Arsenal’s creative deficit has been obvious for some time. While Mikel Arteta has made the Gunners tougher to break down, giving his team a structure they were desperately lacking under Unai Emery, the North London side have struggled to create opportunities of their own through the centre of the pitch.
This was certainly clear in the goalless draw against Leeds United on Sunday, when Arsenal mustered just two shots on target. Hector Bellerin and Bukayo Saka were the Gunners’ most creative players, making just two key passes each. This was still a statistical high among Arteta’s team.
Of course, there was recognition from Arteta in the summer that Arsenal needed a creative midfielder. This explained why the Gunners made Houssem Aouar a target, with the Lyon playmaker seen as the solution to their problems. Indeed, the France international would have been a significant upgrade on what Arsenal currently have, which is very little.
Ultimately, Lyon held firm in their valuation of Aouar and Arsenal moved for Thomas Partey instead, sanctioning a £45 million deal for the Ghanian midfielder on deadline day. Thomas has made a good start to life in North London, but he is a different sort of central operator to someone like Aouar.
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While Thomas offers drive from a deep position at the base of the midfield, Arsenal need someone who can pick a pass through a low defensive blow. Someone who can make something happen out of nothing. Someone who can turn one point into three. Thomas was a good addition, but he is not this sort of player.
The January transfer window offers Arsenal another opportunity to address this clear deficiency in their squad. The club needed a cash injection from owner Stan Kroenke to sign Thomas from Atletico Madrid and with the Covid-19 pandemic still restricting revenue streams it’s likely they would need another injection to return for Aouar.
Other options may have to be explored. Philippe Coutinho has previously been linked with a loan switch to Arsenal. The Brazilian excelled in the Premier League PINC for Liverpool and would certainly give the Gunners more creativity around the edge of the opposition penalty area. Coutinho has struggled to nail down a place in the Barca lineup this season and so it’s possible he could be tempted by a loan move to a side where he’d be one of the first names on the team sheet.
However, Coutinho is most effective when deployed off the left and this is an area where Arsenal are well stocked. They need a more natural number 10. Someone who can play behind a central striker and act as the line between the midfield and the attack. Coutinho would give Arsenal more star quality, but he would be an awkward fit, tactically.
Dominik Szoboszlai has been mentioned as a possible target, with the Hungarian catching the eye for Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League this season. The 20-year-old is a central figure with significant potential to grow and develop even further. What’s more, it’s reported Szoboszlai has a £22.5 million release clause written into his contract.
Arsenal aren’t the only ones monitoring Szoboszlai, though, with almost every elite level club in Europe currently linked with a move for the Hungarian. Arteta would have to sell his vision to the player with the world at his feet. That might be rather difficult given the underwhelming results registered by Arsenal recently.
Lille’s Yusuf Yazici name has also appeared in the gossip column, with speculation only set to swirl faster and faster as January approaches. Arsenal’s problems have never been clearer, but that doesn’t make them easy to solve. Finding the right player to act as creator in-chief will be difficult.
Source: Forbes – Business