Arsenal’s new midfield after summer transfer window


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As transfer deadline day fast approaches, there’s an argument that Arsenal are still short in a couple of areas, thus making Mikel Arteta and sporting director Edu’s priorities very clear.

After standing firm on their policy to not overpay for players, the Gunners were not dragged into a bidding war with Chelsea for Mykhailo Mudryk and as things turned out, it was the west London outfit who ended up paying the £88m fee – including possible add-ons – that Shakhtar Donetsk were asking for.

But with the January transfer window open for another fortnight, there’s still time for Arteta and Edu to turn to plan b and bolster the forward line which is a little depleted at the moment despite Emile Smith Rowe’s return to fitness as Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson remain on the sidelines through injury.

READ MORE: Arsenal get William Saliba and Bukayo Saka boost as new suspension risk emerges vs Man United

Already, plenty of names have been tipped to join Arsenal before the end of the month. This includes Barcelona duo Raphinha and Ferran Torres, Brighton’s Leandro Trossard, Moussa Diaby of Bayer Leverkusen and most recently Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – although reaching an agreement with Aurelio De Laurentiis mid-season seems unlikely.

Whether the Gunners are able to bring in an extra attacker between now and January 31st to ease the workload on Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli remains to be seen, but large sections of the fanbase have also called for reinforcements in midfield.

However, those supporters might have to remain patient as plans are afoot to address this department – but not right now. Instead, according to The Times, Declan Rice has emerged as Arsenal’s number one target for the summer transfer window with the England international expected to depart West Ham United at the end of the season.

In addition, whilst the report states that Chelsea and Manchester United are likely to provide competition for the 24-year-old’s signature, the north London outfit believe that their status as Premier League leaders puts them in a strong position to win the race for a deal in the region of £80m.

Should Rice join the Gunners, he’ll certainly improve Arteta’s options in the engine room as not only can he operate as the deepest-lying midfielder – thus providing good cover for Thomas Partey – he is equally as comfortable playing as a box-to-box midfielder thus opening the door to play alongside the Ghana international and Martin Odegaard.

“I think I’ve just gone off my own back and done it really,” Rice told Saturday Social last season when asked how his new role came about. “I think I’ve always known I could do it even from last season, probably in the Euros final I done it quite a lot and obviously you know when you’re doing it during a game it feels good and it looks good.

“As the season started I just thought you know what, I’ve got the ability it’s just having the confidence to do it. You know sometimes you can play within yourself or choose your moments. But yeah. this year I’ve just thought ‘Why am I going to stop it’. I’ll do it every time I can really.”

Furthermore, Rice’s potential arrival could spell the end of Albert Sambi Lokonga’s time at Arsenal. The Belgian hasn’t quite lived up to his potential following a £17m transfer from Anderlecht in the summer of 2021 and would slip even further down the pecking order should another midfielder sign.

If that happens, along with Charlie Patino being integrated into the first-team after a successful loan spell with Blackpool, Ainsley Maitland-Niles departing permanently and perhaps Mohamed Elneny staying on for another season in a back-up role, it would leave Arteta’s midfield options for the 2023/24 campaign consisting of Partey, Odegaard, Rice, Granit Xhaka, Fabio Vieira, Emile Smith Rowe, Elneny and Patino.

Arsenal's possible midfield options for next season if Declan Rice signs.

Of course, getting them all into the same starting XI would be impossible for Arteta as there are simply not enough midfield positions in his dream 4-3-3 setup. But the Spaniard would have depth in this department which is vital for squad rotation to challenge on several fronts next season.

As indicated in the graphic above, Rice can operate in two central midfield roles for Arsenal if he joins. It’s most likely he would start off as a left-sided ‘8’, filling in for Partey when he needs a rest before transitioning into a permanent number six under the tutelage of Arteta in the future.

Read more – Football.London

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