I have seen a few comments suggesting an attempt to re-sign Aaron Ramsey, given his lack success or opportunity at Juventus. I have also seen us being linked to a move for Doucoure from Watford this summer. I am not sure whether either are likely given one is barely fit for more than half a season and would have to take, at a conservative guess, a 60% pay cut and the second has just tuned 27 and despite periodic flashes of great form, has yet to be called on by France.
I think the reality is that the media and the Arsenal fanbase will continue to speculate on potential goal scoring midfielders, whilst the Gunners have minimal threat from the current crop. I do think the links to Premier League ready or experienced players makes sense, but I don’t necessarily understand the link to traditional box to box midfielders and the talk of needing one to play 433. Arteta has not spoken of any desire to play that system, not has he once utilised it, as I recall, and he comes to Arsenal from a team that has thrived with creative wide players.
I think Man City often used a 4141 system which is entirely plausible I suppose but I prefer to speculate, based on what we know and that is that our coach has opted for 4231 with a 10 so far. Given this reality and the firm base Xhaka and Torreira give us and that we are yet to see Arteta’s 4231 with both first-choice full backs fit and playing simultaneously, I would understand speculation about the type of 10 we need to upgrade on Ozil far more.
I like the Xhaka/Torreira combination, as long as the Swiss part of the equation is predominantly the furthest forward of the two. The Uruguayan can patrol, break up play, intercept and then play it simple. Hopefully the simple pass, often, will be to his partner, then Xkaha can use his vision to pass and breaks the lines or find one of his three advanced colleagues in space. I am not saying neither can be upgraded upon but if Arsenal where looking to spend big in the midfield area it is further up the pitch, centrally, that I see the need.
Mesut Ozil has been a good servant to Arsenal but there is little doubt that his best years are not in front of him. Very few players have had his vision or accuracy of incisive pass. To be fair to the enigmatic German, the team, towards the end of the Wenger era and certainly in the Emery tenure was not set up for him too shine and perhaps the player quality was not at the level to accept and appreciate his brilliance. All that said, in my view the game has moved on in recent years and the traditional passing 10 who plays mostly in the opposition half is luxury not afforded my many, if any top sides. Ozil, barring the one season where Wenger played a system where Ozil was often allowed to beyond Alexis, when the latter played centrally, he has not contributed the goals needed from his position.
Not since the first season of Santi Cazorla have Arsenal had their 10, in a 4231 likely to chip in with a double figure goal tally. The diminutive Spaniard contributed 12 assists and 12 goals (14 in all competitions) in his first Premier League season, primarily from 10, although he did move top the left of the 3, when Podolski fell out of favour in the second part of that campaign. Ozil from memory, only once surpassed that tally for assists and certainly never for goals. For me, this is the position that Arteta might prioritise this summer by targeting a midfielder who has the physicality Ozil lacks, coupled with the ability to break the lines by beating a man, as Santi did, and who can chip in with his fair share of goals and assists of course. The type of player required, and I am sure Emery believed Ceballos was this player, could play at 10 or advanced in a 3 but also play deeper, perhaps at home, against weaker sides, when Mesut could still play.
If the ‘Premier League ready’ tag is seriously among the criteria, and I agree it should be then there is one player who fits the bill and would be available the summer. On current form he may be off to the Euros so buying him before might be sensible. That man is Jack Grealish, the current Aston Villa captain and talisman. Some might advocate Madison, but in my view Grealish can play in the 2 at home if Arteta wants to be adventurous and at 10 with equal aplomb and the Leicester star man can’t play both roles to such a high level in my view.
Grealish has the low centre of gravity and strength of a central midfielder and the vision, passing ability and eye for goal of the 10 we had in Fabergas and briefly in Cazorla’s first season. In 2019/20, in a struggling side, without his side kick McGinn for several months, the young skipper has not only carried his team but has contributed 7 goals and 5 assists in the Premier League. I think it would be fair to say that without Grealish, Aston Villa would deeper in relegation trouble than they are. Therefore, as much as he undoubtedly loves his boyhood club, he will know that at the start of next season he will be 25 and with his crucial peak years ahead of him and he needs to move to a bigger club.
I am convinced that if Arsenal made Grealish their number one midfield target he would come. We know he loves The Emirates and the lure of being the main man at a club of Arsenal’s stature and working closely with a young coach who knows what it takes to succeed and improve must be hugely appealing. Arriving at The Emirates in the summer he will be arriving at the start of a project and I hope that would appeal to him. All that said, winning the Europa and guaranteeing Champions League football would be a clincher, particularly as our likely competition is Man United or (if we believe reports) Real Madrid. Some suggest a move to Old Trafford might even be agreed in principle but surely that is press speculation.
I actually cannot remember the last time I felt so strongly about wanting a particular player and if Arsenal are serious then the need to make their interest known to Grealish’s representatives now.