The Mikel Arteta renaissance has been wonderful to see in recent weeks. For the first time in a long time, pundits and bookmakers alike are taking notice of the Gunners and not simply because of another crisis or shock defeat. Arsenal are back and they look like serious challengers.
The Coral betting app takes bets on the Gunners season and punters checking out the latest prices will have noticed Arsenal’s ever-shortening prices in the Top Four markets over the last four weeks as they’ve put together a run of form that has taken them from 20th to 6th. It hasn’t been a smooth progression, there have been setbacks along the way, but the overall curve is unmistakably upwards.
The ability of this Gunners line up to brush aside middle and lower-ranked teams is particularly welcome after years of struggling to cope against technically poorer opponents.
But in the Premier League, if you’re not improving, then you’re regressing and both Arteta and the club will have to work hard to keep this momentum going into next season and beyond, starting with the signings that they line up during the current transfer window.
The travails of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang are well known and with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah also on their way out of the club, Arsenal are in dire need of forward reinforcements. Their search for a new striker has taken them all over Europe and in the latest twist in the saga came this week when Dusan Vlahovic has decided to sign with Juventus rather than make the move to North London.
Vlahovic’s name may have been crossed out, but the list of potential strikers remains a long one and includes both Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins. Both players would be able to slot in straight away to the Arsenal team and won’t need to adjust to life in the Premier League. And both have the potential to improve further under Arteta, though there could be question marks about their traditional English centre-forward approach gelling with the Arsenal passing ethos.
Another option that Arteta may be looking at is making a move for Alexander Isak of Real Sociedad, who has been on the radar for quite some time. At the age of 22, he has established himself as the main striker for the Spanish side and made a big impression in his appearances with Sweden at Euro 2020. It could take a fee of around £50 million to persuade Sociedad to release him, but that could turn out to be a bargain price if he continues to improve.
But while one or possibly two strikers are on the agenda, Arteta also has to face a significant problem in midfield. The absence of Thomas Partey and Mohammed Elneny on international duty has highlighted the lack of depth in midfield at the club, a problem exacerbated by Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ move to Roma.
Lyon’s highly rated midfielder Bruno Guimaraes would be one potential option in the midfield ranks, but the more intriguing prospect is the suggestion that Aaron Ramsey could be set for a return. His contract runs out next summer, but Juventus are reportedly keen to get his wage off their books. While his age limits his upside, he would bring considerable experience and class to the Arsenal midfield, and it has been rumoured that Juventus would consider taking Aubameyang in return.
Can Arteta strengthen in both areas? It is possible, but financially more likely that he will have to choose one over the other.
So, striker or midfielder, which would you choose?