3 reasons why Joshua Zirkzee should be Arsenal's top striker target this month

  • Arsenal have been linked with a number of strikers this month
  • Mikel Arteta said the addition of a new striker isn't "realistic"
  • Joshua Zirkzee should be considered by the Gunners
Joshua Zirkzee has starred for Bologna this season
Joshua Zirkzee has starred for Bologna this season / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

The apparent need for a striker has dominated Arsenal's January discourse so far, and that's going to continue right up until the deadline - no matter how they fare in their remaining fixtures this month.

The Gunners are once again expected to compete for the Premier League title after going toe-to-toe with Manchester City last season, and they seemed primed for another challenge before the festive period.

However, Mikel Arteta's side have endured a woeful run of one win in seven across all competitions. They're now five points adrift of Liverpool at the summit, and a previously flailing City are right in the mix once more.

For many, Arsenal's primary issue is pretty evident: the lack of a goalscorer. The Gunners have certainly been profligate as of late, but I'm sceptical as to whether the addition of another #9 this winter will catapult Arsenal to Premier League glory. Other issues have also played a role in their malaise.

Arteta has already said the signing of a new striker this month "doesn't look realistic", but there's no doubt that the club are snooping around. The latest name linked with a move to north London is Bologna's Joshua Zirkzee, and here are three reasons why he should be Arsenal's priority target if they opt to sign a striker before the end of January.

3 reasons why Joshua Zirkzee should be Arsenal's top striker target

1. All-round profile

Joshua Zirkzee
Zirkzee is wonderful to watch / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

It's not exactly clear what Arteta wants from his long-term #9. Ideally, they'd combine the best of Gabriel Jesus and Erling Haaland.

Zirkzee certainly isn't there yet in regards to proficiency, although he did enjoy a 20-goal campaign in Belgium two seasons ago, but his profile is so, so intriguing.

The 22-year-old fits the 'good touch for a big lad' archetype. His imposing 6'4 frame makes his elegance all the more unique. Zirkzee's first touch is Dennis Bergkamp-like, and his masterful ball manipulation renders him a distinct threat in and around the box. He can work the ball in tight spaces to create a yard for himself superbly.

This attribute allows him to drop deep into a withdrawn position, like Harry Kane and Ivan Toney, to facilitate Bologna's progression upfield. The striker can then turn on a dime and set teammates on their way in transition. While not a frequent channel runner himself, Zirkzee's impressively agile for a striker of his size - certainly nimble enough to give defenders something to think about.

The Dutchman has seven Serie A goals this season while outperforming his xG, but he's not yet a ruthless killer in front of goal. However, the data backs up the eye test regarding his stellar playmaking abilities and impressive defensive work rate. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Kai Havertz would all enjoy operating with the target man.

2. High upside

I must emphasise that Zirkzee is not yet elite, and is perhaps not capable of transforming Arsenal's attack - as Gabriel Jesus did at the start of last season - during the second half of the season. He'll need time to settle.

This could deter supporters away from the idea of signing the Dutchman, but Arsenal are bound to prioritise the long-term anyway. Their #9 for the future is set to be signed in the summer, although Zirkzee - valued at £50m - is at least a semi-realistic possibility this month if the Gunners get one or two out the door.

The player's upside is why I'm so bullish. This is not your normal #9. His data hasn't been outstanding this term, certainly not any better than Arsenal's current options, but he dazzles the eyes.

After struggling initially in Italy at Parma and last season with Bologna, Zirkzee has been crucial to the Rossublu's rise under Thiago Motta this term. This is a striker on an upward trajectory with his best years ahead of him. His unique but majestic profile means a £50m price tag will represent a bargain in retrospect. Zirkzee's not there yet, but he's evolving into an elite #9. Arsenal would be wise to move before another member of Europe's aristocracy swoops in the summer.

3. Hungry to prove himself

Zirkzee was highly-regarded at Bayern Munich / CHRISTOF STACHE/GettyImages

Zirkzee has already experienced the demands of performing at the highest level. The Dutch forward spent two years with Bayern Munich's youth teams before making his senior debut in 2019.

The striker was touted for stardom in Bavaria, but he'd depart having made just 12 Bundesliga appearances. Despite his talent, Bayern were content with letting him go due to perceived attitude problems.

Former manager Julian Nagelsmann publicly criticised the striker in the 2021 summer, warning that Zirkzee needed to demonstrate a "different sense of seriousness" in competitive fixtures. However, the striker later shunned any claims regarding a potential lack of focus/effort.

“I had a difficult phase," Zirkzee said in February 2022. "It’s hard to show yourself when you’re not a real part of the team. That I gave less than 100% in training? No. That I went home sadder than usual? Absolutely.”

The manner of his Bayern exit undoubtedly left a scar all while damaging his once lofty reputation - perhaps unfairly. However, there have been no such gripes during his time in Italy despite taking some time to excel.

When recently asked whether Zirkzee could return to a European superpower in the future, his current boss, Motta, replied: “It depends on him."

Given how the end of his spell at Bayern played out, Zirkzee is surely hungry to prove himself among the elite.