Arsenal need a revamp in midfield.
Mikel Arteta has come under increasing flak for failing to address the creative issues in this Arsenal side. Limp and lifeless, it becomes more apparent by the week that external solutions are paramount.
No one player will ‘fix’ Arsenal. If only it were as simple as buying someone, putting them in the team and seeing an immediate improvement. Sometimes it may look that way, but it comes down to meticulous scouting, planning and tactical work to see such an eventuality.
First of all, you need to sound out your targets.
Arsenal have made it clear that Houssem Aouar and Dominik Szoboszlai are at the top of the list, in no particular order we hope since both of their presences are needed in north London. One looks unobtainable in January, the other more likely, but still not likely.
Interestingly, both are completely different players. Aouar is a central midfielder with the dexterity and vision to open up spaces in front, while Szoboszlai operates primarily as a goalscoring winger who is given freedom to drift into central areas where his outstanding technical ability and ball-work come to the fore.
Both would add creativity in their own way, hence why one isn’t enough.
Working on the if front here, who else across Europe could Arsenal pursue if all else fails? It’s a scenario we’d prefer not to think about, but contingency plans have to be in place.
For creativity in some form, there are players out there who could add another dimension to Arteta’s side as they desperately seek out routes to goal. Here are three of them.
Riqui Puig – Barcelona
Why he doesn’t play is one of the mysteries of Europe. Ronald Koeman made it very clear that he wanted to loan Riqui Puig away from Camp Nou in the summer to provide him with the minutes he, bizarrely, wouldn’t offer. He ended up staying but talk has reemerged of a winter departure after amassing just 28 minutes of senior football this season.
It’s a baffling decision when his midfield is crying out for the link between La Masia and the senior team. It’s even more remarkable considering Puig is a quite magnificent young talent.
A central midfielder who operates best on the left side, his ability to glide through tackles and pick passes that aren’t visible to the naked eye have naturally drawn comparisons to the legendary Andres Iniesta. Exceptional close control make him the perfect fit against sides who sit in a low-block, while his progressive ball carries see him boast superb attacking statistics.
As a loan option, the risk-free nature of his acquisition would suit Arsenal if it comes to the stage where they are unable to land any permanent targets in January for either financial or availability reasons. With a point to make to his employers, he could relish the chance at proving himself outside of Spain.
There are limitations, of course. Puig lacks the strength and physique that would help him settle in to English football, and given he’s still very raw, needing to acclimatise to a different culture and division won’t happen over night, let alone absorbing Arteta’s brand of football. Denis Suarez springs to mind.
Such an intelligent operator being available is worth looking at, albeit attached with a few areas of concern. Furthermore, Barça are more likely to want Puig to remain in La Liga.