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Transfer Rumor: Arsenal interested in Hakan Calhanoglu

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The Gunners view him as a backup option to Martin Ødegaard, and he looks much more likely to remain at A.C. Milan.

AC Milan v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Arsenal have had internal discussions about signing Hakan Çalhanoğlu on a free transfer, per James Benge. The 27-year old Turkish attacker is out of contract with A.C. Milan, but according to reports out of Italy, has told his Rossoneri teammates he’s interested in re-signing with the club. Arsenal have been linked with Çalhanoğlu in the past with nothing coming of it, and if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on him not making his way to North London this time either.

For starters, A.C. Milan, where he seems most likely to be next season, are in the Champions League. Arsenal, as we all know, are not in Europe. Second, when players sign on free transfers, some of the money “saved” from not paying a transfer fee gets baked into the new contract for the player in the form of signing and performance bonuses and increased wages (see e.g. Willian’s contract). The Gunners are working hard to control their weekly wage bill and generally keep their wage structure reasonable.

Reasons that he probably isn’t heading to North London aside, he’s a solid player that would probably improve Arsenal. From FBref:

Two things jump off the page: his shot-creating actions and his progressive passes / carries. One of the biggest, most consistent criticisms of the Arsenal attack last season was that the team did not generate enough shots. Obviously, Çalhanoğlu helps with that. And one of the biggest concerns heading into next season, especially if Granit Xhaka is sold, is who, other than Thomas Partey, is going to progress the ball. Çalhanoğlu plays in a much more advanced role than does Partey, so he wouldn’t be shouldering exactly the same burden, but Partey’s gotta pass to somebody, right? It’d be good if the person receiving passes from deeper areas was good at getting the ball further up the pitch.

Those defensive numbers, especially the pressures and tackles are concerning in light of the higher-pressing system we think Mikel Arteta would like to play. Çalhanoğlu’s output is also buoyed a bit by his prodigious skill on set pieces. And while it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Arsenal to add a set piece specialist given their attacking ones were among the worst in the Premier League last season, I question whether a guy who is good not great from open play in the slower Serie A wouldn’t struggle in the faster-paced Premier League.

Martin Ødegaard is still Arsenal’s number one attacking midfielder target. Hakan Çalhanoğlu is a fine backup (or backup-backup) plan if that transfer doesn’t come together. He’s not as good, comes with more question marks, and isn’t as good of a fit, which is why he’s further down the target list. I don’t think we’ll see him at the Emirates next season, and if we do, sure, fine, whatever. It’d be a reasonable, unexciting move.