saka’s quality….
Credit to @footballtalentscout for some of this info.
Carney Chukwuemeka Aston Villa (17)
Many who follow Academy football will firstly know that Villa have a good team. They may also share the opinion that Chukwuemeka may well be the best young Academy player in England.
Chukwuemeka is a powerful, skillful and creative box-to-box midfielder. A player with physical strength, power and stamina.. An absolute all rounder. A midfielder who can perform at all of the midfield positions and plays particularly well after the pass and between the lines. What separates him from many others is that he impacts the game at both the ends of the pitch. It would be bold for Arsenal to immediately trust a 17 year old at CM but maybe a purchase then loan may suit.
Lesley Ugochukwu Rennes (17)
An imposing midfielder at such a tender age playing on the same team as the widely lauded Camivinga. We are all aware now that France have the most depth in talent than any other nation. So, it may be a while before we hear about Ugochukwu. The smart scout identifies this and buys a handful of French talents as they are cheaper because there is a backlog of opportunities. A modern, aggressive player with impressive calmness and decision making in the hardest area to play. Like Chukwuemeka, a purchase then loan would be the best for his development.
Illaix Moriba Barcelona (18)
The last player but maybe the one we see at the Emirates. Moriba is being tracked by Arsenal. His contract is up in 2022 and could represent the bargain of the window as he has the ability to become the best of the best. This is evidenced by the trust he was given this season in playing in 14 games. His style is much like Pogba’s, a mixture of the physical attributes to defend with dominance and attack with skill and flair. Arsenal are trying to take advantage of his contractual situation and Barcelona’s financial mess. If he came to Arsenal he would be trusted as a starting CM, most likely in a double pivot with Partey.
Is Moriba the reason we are stalling on Bissouma?
What I would do?
I’d rebuild the midfield. Every other area of our team has been modernized in most areas except midfield. If it meant sacrificing other purchases, I’d do it. I’d sell Xhaka and Elneny alongside the exits of Torreira, Guendouzi and Ceballos. I’d bring Willock back as an option. Even if we didn’t play the 4-3-3 to suit him, I’d keep him as a hugely useful impact sub when exposing your central areas isn’t a priority and have Willock making deep runs into the box. The money we could get is tempting but Arsenal have almost zero goals from midfield so I think it’s crazy to sell the one who can provide this. If we had goals, maybe different. I’d bring back AMN into pre season to see if he can provide an option as a CM or try to convince him to be my starting RB rather than play for Watford.
My first purchase would be Yves Bissouma. No doubt. Would give Partey wings.
My second purchase would be James Ward Prowse. A far better player than given credit for but the main reason for the signing is his world class set plays. Arsenal average 12 set plays per game either corners or free kicks in the final third. His delivery is so good that it would give you 8 more opportunities per game if we can sign a new set piece coach to work with him. With a player so deadly it would give more dribbling freedom to Pepe and Saka etc.. as opponents would be wary of fouling them.
Depending on whether AMN shows me he can be an option or not, I’d sign Aurelien Tchouameni. I’d bleed him into the PL slowly with a view to starting him in January when Partey and Bissouma go to AFCON.
That’s a re-modelled midfield of Thomas Partey, Yves Bissouma, James Ward Prowse, Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitlind Niles or Aurelien Tchouameni.
Net spend = 45M to upgrade our midfield.
I’d also sign Joey Veerman but as an option to ESR, allowing Smith Rowe to be the alpha which he deserves.
What I think Arsenal will do:
I think Arsenal will sign Ruben Neves and Iliax Moriba. I think we will also sign Houssem Aouar as an option to ESR and as a movable piece in the three behind the striker.
Thanks for reading!