Mikel Arteta’s side have already signed five first-team players this summer, bringing in former Manchester City stars Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, as well as highly-rated Portuguese talent Fabio Vieira, young Brazilian attacker Marquinhos and experienced American goalkeeper Matt Turner.
Still, technical director Edu continues to scour the market for more incoming, and the Gunners have been heavily linked with a move for a central midfielder.
Lyon star Lucas Paqueta has been mooted as a potential target, whilst Leicester City playmaker Youri Tielemans is a player that the north Londoners are interested in, football.
London reported earlier this year that Tielemans‘ agent had a meeting with Edu at the club’s London Colney training ground, although Arsenal have been holding off on finalising a deal for the Belgian international.
Despite Tielemans‘ undeniable qualities, it makes much more sense for the Gunners to bring in a defensive midfielder this summer rather than a profile that could potentially be Arteta’s new starting left-sided no.8 and here’s why.
Since signing from Atletico Madrid two years ago, defensive midfielder Thomas Partey has struggled with a plethora of fitness problems.
Partey has already missed a total of 31 matches in his first two seasons in north London, a worrying amount for a player Arteta relies so heavily on.
The Ghana international began to establish himself as one of Arsenal’s most valuable players last season, enjoying a number of excellent displays when deployed as a no.6 once Arteta had switched from 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 system.
The 29-year-old plays a vital role in the build-up phase, dropping deep to receive the ball before attempting to evade the opposition press with his vertical line-breaking passing ability.
Still, the fact that he is the only specialist no.6 in the Gunners‘ squad is something that the north London club need to address in the transfer market.
Mohamed Elneny has been a solid squad option for Arsenal over the years, always working hard for the game and performing consistently in big games – such as the 4-2 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge back in April.
The Egyptian international does not fit the holding midfield role in a 4-3-3.
He is much more suitable as a pivot player, given his passing inefficiencies.
He averaged just 2.68 progressive passes per 90 minutes last season, as per fbref, almost half what Partey managed.
His risk-averse approach ultimately cost Arsenal during crucial losses to local rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United back in May. These matches cost the Gunners a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, and relying on Elneny as the club’s second option for holding midfield could very well be equally as costly next term.
Despite some concerns over Arsenal’s current central midfield options, the north London outfit have much more depth in this department in comparison to their options deeper.
New signing Zinchenko will likely be battling it out with Swiss captain Granit Xhaka for a starting role on the left side of the midfield three.
Both players are extremely productive at passing between the lines and progressing the ball through the press.
Zinchenko ranked third in the entire Premier League for progressive passes per 90 minutes last term, whilst Xhaka was 22nd in the English top flight.
The former City star can also fill in at left-back and operate as an inverted fullback, something that could allow new signing Vieira to play in the left-sided eight role whilst the Ukrainian tucks in deeper in possession alongside Partey.
Another option for Arteta is Albert Sambi Lokonga, who enjoyed an excellent pre-season.
The young Belgian had previously been tasked with playing the holding midfield role in Partey’s absence, although he looked lost at times, clearly not ready for the demands of playing in a lone pivot.
He has shown his quality further forward this summer, where he is able to use his intelligent movement and excellent dribbling ability to drive at opposition defenders, as well as his talents in the box – scoring during wins over Ipswich and Chelsea.
“When deployed further forward, Lokonga has begun to prove his worth, making Vincent Kompany’s previous comparison to Man City icon Yaya Toure make a bit more sense. Speaking on Vibe with Five’s YouTube channel last year, Kompany said:”When I was still a player for City, I was coming to a point where I was thinking about my future.
“Management? Carry on? Sign a new deal? I was watching football from different countries, different places. And I saw Sambi play his first game – his first two games – then he got an injury to his knee.”
“But the first thing I did when I saw Sambi is I went to Mikel and said, ‘You’ve got to watch this guy, he’s the new Yaya Toure.'”.
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