Five alternative midfielders if Arsenal are priced out of Odegaard deal
It has hardly been two months since Martin Odegaard switched Real Madrid’s white for Arsenal’s red and white jersey. But it did not take him too long to already be considered as a “fan favourite.”
The Norwegian, who was handed the responsibility of leading his national team as a skipper this month, has been exceptional for Arsenal. In his short spell in the Premier League, Odegaard makes 2.09 key passes and has an expected assists (xA) total of 0.15 per 90 minutes.
When placed among some of the best in the league, his true quality is clearly evident. Kai Havertz, for whom Chelsea broke their transfer record for, makes one key pass and records 0.10 expected assists.
Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne has a rating of 3.41 and 0.41, Mason Mount has a rating of 2.95 and 0.22, Jack Grealish’s is 3.46 and 0.37 while Man Utd’s Bruno Fernandes has a rating of 2.96 and 0.35.
However, when you consider that Odegaard joined Arsenal roughly just two months ago and plays for a team who is shy of scoring goals, his stats are quite impressive. The potential is there and everyone can see it.
It is not a case of “if” Arsenal fans would like the Real Madrid loanee to sign for their team permanently. If they had the power and financial muscle, it is pretty much obvious that the cheque would arrive at Florentino Pérez’s office in no time.
However, reality does not work like that. Real Madrid are in a rebuilding process similar to what Arsenal will try to do this summer. As a result, keeping Odegaard would make sense for Real Madrid.
Thus, we look at alternatives that might be better for our beloved owner Stan Kroenke’s pocket as well as for strengthening Mikel Arteta’s squad for next season.
- Angelo Fulgini (Rennes): Although Fulgini is not a household name across football fans in Europe, it does not mean that the French youth international is not highly regarded by scouts and recruitment departments.
The 24-year-old is more of a goal scoring midfielder rather than a creator. Fulgini has 17 goals and 11 assists to his name during his time at current club SCO Angers.
He is adept at making his way out from congested places and thus can help Arsenal pick up the lock of teams who sit deep, or who press aggressively. His stats this season in the Ligue 1 are below: *all are per 90 minutes
Key Passes: 1.95
Passes into the final third: 3.71
Progressive passes: 4.81
Passes under pressure: 8.64
Dribbles completed: 2.42
Successful dribble %: 51.7
Ball recoveries: 7.51
If the Gunners sign Fulgini, they can expect a midfielder who is a good dribbler and passer but not someone who can be relied upon when the team does not have the possession. He is valued at €11 million by the Transfermarkt. His age and valuation makes him an enticing player to at least have an eye on.
Most goals from outside the box in the last 5 seasons of the top5 leagues:
15 De Bruyne
- Suso (Sevilla): Anybody who is a Premier League purist must be familiar with Suso. The Spaniard made 21 appearances for current champions of England, Liverpool.
However, he only had a goal and an assist to show from his three-year spell in Merseyside. Although it did not work out in England for him, he showed what a quality player he is elsewhere.
The 27-year-old had 60 goal involvements in 153 appearances for AC Milan. He has 11 for his current club Sevilla, in 57 appearances.
He joined the Spanish outfit on an 18-month loan in January 2020, but will definitely move to Spain, due to an obligation to buy on his contract inserted by his parent club AC Milan.
With Suso’s signing, Arsenal can better their goalscoring output from the set-pieces. The former Liverpool man has built a name for himself in Italy and Spain due to his precise free-kicks and corners. At 27, his age might not appeal to Arsenal, but his experience can. Below are his statistics that we collected from Fbref.com:
Key Passes: 1.50
Passes into the final third: 3.85
Progressive passes: 4.27
Dribbles completed: 2.22
Successful dribble %: 75.5
Like Fulgini, Suso’s defensive statistics are not attractive. However, he definitely compensates his lack of defensive work-rate in his dribbling numbers.
He is more involved in the team plays then Fulgini and is also a better passer than the former. If Arsenal want an experienced head in the dressing room who is adept at passing, set-piece deliveries and dribbling, then Suso is their man.
Valued at €17 million, this can be prove to be a shrewd signing from the North London side.
- Orkun Kökçü (Feyenoord): Kökçü is the youngest player that we analyzed for this article. There is a reason to it. Because he is special. Dutch by birth, the 20-year-old switched allegiance to Turkey at international level and have already made two appearances for the senior squad.
His club debut came in 2018, when he was just 17, against VV Gemert in the first round of the KNVB Cup on 17 September 2018. He scored Feyenoord’s second goal, rounding off an impressive night for him.
Since then, he has established himself in the first-team making 71 appearances for them already. His current Goals/Assists tally is at a splendid 10/12.
And when you consider that he was a teenager for most of that duration, it is even impressive numbers.
The Turkish international has vast potential and thus with no surprise has been already linked to Liverpool, Leeds and Arsenal in the past. The only doubt one can have is whether he would be able to survive the rigours of the Premier League.
If that is kept aside for a moment, his stats are impressive for a 20-year-old.
Key passes: 1.24
Passes into final third: 5.32
Progressive passes: 6.56
Dribbles completed: 1.42
Successful dribble %: 66.7
Ball recoveries: 11.69
- Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion): If you think that Arsenal should not try to sign Trossard just because he plays for a bottom-six side, then you deserve to be called a maniac.
The 26-year-old has been the linchpin to Brighton and Hove Abion’s wonderful attacking plays. Although they have dearly missed a prolific goal scorer, Trossard has been one of the few players to cover up the mess of their strikers.
The midfielder who is usually used as an attacking midfielder is tremendously versatile. The Belgian has been used as a left winger five times, as a second striker and a center-forward four times each.
The 26-year-old has nine goals involvements in 29 appearances for Graham Potter’s men this season. Arsenal were interested in signing the former Genk man before he moved to the Amex Stadium in 2019. However, he snubbed the London club, stating that it would have been a “too big step for me.”
Following are his stats of this season per 90 minutes.
Key passes: 1.72
Passes into final third: 2.90
Progressive passes: 4.66
Dribbles completed: 1.31
Successful dribble %: 58
Ball recoveries: 7.29
With Trossard, Arteta can thrust him for more defensive work than his previous alternatives that we scrutinized. He definitely is one of those players who deserve a better club to match their ambitions. The Belgian is a very good player talent-wise, and at 26 is yet to unlock his true potential.
- Emi Buendia (Norwich City): Arsenal reportedly held talks with the Argentine’s agent in the winter transfer window to register their interest in the Norwich playmaker. He is well regarded by Arsenal’s recruitment staff and is on their list of attacking midfield options. The 24-year-old had a stellar campaign in the topflight last season, registering seven assists for a team who finished last and got relegated.
A source close to the player told Football.london last month that Buendia is “focused on Norwich and getting promoted” but refused to rule out a possible January move saying that “it depends on Norwich.”
The agency which represents Buendia has strong connections with Arsenal having looked after Alexis Sanchez and Emi Martinez at the club in the past few years.
Buendia is a versatile player whose preferred position is right-wing as well as central attacking midfield position. But he can even be deployed as a left-winger. Players who can play several positions are a dream for any football manager, let alone Arteta.
The 24-year-old has continued his excellent life in England in the Championship level this campaign. After he assisted seven times and scored once in the Premier League, he has now recorded 10 goals and 13 assists in England’s second tier league.
Following are his stats from his impressive Premier League campaign.
Just 11 months ago, the former Getafe man was punching above his weight in the Premier League
Emi Buendía is the only player in the Premier League this season with:
❍ 50+ chances created
❍ 50+ tackles made
❍ 50+ take-ons completed
Only Kevin De Bruyne (16) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) have more assists (7) than him. pic.twitter.com/0bIFsFZe3Z
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 21, 2020
Key passes: 2.89
Passes into final third: 5.30
Progressive passes: 6.32
Dribbles completed: 3.87
Successful dribble %: 76.3
Ball recoveries: 8.51
His defensive numbers are almost astonishing for an attacking midfielder. He is the most complete player that Arsenal can recruit this summer. His stats show that he is destined for a big move sooner rather than later.
Writer’s choice: My first preference would obviously be Martin Odegaard. After having started just three La Liga games, he has not taken time to adapt to a completely new league.
However, Arsenal should be wary of overpaying. I would not recommend the Gunners to splash “another Nicolas Pepe fee.” We just don’t have the resources the likes of Manchester City, Man United and Chelsea boast.
Thus, if are prized out my preference would be Emiliano Buendia. His versatile nature plus his defensive work rate is exceptional. He also has an eye of a needle as we saw so many times last season in the Premier League.
He definitely would have recorded more assists and goals for a top-half team in the Premier League last term. It was just his bad that he played for a team that was poor, finished last and got relegated.
At 24 years of age, he has huge untapped potential. And if Madrid decide to keep our star boy Odegaard, then I would be more than happy if Arsenal sign Emi Buendia.
By signing the Argentine, we would also not hamper the development of our very own Emile Smith Rowe, as the 24-year-old is more than adept at playing various positions across the three behind a center-forward, unlike Martin Odegaard.
Statistics credit: Fbref.com and Transfermarkt.
Connect with the writer via Twitter/Instagram: @yarsenal09