The idea that the Bundesliga is both a proving ground for Premier League youth talent, and a league that teaches them the virtues of counter-attacking, efficient football, remains as relevant as ever. Emile Smith-Rowe and Reiss Nelson have both benefitted from this state of affairs, and that in itself has put the Bundesliga in a favourable light amongst paying fans.
In addition, not a day goes by where the media fails to link the ‘next Robert Lewandowski’ to a Premier League club. While most rumours end up going nowhere, there are some young starlets from the German top flight that Arteta would be foolish not to consider pursuing.
Short- and long-term Auba replacements needed
Going into August, the prospect of losing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is as devastating as it appears inevitable. A failure to replace last season’s Gabonese golden boot winner will undoubtedly prevent Arsenal from improving their odds within Premier League title betting for next season, and if Barcelona want him, they will surely get him.
Naturally, the prospect of losing ‘Auba’ for nothing further underlines the need for Arteta to box clever in the transfer market. While the marquee striker needed to fill an Auba-shaped hole effectively is certainly not a media-styled ‘Bundesliga wonderkid’, Arteta could do worse than to target Florian Wirtz, with a view to deploying the Leverkusen attacking midfielder behind Alexandre Lacazette.
Wirtz might never feature in the first-team setup initially, and would likely end up going back from whence he came on loan. That said, he hasn’t been anointed the Bundesliga’s youngest-ever scorer – and linked to champions Liverpool – for no reason. Furthermore, FC Köln academy boss and sporting director Jörg Jakobs has compared him to the apparently Chelsea-bound Kai Havertz, and that alone should turn many heads.
Midfield reinforcements the next step
Justified though it was, Granit Xhaka’s scathing assessment of Arsenal after their defeat at Aston Villa on 21 July has created more questions than answers. Whether or not his criticism is a reflection of his desire to stay and stop the rot, or merely a veiled assertion that he has ‘had enough’ of the shambles around him, is very open to interpretation.
Of course, many Gunners fans still believe that his gesture towards them in October 2019, during that infamous substitution against Crystal Palace, represents a point of no return for the Swiss midfielder. If he ends up going elsewhere, Weston McKennie is a fair-game replacement, with the Schalke midfielder also linked to a raft of English and Italian clubs.
The 2019/20 campaign has seen the boy from Little Elm, Texas become a man:
Most impressive of all is his international form, with a goal against Portugal (on his USMNT debut) and a 13-minute hat-trick against Cuba standing prominent in his fledgling career. According to the Bundesliga’s official site, clocking over six miles a match is a regular occurrence for McKennie, and for those that believe Arsenal’s midfield lacks mobility, McKennie could be the answer to their prayers.
‘Relevant’ defensive skills key to progress
McKennie’s ability to break down opposition attacks would also make the job of another Bundesliga target all the easier. The youngster in question is centre-back Dayot Upamecano ,who has provided exceptional service in the RB Leipzig backline. Upamecano’s skillset is extremely relevant to the Premier League, with his primary ability lying within driving the ball and beating a high press.
His distribution already puts to shame some Bundesliga defenders many years his senior, and provides teammates with a greater range of options on the counter attack. Of course the new that he has signed a new deal with a ‘buy-out’ price might make this harder for Arsenal.
A ‘new dynasty’ distant, but possible
With the post-Emery form of Martinelli, Saka, Willock and Nketiah serving to justify Arteta’s pro-youth policy beyond expectations, there is more reason than ever to believe that the man from San Sebastian was the right choice. Of course, adding other players in a similar age bracket is not without its risks, given how desperately Arsenal need to re-enter the Champions League.
Nonetheless, the more optimistic of Arsenal fans will take inspiration from teams of years past that took a similar decision. In that regard, Manchester United’s ‘Class of 92’ remains one of a kind, and while focusing entirely on young prospects will in no way guarantee a similar outcome, stories such as those prove that the right side of history ultimately belongs to the courageous.
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