With an Arsenal transfer move for Dušan Vlahović looking increasingly less likely, Mikel Arteta and Edu are reportedly moving on to other options. Among them are Swedish international Alexander Isak from Real Sociedad, Canadian international Jonathan David at Lille, Serbian international Luka Jović from Real Madrid, Everton and England man Dominic Calvert Lewin, and twice-capped Spanish international Raúl de Tomás at Espanyol.
The Gunners need a new striker, if not now then this coming summer. Many think an upgrade before the January window closes on the 31st would be enough to secure at Top 4 finish for Arteta’s side. The club scored a solitary goal over five matches in January, and I agree with the general consensus that Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah ain’t it. Further, both are out of contract this summer. The relationship with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is apparently beyond repair, leaving the Gunners with Folarin Balogun and Tyreece John-Jules as the only true strikers under contract next season. So Arsenal need to bring in somebody before the start of the 2022-23 Premier League season.
Alexander Isak was linked with the Gunners over the summer but signed a contract extension with La Real that included a £75M release clause, likely in anticipation of an upcoming big-money move to a larger club. I don’t see Arsenal paying that much for Isak; they either negotiate that clause down or look elsewhere.
The 22-year old is a promising prospect that has the tools to become a star. His goals and xG numbers are roughly similar, which is a good sign that his appeal and price aren’t artificially inflated by gaudy but ultimately unsustainable scoring numbers. He’s in the 90th percentile for successful dribbles, which I like. Arsenal’s hesitancy to drive into the box and run at defenders against Burnley nearly drove me mad.
But Isak is not a finished product yet, he still has developing to do as do most of the targets linked with the Gunners — it’s a by-product of buying younger players. Is that a risk that Arsenal can take for a big number? Recent transfer business, Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale in particular, says yes.
Jonathan David is having a strong season at Lille with 12 goals in 22 appearances. In total, he has 25 goals in 59 matches in Ligue Un, which is a lower per appearance rate than...Nicolas Pépé (35 in 74). He has good passing and pressure numbers, and fbref comps have him similar to Alexandre Lacazette. The Arsenal attack got better when Lacazette became a regular starter, so perhaps a younger, better finishing (?) version would be the right move. The £50M price tag gives me pause, however.
Luka Jović has been linked with a move to North London in the last day or two but on a loan instead of a purchase. The Serbian attacker has struggled at Real Madrid and hasn’t come close to the 17 goals in 32 appearances form he had for Eintracht Frankfurt that prompted his £50M move to Spain before the 2019-20 season.
Jović is more of a passer and a dribbler than a finisher, so I’m not sure he’s the right fit for an Arsenal team that need to score goals. But the Gunners have had some success with recent moves for Madrid wantaways / surplus players, so maybe you go back to that well. Dani Ceballos helped the club win an FA Cup. Martin Ødegaard has been a fantastic signing. And I think signing Mesut Özil nearly 10 years ago worked out, too.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin intrigues me, but that might be familiarity more than anything else. He has by far the worst advanced stats of any of the players linked to Arsenal and has spent most of this season out with a fractured toe. He’s not injury prone however, he has 30+ appearances each of the last four seasons. Arsenal would have to pay the England tax plus whatever else extra it would take to pry him away from a genuinely relegation-threatened Everton side. So he’d cost upwards of £60M. But you don’t score 13 and 16 goals in the last two Premier League seasons by accident. He’s a solid player, more of a fox-in-the-box / finisher than anything else.
I’ll admit I know very little about Raúl de Tomás. Fbref and the internet tell me that he’s a very good dribbler, a solid passer, and takes a lot of shots. His goals and xG numbers are about even, which is good. For what it’s worth, one of his closest comps is Alexander Isak. But he’s also 27 and reportedly has an almost £60M release clause in his contract. Either that number gets negotiated down or he’s not coming to Arsenal.
What are Mikel Arteta and Edu looking for in a striker? And what specifically are they looking for this window? It looks as if Arsenal need two strikers for next season, so you don’t necessarily have to bring in your future #1, long-term starter. If you can get your backup for the next few years and you think he’ll be an upgrade of Lacazette and Nketiah right now, I think you do that deal, too. And if that’s on the table (which I think it should be), you could see Arsenal move for a veteran player that isn’t on this list and not flying about in the rumor mill as of this second.
And if you’re trying to get your future #1, it still depends on what type of player you want. If you want a scorer like Aubameyang was meant to be (and Vlahović looks to be), I think Alexander Isak is the best move with Dominic Calvert-Lewin as a secondary option. If you like the way the attack looks with Lacazette, Jonathan David is your guy. Or you could go get the #2 for the next few seasons in Raúl de Tomás. Or a stopgap with a 6-month loan for Luka Jović, although I’m not convinced he’s an upgrade unless he finds his form.
I think I need to get over some of the sticker shock I’m experiencing with the supposed price tags on players. After all, it isn’t my money. If Arsenal feel they can afford a player, I have to trust they can fit it in the budget, i.e. not prevent themselves from making other important moves. Additionally, strikers are expensive because ***news flash*** scoring goals is important. You’re going to have to shell out for a good one.
If I had to pick one of this bunch, I’m probably going with Isak. But as has become my refrain, I’m inclined to trust the decision-makers at the club right now. They’ll have good reasons for making whatever move to do (or don’t) make. And I’ll root like heck for whoever they bring in.