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Arsenal Transfer Rumor: Romeo Lavia

Mikel Arteta wants to sign two central midfielders this summer.

Nottingham Forest v Southampton - Premier League - City Ground Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Arsenal have emerged as front-runners to sign Romeo Lavia from Southampton. The relegated side value the 19-year old midfielder at £45M, but Arsenal are hopeful that price will come down out of necessity — Lavia wants to leave and the Saints need to cushion the financial blow of dropping from the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta wants to sign two central midfielders this summer — Declan Rice and somebody else. Initially, that was thought to be Moises Caicedo, but Brighton’s demands (they’re asking close to £100M) have likely priced the Gunners out. Chelsea are now thought to be Caicedo’s likely destination, although the Blues difficult financial situation may prove a stumbling block as well.

Arsenal’s interest in Kai Havertz is an interesting wrinkle. The German attacker’s price tag (Chelsea are asking for £75M, which they won’t get) is part of the reason why Arsenal are looking at alternatives to Caicedo. The club probably can’t afford to bring in two £90-100M players (perhaps period) and certainly can’t buy a £50M player on top of that.

Whatever Arsenal end up spending for Havertz, and it looks as if the deal is more likely to happen than not, will help Chelsea towards buying Caicedo. But I doubt that the Gunners will let their business be affected by what it may or may not enable for rival clubs, and rightfully so. Mikel Arteta and Edu should make the moves they think put Arsenal in the best position for success.

If that is buying Romeo Lavia from Southampton, go for it. Arteta and Edu have more than earned some level of trust in their talent and fit evaluations. At Southampton, Lavia’s defensive action numbers were strong — you’d expect a CDM playing for a poor team to rack up tackles, interceptions, and blocks. Similarly, his attacking contributions were limited, which likely was more a function of the team than a deficiency in his game.

Interestingly, Lavia ranks in the 75th percentile for successful take-ons, which is likely one of the reasons Mikel Arteta rates him. The Arsenal manager wants players who can progress the ball up the pitch, and even though Lavia doesn’t compare favorably in terms of number of progressive carries, you’d expect a player who is good at beating opponents on the dribble to be able to get the ball up the pitch playing for a better team that creates more time and space and provides him with passing outlets, too.

Lavia, like Declan Rice, would bring a physicality, athleticism, and tenacity that the Gunners lack in the midfield. When I watch Manchester City, it seems as if their players are everywhere. They seem to get eight players forward into the attack while somehow also having numbers up at the back when defending against counterattacks. That’s in large part due to the athleticism of Rodri and John Stones and the intelligence and positioning of Kevin de Bruyne / Ilkay Gundogan to a lesser extent. Adding both central midfielders would go a long way towards Arsenal being able to do something similar.

Manchester City reportedly have a buyback clause in Lavia’s contract — they sold Lavia to Southampton last summer — but they’re reportedly unlikely to exercise it. It seems as if Arsenal should be able to get the move over the line if they decide to pull the trigger.