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Cody Gakpo: Arsenal transfer target on the move this summer?

Could the 23-year old Dutchman be on the way to North London?

PEC Zwolle v PSV - Dutch Eredivisie Photo by Photo Prestige/Soccrates/Getty Images

Cody Gakpo, PSV Eindhoven’s 23-year old attacking star, may be on the move this summer. Arsenal are among the clubs interested in acquiring his services, as they reportedly were in the January transfer window. The Dutch international has potted 21 goals and added 15 assists in 47 appearances in all competitions this season for the Dutch side. According to the Daily Mail, he’s priced between £30M and £40M, which is a reasonable price and an attainable number for Arsenal as well as all of the other clubs said to be interested in him.

Instead of moving in January, Gakpo signed a new deal with PSV that runs through 2026, so the club won’t feel tremendous pressure to move him this summer. He recently said, “anything can happen this summer,” that he’ll assess his options, including staying in the Netherlands, and that it’s important to him to move to a club where he is going to play so that he can show well and have a shot at the Dutch World Cup team. I think cuts in Arsenal’s favor because whoever the Gunners add this summer will immediately be a featured player if not a lock for the regular XI.

For what it’s worth, Gakpo has said that he “likes Arsenal a lot” and that he looked up to Thierry Henry. He also mentioned that he watches Liverpool because of Virgil van Dijk.

It’s difficult for me to assess Gakpo because I don’t watch much (any) of the Eredivisie. Further, there isn’t nearly as much advanced data readily available from the Dutch league. That said, he’s 1st in the Eredivisie in non-penalty goals + assists per 90 minutes and 4th in shots per 90 minutes. For what it’s worth, CIES Football Observatory estimate that he’s the 4th-most valuable player outside the big five leagues, behind Darwin Nunez, Antony dos Santos, and Goncalo Inacio.

Here’s what the inimitable Scott Willis (@oh_that_crab) pulled on Gakpo last month. I like that Gakpo isn’t just a “move-finisher” and key passes along with taking shots. The low xG per shot attempt tells me that he may have a slightly over-itchy trigger finger (foot?) when it comes to firing on goal.

That Gakpo being linked with Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Manchester United is also a good sign of his quality. With the caveat that the links could be coming from his camp to drum up interest, all those big clubs can’t be wrong about the guy, right?

My biggest concern is that big transfer moves for Eredivisie players have been hit or miss the past few years. The league isn’t as competitive as the big five, and players have struggled to replicate their Eredivisie successes elsewhere. Steve Bergwijn, Donny van der Beek, and Hakim Ziyech jump to mind as prime examples of guys who have struggled to secure Premier League places after being dominant in the Netherlands. On the other hand, Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, and Donyell Malen (to a lesser extent), have all done well after leaving the Eredivisie, though none of them play in England.

Scott Willis also has adjusted values for Gakpo’s stats. I don’t know exactly how his weighting works, but he adjusts for strength of league. Note: the two graphics aren’t exact mirrors in terms of what stats are displayed.

I don’t know what to make of the rumor. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be the amount of momentum to it that there was around the guys that Arsenal ended up signing last summer. Like, there came a point where we pretty much knew Arsenal were signing Aaron Ramsdale and Ben White. We knew they wanted Martin Ødegaard, too. And Tomiyasu was a deadline day deal.

The lack of buzz around Gakpo might be more a function of where we are in the transfer calendar than an indicator of tea leaves to be read. If the frequency of the rumor picks up in the coming weeks, we’ll have a better idea of whether Arsenal are actually in for him.

I think Arsenal can do better / find a “safer” buy. But I’m also on the record that I’m going to trust Mikel Arteta and his staff’s ability to assess their needs and which players best fit them. Arsenal need to get their moves right this summer. I don’t doubt that the club are going to spend, but they don’t have Champions League money and probably can’t spend top dollar on multiple “sure thing” names. Maybe the edge to be gained is in gambling on players from outside the top five leagues. Maybe Cody Gakpo is the right bet to place.