The transfer window officially opened last Monday, and as Mikel Arteta begins to make his plans for the future, one man who seems certain not to be a part of them is Mesut Ozil.
Relations between the two have gotten so bad that the luminous blonde mane of academy youngster Mathew Smith was chosen on the bench ahead of the umbrella twirling German for Saturday’s FA Cup Final victory over Chelsea.
For years now our priorities going into the summer transfer window have without fail been to sign a dominant centre back and a tough tackling defensive midfielder. But allow me for a second just to pose what might be quite an unpopular opinion. The attacking midfield position for Arsenal is far more important.
It was not so long ago that Arsenal were almost laughed at – whether rightly or wrongly – for possessing so many of the ‘same’ type of creative number 10s as Arsene Wenger tried to recreate Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona dynasty at the Emirates. At one stage Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta were all in the squad as established first team creative midfielders. Now we hardly seem to have any.
In my previous article I looked at Emiliano Buendia and Phillipe Coutinho as potential remedies to this latest ailment in the Arsenal first team set up. One name I didn’t consider though is that of Bournemouth’s David Brooks.
On the face of it, you might think that the 23-year-old has been something of a one season wonder. After an impressive debut season with the Cherries he was out injured for most of the 2019/20 campaign and wasn’t able to do enough to keep his side in the Premier League.
But Arsenal are in no position to be turning their noses up players from relegated teams. In recent years they have proved something of a goldmine from clubs looking to bring in quality on the cheap. Three of Liverpool’s Champions and Premier League winning squad – Andrew Robertson, Gini Wijnaldum and Xherdan Shaqiri – were signed from clubs who had gone down the season before. Brooks has the potential to be one of those ‘hidden’ gems.
He has admirers from teams who have finished comfortably above us this season in Leicester and Manchester United. The Foxes, in particular, have showed impressive transfer acumen in recent years, so if they are sniffing round then there’s no reason we shouldn’t be too.
A goal scoring midfielder from Wales will bring back fond memories for Arsenal fans of a player who sadly departed the Emirates set up last year. But those who have watched him on a more regular basis say that he is more reminiscent of another former Gunner still kicking around the club today.
“Play him in the right position and give him the right service and he might even become the new Freddie Ljundberg” says Steve Jenkins from Bournemouth site The South End.
Brooks takes up similar positions to Freddie on the inside right channel of the pitch and is also blessed with the Swede’s knack for popping up with important goals.
“In his first season he managed 7 goals in 30 Premier League appearances, not a bad return for a newcomer. Expectations for the 2019/20 season were high and if he had been fully fit this season, we’re sure he would have scored more.
“Would he be able to bring the same level of goal scoring to Arsenal? Almost certainly.”
It’s something we could definitely use next season. None of our midfielders have scored more than once in the Premier League this year, and Mikel Arteta has already expressed a desire to change this.
Far from being just a goal scorer though Brooks has the ability to link the base of Arsenal’s midfield to its phenomenal attack. Predominantly left-footed but also highly capable with his right he has traits reminiscent of another fan favourite – Santi Cazorla.
It’s this ability that Steve believes will allow him to thrive at Arsenal: “when the opposition try to show him down the line he can cut inside, pass the ball, get into space and wait for the return and get a shot on target. If he is in a tight spot he is not adverse to a drag back or a cheeky nutmeg to get himself into space. He is always looking to get forward and launch an attack.”
His press resistance and skill at manoeuvring out of tight spaces seem perfect for the Pep-si Light brand of football Arteta has admitted he wants to play. It’s something that we lack in the team right now. Granit Xhaka will rarely look to pass the ball forwards unless it’s at a minimum distance of 40 yards, and Dani Ceballos, while blessed with a whirling dervish-like ability to spin away from opposition players, has shown his best form in a much deeper role.
So Brooks clearly has traits of ghosts of Arsenal past, but what about those that still haunt us in the present. Mesut Ozil may be lacking when it comes to our new manager’s non-negotiables, but if there’s one thing the World Cup winner can do, it’s pass a blummin’ football. This is sadly something the Bournemouth man just isn’t as good at. He has managed just five assists in two seasons at the Vitality. Despite playing arguably his worst two seasons at the Emirates, Ozil has the same tally in that time.
However, creativity is still part of Brooks’ game and Steve believes he can bring a lot of value to the Arsenal midfield: “He can definitely spot a pass that a lot of other players can’t see.
“While his game may seem to be focused on getting in the box to finish off chances, he is often the creative spark two or three moves back that sees the ball finally end up at his feet. As an attacking midfielder it is sometimes missed, the chances he creates for his fellow teammates, especially the strikers.”
Put Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the end of those chances instead of Dominic Solanke and, as he showed yet again in the cup final against Chelsea, goals will inevitably follow. Given that we scored 17 fewer goals this season than we did last, that has to be an exciting prospect for Arsenal fans.
Brooks is likely to be available for around £15-20m this summer, and despite the much needed revenue boost from securing Europa League football, Arsenal still need hawkeye-like precision in this transfer window (sorry Bournemouth fans…). It’s the sort of bargain we could really use.
He might not be a direct replacement for our current number 10, but with goals as well as creativity we could do a lot worse than to fish him from the Bournemouth coast.