Not a lot happening, so I’ll point you in the direction of a brand new Arsecast in which there’s an interesting question about our possible need for a tall forward when we’re doing our summer business.
I heard Clive and Elliot talk about this on the Arsenal Vision podcast during the week, and I really think it’s a fascinating one to consider. Not least because the two sides who have thrived without that classic number 9 style/size forward, are both bringing in a player of real presence this summer. Man City have already sealed the deal for Erling Haaland (6’3 or 194cm), while Liverpool are on the cusp of signing Darwin Nunez from Benfica (although he is a scant 6’1 or 187cm, but certainly taller than Salah/Mane).
The first thing to say is that they are adding these players to their squads because they are very good players, not just because they’re tall, but that height does give them something else to work with and for the opposition defences to think about. In general, I think we’re quite a medium sized team (I think Clive called us middleweights), and if we add Gabriel Jesus and Youri Tielemans to the team, we’re not really shifting our physical profile in any significant way.
If Eddie Nketiah signs his new deal, there’s another one. So, is there room for someone bigger? Personally, I think there might be. I’ve seen us linked with Sassuolo striker Gianluca Scamacca (almost 6’4 or 195cm), but I don’t watch enough Serie A to know if he’s good or not. There have also been consistent links in recent months with Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin (6’1, 187cm), whose Premier League readiness and aerial ability would be quite useful for us – even if there might be some doubts about his fitness after an injury hit season.
I watched him closely on the final day of the season, and we don’t have anybody in the team right now who can do what he does with a long pass from deep. His leap is very impressive, but the question might be if you want to play that way in the first place. Mikel Arteta famously went on record to say he gets more nervous when we don’t play it short at the back because we give the ball away, so his philosophy is based on not lumping it, but let’s be honest: there were times when we did that last season, and there will be times next season where we find ourselves in situations or game states where that might be necessary.
Every team needs some kind of outlet. I remember a period when practically every goal kick was aimed towards Bacary Sagna on the right hand side, and that wasn’t Arsene Wenger compromising his principles, it was common sense. So, I wonder if a signing of that profile might be something that the manager and the Technical Director are considering.
It’s worth pointing out that we’re not bad when it comes to scoring goals from set-pieces and in Gabriel we had the highest scoring central defender in the Premier League last season, so we do have some threat. However, another dimension to our attacking game could well be an important aspect to further improvement next season. Let’s not forget that we’ll have five subs to choose from too, so that gives us more opportunity to make changes and give playing time ‘non first choice’ players. And in truth, we’re going to need to less of that ‘first choice’ mindset next season, and more of a well-rounded squad which is included and involved throughout.
The final thing I’ll say on this is that one of next season’s big challenges for Arteta is how to overturn deficits in games. We only did it once last season, and when we fall behind we don’t deal with that situation well. Adding quality like Jesus should help in general, but sometimes you need something else, something different, and if I were him and I was trying to sort out this flaw in my team, greater variety in my arsenal – so to speak – would definitely be something high on my list.
Anyway, you can hear the discussion and other topics such as the captaincy, the mid-season World Cup, transfer priorities and much more in the podcast – all the links you need to listen/subscribe are below.