Despite the lack of Premier League action this month, there has still been plenty to talk about, specifically the return of the PL and how Arsenal plan on navigating their fixture list in the absence of striker Gabriel Jesus, who is set to miss up to three months after needing knee surgery last week.
Eddie Nketiah is the de facto incumbent to lead the line. However, that leaves the Gunners with a giant question mark behind him, as there are no out-and-out strikers in the first team besides he and Jesus. If reports from this morning are to be believed, however, Arsenal may not be without depth for long, as the club have positioned themselves in the lead for the signature of Atletico Madrid’s João Felix.
Arsenal, it seems, ‘have taken the lead’ & are ‘very well placed’ in the race to sign Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid in January. [Marca] #afc pic.twitter.com/5RFUB5wWKA— afcstuff (@afcstuff) December 12, 2022
Arsenal’s January transfer plans were always going to involve an attacker, especially as the Gunners look to extend their lead at the top of the table and pick up where they left off when the entire footballing world paused for the World Cup. While the majority of the reports had been fixed on Shakhtar Donetsk’s winger Mykhailo Mudryk, the emergence of Felix as a target could potentially shift Edu and Mikel Arteta’s plans.
Much like Arsenal’s Martin Ødegaard, João Felix has been one of the hottest young names in the world for the last few seasons. The Portuguese attacker lit the world on fire at Benfica before making a big-money move to La Liga’s Atletico Madrid in 2019 for €126 million. Despite signing a seven year contract, Felix’s relationship with manager Diego Simeone has been reported to have deteriorated this season, forcing the player to tell his agent to find a new club in the winter transfer window.
On paper, he is a perfect target for Arteta. He checks all of the boxes - young, talented, and versatile, the last of which is most important. Arteta has made a priority of adding positionally flexible players to the attack. Felix can play centrally, on the wing, or as an attacking midfielder. With injuries next to impossible to predict or avoid, having another Swiss Army knife player would be immense as the Gunners look to remain competitive in the league, Europa League, and the FA Cup.
João Felix works is about as perfect a Gabriel Jesus analogue as you can get. Much like Jesus, his ball carrying, vision, and positioning are elite. However, like Jesus, he isn’t renowned for his goal scoring return, which may be in part to the rigid system Simeone has built at Atletico. But his value in the attack is tremendous in his ability to create space for other attackers and his willingness to take on defenders on the dribble, which makes up for his lack of consistent finishing.
The biggest prohibitive part of all of this is the reported price tag, which is reported to be in the range of €100m. There is no world in which Arsenal pay that much for a player, especially in the winter. Arteta had to move heaven and earth to rebuild the roster and stop the club from bleeding money on bloated contracts and transfer fees. If he can be had for €70m, I think there is a chance Arsenal make a move. Considering the fact that he is linked to rival Manchester United, who have no problem throwing good money after bad, this could become a bidding war that Arsenal cannot afford to get into.
But, if I were a young, talented attacker looking for a fresh start, what better place than with the Premier League leaders and one of the game’s hottest young coaching minds? At the end of the day, Felix would improve this side, and that’s what matters.
As always, we will keep our ears to the ground as events develop.