As the final few weeks of the season beckon, Arsenal will be having one eye firmly focused on the summer transfer window.
For all the talk of how the Champions League will be the deciding factor in the club’s transfer plans this summer, it will be a massive summer for Arsenal, regardless of which European competition they qualify for.
The club will only have one recognised striker leading the line next season, in the form of Folarian Balogun. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was unceremoniously ousted from the club at the end of January and the hapless duo of Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah will be out of contract in the summer with almost no chance of a new deal being signed.
Attack is, of course, not the only area that needs immediate attention for Arsenal. A central midfielder or two, a back-up right-sided full-back and a genuinely competent left-back cover, not to mention a new winger, are all on the agenda for Arsenal this summer, however, these areas may need potential departures before they can be addressed, whereas a striker needs attention regardless.
For Mikel Arteta, the most important thing is finding a striker who can find the back of the net. No doubt every single team on the planet will be looking for strikers who can do precisely this, but Mikel Arteta wants a little bit more.
The striker that Arteta is looking for is more likely going to be inhabiting the false-9 lite role for the club.
Of course, a genuine, bonafide false-9 a la Roberto Firmino is unlikely to totally appeal to Arsenal, but the core elements of the position will be vital.
Overall, Mikel Arteta is looking for a striker who can provide an aerial threat, who can drop deep into midfield and who has explosive pace.
These kinds of strikers don’t grow on trees.
Arsenal have been linked to a number of players over the past few months and the disappointment on missing out on Fiorentina’s Dušan Vlahović is still being felt.
Let’s take a look at the men who could potentially lead the line for Arsenal next season.
Darwin Núñez has exploded onto the scene in the past year. The 22-year-old meets the age requirements that Mikel Arteta has the aerial threat that Arteta has been looking for.
This season, Núñez has already recorded 25 goals in 25 league matches and 33 goals in 38 games in all competitions, including three memorable goals against Liverpool in this season’s Champions League.
While Dušan Vlahović topped the list for the Gunners this season, Núñez will likely be a close second to the Serbian striker, given their similarities.
Núñez is a deceptively quick striker too. GIven his large build and wide frame, it would be natural to assume that Núñez falls more into the Olivier Giroud category of striker, rather than the pacey forward role of say a Thierry Henry.
One thing that is questionable about Núñez, however, seems to be his close ball control. This is not terribly worrying, given that Arsenal already have expert ball carriers in Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard, but a player who is constantly chasing his first touch could be a worry.
Given the season he is having, not to mention his age, growing reputation and the fact that Benfica paid €24m for him, Núñez will not come cheap. In fact, rumours are rife that Benfica are looking for as high as £65m for his services.
Arsenal are also not the only teams interested, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and PSG all currently deemed to be the frontrunners for the Uruguayan striker.
Lautaro Martínez has been on Arsenal’s radar for some time. Last summer, the Gunners were reported to have held talks with Inter Milan for the Argentine striker, but were turned off after being quoted a price tag of around £70m.
Martínez doesn’t have quite the same aerial presence that Darwin Núñez has, however, he does come with more tactical flexibility.
Martínez can play both out wide and through the middle as well as a number 10 role when called upon. If Arsenal need a false-nine striker, Martínez is probably the best candidate for it.
An enthusiastic attacker, Martínez is more in the mould of an Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sánchez, which gives fans an idea of just how he can play.
In the wake of Romelu Lukaku’s departure in the summer, Inter has rather hoped that Martínez would fill the void left by the Belgian striker – however, it’s been a somewhat disappointing season for the young striker, only recording 17 goals in 41 games in all competitions, with 15 of those coming from 29 league matches.
Arsenal will face stiff competition for Martínez’s signature. Tottenham are thought to be leading the race for the striker, with Antonio Conte thought to be keen, however, the price tag will still be pretty high even if it will have slightly reduced this summer, with the player expected to cost around £60m.
If Arsenal have scouted Lautaro Martínez for a while, then it is nothing when compared to Jonathan David, who was scouted even during Arsène Wenger’s time with the club.
Signed for Lille only two seasons ago, Jonathan David has slowly begun to capture the imaginations of clubs around Europe.
In terms of goals, David has not been at his very best this season, recording 17 goals in 41 matches in all competitions and 13 in 32 league matches, however, the forward offers a bit more to the attack than mere goals. Though he does make up for this for his national side, recording 20 goals in 30 matches for the Canadian national side.
David’s hold-up play is deceptively good for a player under 6ft, as is his strength.
While he is a hugely important star for his team, Lille would likely be open to a sale. Arsenal have good relations with Lille already, having signed Nicolas Pépé for £72m and Gabriel Magalhães for £26m, it seems that Arsenal could take advantage of their good relationship to strike a deal for David too.
It seems as though David is a ready-made back-up for Mikel Arteta if Arsenal’s main targets don’t pan out.
Tammy Abraham is one of the main names on England fans’ lips. Having been rather unfairly shifted out of Chelsea in the summer, the England striker has been a revelation for Roma this season.
Abraham, who grew up a boyhood Arsenal fan, was subject to interest from Edu and co. last summer, however, Arsenal could not readily justify buying the player while they still had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Folarian Balogun and Eddie Nketiah at the club, so the Chelsea striker made Rome his new home for a deal thought to be around £35m.
Statistically, 24 goals in 44 matches may not be exceptional, but given that Roma currently sit 5th in Serie A, it’s a much better return than one could have hoped for.
Abraham’s hold-up play is nothing new to those who saw him at Chelsea or on loan spells with Swansea City and Aston Villa, but it is exactly what Arsenal will be looking for this summer.
The is a doubt regarding how prolific the forward can be, given his struggles at Chelsea, particularly in his final season, however, Arsenal may be looking for goals from elsewhere to compensate.
Roma are unlikely to be too keen to sell Abraham after just one season, especially given how much manager José Mourinho is relying on him and a call-up to the England squad for December’s World Cup will likely see his value rise further, with Arsenal likely having to pay anywhere between £50m and £70m to tempt Roma into selling, they also need to be wary of Chelsea, who have a buy-back clause of around £68m that activates after two seasons.
A frantic 3-day period in January had Arsenal fans convinced that Real Sociedad striker Alexander Isak was going to sign for them after the Swedish forward was spotted in North London during the January window.
This, of course, turned out to be a mere coincidence and Isak returned back to Real Sociedad.
Isak has been a player on Arsenal’s radar for some time and who has been catching the eye of prominent teams in Europe, including Barcelona.
The main attraction of Isak would be the fact that Arsenal would likely be all-but-guaranteed to sign him owing to the release clause of £70m in his contract, though Real Sociedad are working hard to increase this with a new contract offer that the Swede seems uninterested in signing.
Isak has the same aerial threat that Darwin Núñez has and is particularly tricky with the ball at his feet, however, a very poor return in terms of goals this season may mean that Arsenal shelve their interest, just as they reportedly have with Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
This season, Isak has a pitiful 9 goals in 36 games in all competitions, with 5 of those coming from 27 league matches.
Arsenal will have a busy summer. Reputable sources seem to indicate that Arsenal will sign a striker of some ilk this summer, especially given how barebones their attack may look next season, what form that may take will rely on Arsenal’s European credentials.
All of the above strikers are “gettable”, however, some will need some convincing. A lack of quality attacking options has cost Arsenal this season and Arsenal simply cannot afford to make the wrong transfer this summer.
The idea seems to be next season that Arsenal will have signed a top, hungry striker to start, with Folarian Balogun deputising on the bench, with the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe all capable of filling in if Arsenal need a false nine of some kind.
Rumours are also rife that Arsenal have interest in the likes of Christopher Nkunku at RB Leipzig, who has played much of this season as a striker and Cody Gakpo at PSV, who, like Gabriel Martinelli, can play out wide and through the middle.