Soon after the end of last season, as he signed his new contract as Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger announced the club will bring in “maximum two to three” new players in the upcoming transfer window. Halfway through it, the Gunners are stronger for offensive full-back (wing-back) Sead Kolašinac and one of this summer’s star signings, prolific striker Alexandre Lacazette, for whom Arsenal broke their transfer fee record.
This surely pleased the fans who were, as always, screaming for a big name addition to the squad. On top of that, Arsenal managed to hold on to Mesut Ozil and that seems to be the case with Alexis Sanchez as well, at least for another season. The Chilean has been, without a doubt, the club’s best player last term and attracted open interest from a number of top sides, but Wenger is decidedly ruling out his departure, signalling the club no longer needs to sell its top assets.
But, after the French manager confirmed at his last couple of press conferences that Arsenal are still active in transfer market, we can expect that third reinforcement. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Wenger and his staff pull it out on the final day of the window, when there’s a lot happening, but this deal seems inevitable. And necessary – for a really strong charge on the Premier League throne.
The question is: what kind of player should this last piece of the puzzle be? Some fans are always rooting for another defender unsatisfied with Arsenal’s ability to sustain the pressure, but Wenger has a lot of choice at the back, even in his new 3-4-2-1 (or 3-4-3 if you will) formation, including full-back/wing-back position. Some are always calling for more attacking force, but there again Arsenal have Sanchez, Giroud, Lacazette, Wellbeck, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Iwobi (unlucky Lucas Perez seems destined to leave) – who can all play in various combinations. Coquelin looks like he’s found his sharpness back as a holding midfielder, while Xhaka proved much better in this position alongside Ramsey in the new system. Elneny can fill in as well.
It seems obvious Arsenal are in need of one more player in shape of Santiago Cazorla. With the Spain magician at the age of 32 and yet to come back from the injury that kept him out for almost the entire last campaign, it is very questionable of when he will return to action, how much time will he need to raise his game to recognizable level and whether he’ll be able to remain fit. Something that has been a constant struggle for his young but injury-prone successor Jack Wilshere, who might be on his way out anyway.
Many times last season we’ve witnessed that when Ozil was cut out or simply wasn’t on top of his game, Arsenal were desperate for another player who could get out of the tight spaces, control the ball, hold off the pressure. Someone who could split the opposition defense with a pass of great vision and dictate the tempo of the game.
All these virtues can be recognized more or less in three players that have been linked repeatedly with the North London side since the transfer window opened – Riyad Mahrez, Thomas Lemar and Jean Michael Seri. Although Mahrez was practically offering his services to Arsenal after missing out on joining them last term, the Algerian looks set to join Roma.
Instead, Arsenal turned their attention to AS Monaco’s Lemar, who seems perfect fit for Wenger’s team: he’s only 21, pacey, very versatile as he can play on both flanks but also as a playmaker. Plus, he can play with either foot like Cazorla, is a great dribbler and a free-kick taker. The only problem – Monaco seem determined to keep him. At least, at the moment…
What would Arsenal get if they focus on Seri? The Ivorian from OGC Nice is ever present in midfield. He can sit deep and pull the strings but also be used as a box-to-box player with his great engine and ability to glide past the opponents. Seri can also serve as a perfect No.10 where he is the biggest threat to the goalkeepers – whether he looks for an assist or a shot. Oh, and he’s more available than Lemar… Especially if Nice fail to qualify for Champions League group stage.
There are other possible targets in Pizzi from Benfica or Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech, but Arsenal should definitely look for a player of this profile to help them push for the titles. Sooner the better, as the Premier League is approaching fast.