There is no doubt that strikers are on top of Arsenal’s summer shopping list.
Having failed to acquire Dusan Vlahovic in the winter, Arsenal reported also had interest in Jonathan David, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Alexander Isak, but it seems that ahead of the summer they are broadening their search.
One of the new names that appeared in reports recently is Darwin Nunez, a Uruguayan striker who currently plays for Benfica.
Danwin Nunez’ Profile
Position: FW(central striker)
Strong foot: Right
Transfer values according to Transfermarkt: 40m€
(3 years left on his contract)
Born in a small town of Artigas in Uruguay, Nunez’ chose Almeria in the Spanish second tier as his first step in Europe. In his debut year, he scored 16 goals in the league and next year when he was 21, he earned a move to Benfica with the transfer fee of 24m€. He actually broke the highest transfer fee record as a Almeria player.
In his first season in Portugal, he already showed his potential, scoring 6 goals and assisting 10(He played with Nuno Tavares at Benfica several times). However, He truly came to the centre stage this season. So far in his 24 league matches, he scored 24(with 3 assists) and also scored 5 in the Champions League.
He has already made his debut as a Uruguay international in 2019 and already scored 2 goals for the team.
While he has not played in any of the so called “big 5” European leagues, Nunez has plenty of experience playing against top level oppositions. In the Europa League and the Champions league he has already played 15 games combined. In fact, he played against Arsenal in the EL last season. too
This season, Nunez has scored goals against the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax, thereby helping Benfica to proceed to the last 16.
Nunez’ Playstyle, Strengths and Weaknesses
Darwin Nunez has many strengths. In Portugal what makes him stand out is his physicality. He is tall but also quick, and he seems to be physically a good fit for premier league.
When you consider that in the winter Arsenal were very seriously after the signature of Dusan Vlahovic and the fact that they have shown interests in players like Tammy Abraham and Dominic Calvert Lewin, what attributes Arsenal ideally want in their No.1 striker seems quite clear. Tall, good in the air, but not a lamppost. A striker who has a killer instinct in front of the goal but also relatively quick, technically gifted and can do a decent job at linking play.
These are very difficult to find in one package but Nunez seems to tick all the boxes and he is also very good at dribbling past his opponents. This side of his game is in a way similar to another of Arsenal’s striker target, Alexander Isak.
Nunez has been described as a shot-gun striker. He can play as a traditional targetman in the centre but he is mobile and can receive balls in wide areas too. His playstyle has been compared to that of Edison Cavani and Sergio Aguero(though Nunez is a taller version).
At Benfica, he has sometimes been deployed as a left sided forward of a two as well. Given that we have Martinelli and Smith Rowe on that side, Arsenal might not need him there, he will probably be able to fill in as a left winger.
He takes many shots, his non-penalty xG per 90 is very good, and his over all attacking stats including expected Assists and successful dribbles look fantastic.
The only (and pretty big)problem is that all these stats are recorded in the Portuguese league. As is the case with all the other players who come to the premier league from other countries, one can’t be 100% sure if Nunez can replicate those numbers in the premier league.
In terms of his weakness, the area he needs to work on is his ball control as his first touch can be sometime a bit off. In Portugal, thanks to his overwhelming physicality, this does not become a big problem and he can still keep the ball or dribble past the opponent. But in the premier league where there is a lot more pressure, tighter control will be helpful.
In addition, how much he can contribute to the team defensively, is a little unclear.
How much will he cost? Will he fit Arsenal?
As mentioned above, the biggest concern is whether Nunez can adapt to the premier league but he does seem to have the physical attributes required to play in England, and he is still only 22 years old.
However, while there is a good possibility that Nunez will eventually be able to adapt in England, it might be unrealistic to expect him to hit the ground running and start scoring many goals from the opening games of next season.
Ideally, Arsenal should give him plenty of adaptation time and If we were to sign two strikers this summer, it may be wise to sign another striker, who might not have as high a ceiling and be as much a goal threat as Nunez but who is experienced and already used to playing in the premier league.
There are also potential cultural and language barriers to consider, too. Traditionally, players from south America have tended to struggle with these aspects more than players from Europe. At Arsenal for example, Martinelli and Gabriel are doing very well but players like Lucas Torreira and Gabriel Paulista really struggled.
It seems pretty likely that Darwin Nunez will move to a bigger club this summer, but it remains to be seen whether Arsenal will be chosen as his destination, or how serious Arsenal’s interest in him is.
It has been reported that 50m£ bid from West ham was rejected by Benfica in the winter and in order to test Benfica’s resolve, offers in the region of 60-70m£ might be required.
At this point, it doesn’t seem that Arsenal has made up their mind as for who their number one striker target is, and they must be considering various options simultaneously.
Nunez seems to be in the high-risk-high-return category compared to other targets, but he surely has potential and he might be worth the gamble.
Arsenal fan and football journalist in Japan. Used to live in northern England. Very interested in football data analytics and gardening.