Why Amadou Onana transfer rumours are strange timing for Arsenal

  • Arsenal's rumoured transfer interest in Everton defensive midfielder Amadou Onana is strange timing for Arsenal, when manager Mikel Arteta needs to focus on his team's problem scoring goals
Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Arsenal have a problem scoring goals and are bereft of a prolific striker. So naturally, it's time to pursue a transfer for Everton's holding midfielder Amadou Onana! Welcome to the weird world of Mikel Arteta's squad building.

The Arteta blueprint is foolproof because if it doesn't make sense, it's because you don't understand the 'process.' At this point, I'm not sure the Mount Rushmore of Mensa members would understand the Arteta process.

Onana's a good player. Premier League ready, physical and loves a tackle. He'd tick all of the boxes if this was 2009 and Arsene Wenger was still trying in vain to find the right enforcer to protect Cesc Fabregas.

The Wenger era is sadly gone, but not forgotten. This is Arteta's time. It's also the closest modern management's protected species has been to a crossroads during his tenure.

Arsenal have lost three in a row, including being bounced out of the FA Cup by Liverpool. Arteta's men have been outscored 6-1 in those games.

The timing of shunning the striker search for a midfield destroyer is curious, to say the least. Signing Onana for the €60m, fee reported by Het Nieuwsblad (h/t Naveen Ullal of Sport Witness) would be yet another expensive do-over for Arteta.

Amadou Onana another expensive do-over for Arteta

There may be a limit to the amount of time and money Arsenal are prepared to give Arteta to complete his grand design, but we're still not there yet. Not if the gaffer is allowed to splash the cash again in midfield.

A big-ticket deal for Onana would add to the £105m spent on Declan Rice and the £65m paid for Kai Havertz last summer. Then there's the £12m parted with for Jorginho last winter, to go with signing Thomas Partey for £45m in 2020.

Phew. That's a lot of dough and a lot of turnover. I haven't even mentioned what it cost to acquire Martin Odegaard and Fabio Vieira. Nor the money wasted on Albert Sambi Lokonga.

If at first you don't succeed, spend, spend and spend again. That's been the motto in midfield. It helps to have the freedom to correct mistakes.

Kind of like spending £45m on Gabriel Jesus to play No. 9 and then being surprised when he doesn't score enough goals, despite coaching him at Manchester City for almost three years.

Arteta's misstep with Jesus has proved costly on the pitch and will be more expensive to correct in the transfer market. That's why it's tough to fathom interest in Onana coming ahead of recruiting a striker.

Perhaps Arteta is taking a tactical detour to unlock his stymied attack.

Roundabout tactical reshuffle could turn on the goals for Arsenal

If you're not efficient enough to maximise the chances you make, simply create more scoring opportunities. How to do the latter is the key problem facing Arteta.

Maybe signing Onana is the answer. Especially if it lets Arsenal adopt the tactical shape Liverpool manager Jugen Klopp praised after winning the cup tie, per Sam Dean of The Daily Telegraph:

A double pivot of Rice and Onana would free Odegaard and a fit-again Jesus to be the double 10s. Or maybe that should be dual 9.5s.

There's merit to this idea, but there are also a few drawbacks. Like Havertz missing out on the ideal starting XI and becoming another expensive mistake Arteta gets to correct with a large cheque. You can almost hear the FFP stormtroopers marching toward the Emirates Stadium.

Another drawback would be shifting Odegaard too high up the pitch and away from the areas where he can dominate possession. A lack of touches for Arsenal's creator-in-chief has already been a problem this season.

Perhaps this could work in a more conventional 4-4-2 with Odegaard and Bukayo Saka as de facto wingers, inverted or otherwise. They would support a striking duo of Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli or even Eddie Nketiah.

Having one less player at the heart of the engine room would be easier to cope with if Onana's destructive tendencies partnered Rice. Onana never shies away from a challenge and wins duels both on the deck and in the air.

He proved all of those things against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup, per Statman Dave:

There are ways for Onana to help improve Arsenal's scoring output, but foegoing actual attacking reinforcements is dangerous. It would be another roundabout tactical reshuffle, more of the over-elaborate mental gymnastics many have attached too much significance to during the Arteta era.

Simpler solutions are the way to go. Like giving a Jesus and Nketiah partnership a genuine run. Or playing Martinelli through the middle, where his pace and keen eye for goal would be more effective.