Coming into the summer, Arsenal’s needs were very apparent: Arsenal needed a center forward, who they have appear to have got, and they needed a new central midfielder to play as a number 8 in Mikel Arteta’s 4-3-3. If finances allowed, there was a need for a wide forward, and another fullback. Thus, Arsenal have proceeded to sign a young attacking midfielder, and are turning their full attention to a winger. However, looking more deeply at Arsenal’s needs, it makes sense.
Last season, Arsenal won one game after falling behind. While part of that is tactical—it is the only Premier League game under Mikel Arteta that Arsenal have won from falling behind—some of it also has to do with Arsenal’s squad. In much of the second half of the season, Arsenal had either Emile Smith Rowe, who was not fully fit, or Gabriel Martinelli on the bench, a badly out of form Nicolas Pépé, and, once he lost his starting place, a center forward who scored fewer non-penalty goals than Gabriel Magalhães. More attacking options on the bench is a necessity, and Arsenal seem to be targeting that area of the pitch.
According to The Athletic, Arsenal see Fabio Vieira as a player who can play in the number 10 role and the number 8 role, and he has played on the right hand side too. He gravitates to pockets on the inside left and inside right channels, and although naturally left footed, is not opposed to using his right foot. He can play with or instead of players like Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka.
That same notion extends to Raphinha, who can play instead of Bukayo Saka, or see Saka move to the left hand side or elsewhere on the pitch. Raphinha, as a wide forward, has a good goal-scoring record, and one function of Arsenal’s attacking play is that the two wide players are the finishers. This has been seen in multiple ways in Arteta’s Arsenal: first in having Aubameyang wide, and then having the most productive last season be Smith Rowe for the first half of the season, and then Martinelli. Saka, in that sense, was a special case: Smith Rowe, for example, often scored at the end of attacking moves, whereas Saka’s goals were a little more off the cuff, special, and not scripted. Yet, it still points to a need for the wide player to be able to score goals—which became a problem for Arsenal at the end of the season, as Saka came to the edge physically, Smith Rowe battled injury, and Martinelli went in and out of scoring form. Finally, all of those players are under 22—inconsistency is to be expected.
Another aspect here is that in Arsenal’s attack, we can expect Saka, Gabriel Jesus, and Gabriel Martinelli to all go to the World Cup. Smith Rowe could join them, as could Raphinha, should he join Arsenal. For Arteta, then, it’ll be crucial to balance minutes in the second half of the season. If Arsenal are to improve next season, they’ll need to up creativity and scoring. One way to do that is to just get more creativity in the squad. So far, Arsenal look to be doing just that.