As is widely known, Arsenal lack quality depth in most positions but it’s especially evident on the flanks. Today I will present to you some options from Europe’s T5 leagues that can really make a difference.
Before we begin, I will briefly explain what I am looking for in my touchline winger for Arsenal football club.
Lately, Arteta has shifted to a 4-3-3 with 2 free 8s (like Pep). This system requires high-quality touchline wingers to function properly. The fundamental requirement for the wingers in this role is as follows- Good in 1v1s, good outlets, good first touch, explosive power, high level of technical ability and associative prowess, good low/high cross, comfortable going in and out, and good movement inside/outside the box. Of course, there are other requirements as well but the above for me are the most important. And Arsenal only have 2 that tick all the fundamental and most of the optional boxes. Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. ESR performs the role to a good level as well but he is not a touchline winger. He is best when occupying the half-spaces. Nico Pepe, well… let’s just say he is not suited to being a touchline winger in a Possession based system (Extremely poor fundamentals relative to the role)
So, it makes perfect sense that Arsenal are on the lookout for a wing player and today I bring to you some very exciting options.
To find how the radars are calculated, scroll down to the end of the page. The majority of the plots are presented with Saka in comparison to giving a brief idea about what we are looking at relative to what we already have.
We have discussed above, the type of profile Arsenal utilize on the flanks. Now let’s narrow it down to what we specifically need. Do we need a left footed right winger, right footed left winger, or someone else?
Of Arsenal’s current options only Gabi and Saka fit the winger role to a tee and ESR can operate well, but is not as effective. The LW is not the biggest issue because we have Gabi, ESR and Saka who can play that position at a good to very high level. But on the RW we only have Saka to do that. ESR and Gabi are subpar, and Nico doesn’t even pass the entry requirements. So, the player we should be on the lookout for has to tick the following boxes-
1 – Fulfills all our fundamental requirements (at the minimum)
2 – Is primarily a Right-winger
3 – Should be able to play LW to a good standard (not a make or break)
Since we have now narrowed it down to such an extent, we’ll have to be flexible when drawing out a potential list of targets. The following players are from my B-list. The players on this list don’t have to tick points 2 and 3.
Federico Chiesa – Juventus
Chiesa is a serious player; I don’t think anybody doubts that. Has played < 1000 minutes this season but I still included him as an exception (criteria is players with more than 1000 mins played). The only reason he is not on the A-list is that he suffered the dreaded ACL injury this season. And we have seen first-hand the drop-off in performances after an ACL injury, in players that are heavily reliant on their pace and acceleration (Heccy B)
Hirving Lozano – Napoli
Great explosiveness and 1v1 ability. Good movement inside the box. Brave. Can play on both sides and go in/out on both sides. Would be a smart acquisition. But Napoli bought him for 40 million and will certainly look for 50 million+ for a sale. We could get one of our A-listers for that price. Need to scout him more but Lozano definitely deserves more love than he gets.
Daniel Podence – Wolves
Seriously underrated baller. His low centre of gravity + explosive power makes him a great 1v1 attacker. Arsenal fans need only rewatch the Wolves game to understand how good this guy is. One of my favourites on this list.
Samuel Chukwueze – Villareal FC
Statistically one of the best on the B-list. But the numbers can be misleading. He’s appeared as a sub 15 times in the league alone. And it’s not difficult to cheat the numbers for a relatively fast, skilful winger against tired full-backs. His radar looks good but he is one of my least favourite options on this list. I could be wrong and I get that but as of right now he is near the bottom in my pecking order.
Jarrod Bowen – West Ham United
Has had a great season in terms of output but his underlying numbers are dire. As I said, numbers can be deceiving and he could actually continue being an overperformer. In my opinion, Bowen is a good player but I’m pretty confident he is not getting 24 G/A in the league next season. West Ham would be smart to cash out. For the price that West Ham will want + taking into consideration what he can offer, it’s a hard pass for me.
Dwight McNeil – Burnley
Ultimate crosser, Monster in attacking transitions. McNeil had a poor season and guess what? Burnley got relegated. McNeil ticks a lot of boxes for me. Still only 22 with a wealth of Premier League experience. On low wages and won’t cost much in transfer fees. Can play on both wings. Looks a little uncomfortable going out on the RHS but I think given his minerals, Arteta can coach that into him. A very solid option for the price I assume he will be available for (25-30 mil). Great attitude and work rate. A good ball-striker as well.
McNeil is Burnley’s creative focal point. He takes a lot of responsibility but hasn’t grown into the big fish in a small pond kind of player yet. If that had happened McNeil would have been very close to being on my A-list.
Richarlison – Everton
Richarlison has played a lot of games as a Striker (different metrics required to analyse them) in a poor Everton side. Played a big part in Everton’s relegation battle. Is a regular for Brazil. Don’t focus too much on the radar here, Richarlison’s a quality player. Can play anywhere across the frontline. His weakest position unfortunately is RW and hence he also is not high in my Winger ranking.
Kamaldeen Sulemana – Rennes
Sulemana was born with a gift from God. A gift of tremendous explosiveness, pace and running power. But many areas of his game need improvement. Tactically immature. His base level of technical skill must be raised. Over-reliant on his physical prowess to beat his man. Needs to start making better decisions as well.
Sulemana’s radar is also skewed by a lot of late sub appearances against tired legs. But there is a superstar in this boy. If he gets the right coaching and keeps working hard, he will go to the very top.
Verdict: We still have my A-list to go through with some very interesting options. If all of them become unachievable for some reason (unlikely) then we move to this list for our signing.
The only way I see all A-listers being out of our reach is if we don’t have enough cash. In that case, we will have to go for one of the relatively cheaper options from the B-list. I think that brings us down to 3 players – Dwight McNeil, Podence, and Sulemana in the 25-35 million range (an educated guess)
Given that we need someone who can help us in the short-term (drop-off from Saka/Gabi to ESR/Pepe is significant) means we can rule Sulemana out. Between Podence and McNeil I’d say it depends on various factors. Podence is the better player for our system right now. But McNeil has a higher ceiling. The Claret is certainly not ready to replicate what Saka does on the RW for us but the drop-off in quality won’t be as large as with Pepe and with time and coaching, he will only get better. I would be happy with any one of the 2 but my gut feeling says McNeil is the man if we do find ourselves in this unlikely situation.
If you liked this piece, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Wanalyst007. Hmu if you have any questions and hold your horses for an in-depth Part 2 covering my A-listers.
P.S – How the numbers on the radar are calculated?
Players must have played a minimum of 1000 minutes in the 21/22 season. The primary position should be on the wings (some exceptions made). All numbers are per90 values which are then converted into percentiles.
The Player’s percentile numbers and Radar plots are calculated only using the data from wing players from their respective leagues. For example – In a plot comprising Saka’s radar and Chiesa’s radar. Saka’s percentile numbers/radar were produced using only PL wingers’ data. Similarly, Chiesa’s percentile numbers/radar from Seria A wingers data.
Disclaimer – Numbers can be deceptive
Performance | Recruitment | Data Analyst.
Working in football for the past 2 years. Gunner through and through.
About to start an MSc in Sports Performance Analysis in Sept/Oct 2022