But for Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé, there is only one name anyone in world football can talk about right now, Dušan Vlahović.
Attracting interest from all over Europe, the Serbian forward has been one of the top strikers in Serie A and aged 21, there is a feeling that Vlahović could become the long-term solution for any club in world football.
It is therefore of no surprise that Mikel Arteta and Arsenal have begun a battle of wits with most of Europe’s elite in the race for his signature. The current chatter around the player suggests that a deal could be struck in January and that Arsenal may have the perfect chance to capture the player before the summer.
Given Manchester City’s unwillingness to pay premium prices in January, Juventus’ financial status, Bayern Munich’s reticence to sign another striker before Robert Lewandowski retires, means that Arsenal have a window.
But the deal is a little more complicated than simply submitting a bid and hoping that Fiorentina accept it.
Ultimatley, any deal to bring Vlahović to the Emirates Stadium will be both expensive and likely decided on the whims of the player’s agent Davide Torchia, who will likely be licking his lips at the prospect of selling his client to the highest bidder and collecting a substantial remuneration for having brokered the deal.
Fiorentina, for their part, seem willing to acquiesce to a sale in January and the financials could work in Arsenal’s favour, but as with all signings, there’s plenty of bad to go along with the good.
One of the brightest young talents in football
Very few players in world football have ever commanded this much noise. Vlahović is currently one of the brightest young stars in world football and his skillset of excellent ball control, fantastic aerial ability and an eye for goal, means that plenty of clubs have been keeping tabs.
For Arsenal to sign Vlahović, would represent a huge coup for both Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, who would likely see his stock rise considerably.
Given the state of the project at Arsenal, Vlahović could be tempted and would also legitimise it to many a target, not lease to Bruno Guimarães, who Arsenal also have a keen interest in.
The missing piece of the puzzle
At the moment, Arsenal are lacking goals from their forwards. Currently, all of their strikers are being outscored by other positions and the current lack of aerial threat means that Martin Ødegaard, Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka and Takehiro Tomiyasu’s crosses are being wasted.
Vlahović would not only tie the team together with his excellent link-up play, he would also add goals to a team that is utterly bereft of them, while also beefing the creative stats of the players around him.
A target man also means that Arsenal have more variance in their attack and aerial threat has been something that Arsenal have lacked since Olivier Giroud left, who became something of a wildcard towards the end of his time with the club.
At 21 (at the time of writing), Vlahović is the perfect age for Arsenal to consider. It is no secret that all of Arsenal’s summer recruits were within a certain age bracket and youth has been the name of the game ever since Mikel Arteta took over at the club.
His age also means that he is able to grow into the role more. He can adapt other parts of his game were needed and can be a long-term solution for the position for many years to come, which would mean that Arsenal (provided there isn’t a severe drop-off in form) would not need to look at the position again for a while.
Vlahović’s ceiling really is through the roof. At such a young age, he has the ability to add even more to his game and this means that Arsenal can potentially push him far beyond the heights he has been hitting at Fiorentina.
The ceiling in question would also mean that Arsenal have a player who’s stock will only go up, meaning that if Arsenal were ever to part ways with the player, they could likely command a handsome sum to facilitate the deal.
Vlahović seems to be improving with every game and Arsenal would do well to harness that potential and take it to the next level.
Top 4 chances
There is no doubt that Vlahović would lend some credibility to Arsenal’s top 4 tilt. Currently, Arsenal sit 4th in the Premier League table, though it’s likely that West Ham and Tottenham will provide ample competition for the position and Arsenal will need to be taking maximum points in order to sustain their position.
Arsenal have struggled goals from their strikers and Vlahović is almost certain to be adding in that department, which Arsenal could desperately need.
Goals win games, but, more importantly, they also help with goal difference and at the moment, Arsenal’s paltry goal difference of +8 isn’t going to do them any favours, especially when West Ham boast a goal difference of +10 and Tottenham could soon catch up.
With Vlahović leading the line, Arsenal would be considered a potential shoe-in for that coveted 4th spot, especially if superior squads like Manchester United start to catch up.
The wage structure
While Vlahović’s transfer fee may be relatively straightforward, the wages will not. Given the level of interest in him and the fact that Arsenal do not currently have any form of European football they will need to spend and they’ll need to spend big if they are to land Vlahović.
Rumours are rife that the forward could be demanding as high as £300,000-a-week!
This presents several issues. First of all, since the departure of Mesut Özil and the likely imminent exit of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal would finally have a wage bill free of unnecessarily high earners, with Thomas Partey’s £260,000-a-week being the only major financial burden at the club.
Vlahović would mean that Arsenal would be carrying yet another £300,000-a-week star, with no guarantee that they will work out.
Another issue is what this could do for Arsenal’s other youngsters. Martin Ødegaard is in no need of a new contract, neither is Emile Smith Rowe, but the contracts of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli will need attention soon enough and if Vlahović is able to command a £300,000-a-week pay packet, despite never playing for the club, then Martinelli and Saka may choose to play hardball of their own in order to strong-arm the club into giving them new deals. Carrying as many as 3 to 5 players on such a staggering wage, would not be ideal.
Not the player’s first choice
At the moment, it’s not entirely known what Vlahović’s overall feeling about joining Arsenal is. Just weeks ago, many reported that the player had virtually no interest whatsoever in joining the club, now his stance seemed to have softened.
What is for certain, is that Arsenal do not hold all the cards in this debate. The player would almost certainly favour a move to a top club like Manchester City if the opportunity presented itself, after all, the chance to play for Pep Guardiola does not come along often.
If Vlahović were to join Arsenal, it would be difficult to escape the unshakable feeling that the player would have likely preferred to play elsewhere and was perhaps only interested in taking his chances with Arsenal for the money.
This too is an uncertainty for many.
Vlahović and his agents have been exceedingly quiet throughout the ordeal and have made no statements regarding a potential impending transfer, however, it is thought that his agent will likely have a very large say in where he ends up and an agent that commands that much power over such a desirable talent, will likely want a princely sum for his services.
Arsenal have, in the past, run afoul of agents and paying astronomical fees when trying to snap up top talent, as was the case with Kia Joorabchian during Raül Sanllehí’s tenure with the club, Arsenal will not want a repeat here.
Agent’s fees also have a tendency to attract the interest of governing bodies, especially FIFA, who have already taken a look at many of Arsenal’s recent youth dealings – attracting attention from a governing body keen to make an example, is also not something Arsenal would be too happy with.
There are rumours that Vlahović is unhappy with his agent, but that feels more like Arsenal fans hoping and preying, rather than an actual eventuality.
Ultimatley, it truly is a now or never situation for Arsenal. Vlahović has never been more gettable and they will likely face enormous competition to sign the player in the summer, while, at the moment, their path to the player looks relatively clear.
Striker is not the only pressing need. Given Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey’s recent absences at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and Granit Xhaka’s recent bout of COVID, Arsenal are many men short in midfield, meaning that is the primary issue.
It is thought that a loan move is the most likely in the January market, but Vlahović could still be an option aside from that and it’s worth remembering that while the midfield is currently an issue, it is an issue that rights itself in a few weeks time, whereas the striker issue will persist well into the summer if they don’t act now.
If Vlahović does not work out, then there are alternatives. Alexander Isak at Real Sociedad, Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Everton, Jonathan David at Lille and Ollie Watkins are all under consideration by the club and are all far more attainable than Vlahović.
Arsenal do have very good contacts with Fiorentina. Lucas Torreira currently remains on loan with the club and while Arsenal have indicated that they would be prepared to throw him in as a sweetner on any deal, the club do also have a €15m (£12m) purchase option on the midfielder.
For now, this is an issue for Edu and his team to be working on, Mikel Arteta has bigger fish to fry, but the constant speculation over Arsenal simply preparing to pull the trigger is likely going to be hanging large over Arsenal’s next few games, at least until the transfer window has closed.