Arsenal’s attack has lacked width for a while now. Not the width that the wing back system has provided, and at times been successful at, but true attacking width. Probably since Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were at their peaks for Arsenal did the club have pace and dribbling that offered opposition defense another element to worry about.
In 2018-19 Arsenal played Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Iwobi, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan out wide more often. Even Mesut Ozil was given a game as a wide winger. So it comes as no surprise that, for yet another transfer window, the club is being linked with young, talented wingers. Arsenal have enough transfer rumor links to easily make a starting eleven. Ryan Fraser was an early name in the race and Yannick Carrasco has been rumored for weeks now. Now, we add Keita Baldé to the that list.
Who is Keita Baldé?
The French outlet Le10 Sport first reported that Arsenal were interested in the player. We can’t speak to the historical validity or quality of that source, so instead let’s consider who the player is, if the profile makes sense for Arsenal’s path forward and if it would be a good transaction.
The 24-year-old started out in the Barcelona academy, eventually progressing up to their U17 side. In 2011, he moved to Lazio before making his pro debut in Serie A in 2013. After several years in Rome, Baldé was sold to Monaco for €30 million in 2017. After a season in Ligue 1 he was loaned to Inter Milan last season, as Monaco attempted to deal with their latest financial battle.
Over the course of last season in Serie A, he played at left wing, right wing, center forward and as a withdrawn second striker. However, all of his goals came from the left attacking position. Baldé averaged a goal or assist every 110 minutes in 2018/19, a rate that, if replicated and continued over the course of an entire season, would really benefit Arsenal’s attack.
Apparently, Inter Milan are not looking to renew the loan deal or go for a full purchase. The reports indicate that Monaco are looking for €34 million.
Will/Should Arsenal Buy Him?
Regardless as to what Arsenal’s actual budget is or what players they might sell, only one left attacking player is coming in this summer (if any). So, is that Baldé, Carrasco or Fraser? Over his entire senior career Keita has averaged a goal or an assist about every one and a half games. 39 goals and 23 assists from just over 8,000 minutes.
Bringing him in, or really any of those three, would likely see Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rotate more often as the lone striker. Alex Iwobi could either be pushed central to rotate with Mesut Ozil, or kept as the other left option if both striker remaining up top. On the right Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Reiss Nelson vie for starts, while Unai Emery could potentially move Aubameyang there if he really wanted both strikers on at the same time.
Valued at €25m, reports indicating a price of $35m, but keep in mind that Monaco are still looking to sell players. Arsenal can’t afford him outright if they want to also try to address their other issues. It’s especially tough to justify this move when Carrasco is reportedly available for a lower amount. If someone like Ozil or Mkhitaryan were to be sold this summer, which is unlikely, then that of course changes the conversation and opens up the cash to purchase more new attack threats.
Verdict: Buy, but only if the price is less than Carrasco’s and a new defender is secured first.