Arsenal summer business: Decisions in midfield

With just two weeks to go in the summer transfer window, the midfield options for Arsenal are still looking rather thin. The announcement of Martin Odegaard helps but many still feel that the Gunners are a player or two short in the middle of the park.

Against Brentford, Arsenal was second best for the majority of the contest. With Thomas Partey out injured, young Albert Sambi Lokonga was thrust into his Premier League debut. The Belgian acquitted himself well and looked at home in midfield, while his distribution of the ball was another strength of his performance on Friday night. But as good as he was, more help is needed.

No one can question that the Gunners need to sign one if not two players to help shore up the midfield. Much of the creative burden has fallen on Emile Smith Rowe and that is an unfair demand to be bestowed with. What the addition of Odegaard does is help take some of the creative load off the youngster’s shoulders and gives Arsenal that player who can pick the lock of the opposition defences. A great addition.

So as we head toward the clash with Chelsea, only two players have come in to help the midfield become what it once was: a well-oiled machine. Some see Sambi as a backup to Partey or as Dani Ceballos’ replacement and in an ideal world, a player like Houssem Aouar would be the perfect player to slot in to the midfield areas to give Arsenal variety in their options.

Arsenal have unfinished business in midfield as despite signing Albert Sambi Lokonga and Martin Odegaard more is needed in the summer transfer window

Having been linked with the French international for the best part of a year and a half, perhaps Arsenal could finally get their man. While the deal is highly unlikely at this stage after bringing in Odegaard, the fact that Lyon is in dire straights financially mean Aouar is available at a fraction of his value, believed to be around £20m.

However, as much as Arsenal needs to add to its midfield stocks, they have to get players out too.

Mohamed Elneny, Lucas Torreira, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are just some of the names then need to be moved on, whether that be permanently or on loan, they have to go. Not all will leave at once.

If they do pass through the Emirates exit door, Arteta is going to have to bring players in. With the arrival of Odegaard, the James Maddison idea is now well and truly gone, but getting a player like Aouar would be seen as a great piece of business.

He can be the player to drive Arsenal forward in the No. 8 role that Aaron Ramsey made his own, facilitating the move to a 4-3-3. This would then allow Partey to go about his business defensively while Aouar takes the reigns further forward in tandem with Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Saka, and the rest of Arsenal’s forwards.

Only bringing in one new midfielder is simply not enough for Arsenal. Granit Xhaka was essentially out the door weeks ago yet now he has a fresh new deal – which still puzzles the mind – but surely he can’t be a regular starter should another high calibre central midfielder be brought in. A decent backup is something that would sit well with many Gunners fans for the Swiss international. He won’t be happy with that, mind you.

With less than two weeks left in the transfer window, it is a no-brainer that another central midfielder must be signed by Edu and Arteta. If not, then this will be the same group that finished eighth in the league last campaign. Is Aouar that man? He certainly doesn’t boast the defensive capabilities one would desire and is best utilised in advanced, or even wide, positions, but he’d add real quality in the centre of the park. A double pivot role is not out of the question.

Arsenal now has the creative firepower in Smith Rowe and Odegaard, and the steel and elegance of Thomas Partey, now they have to find a partner to compliment it all.

Whether it happens or not remains to be seen but given Lyon’s financial struggles, the Gunners might not get a better opportunity to get a player of Aouar’s calibre at a price that is not likely to be as low again.

The clock ticks.