News Live Scores
Transfers

Calvert-Lewin, David, Vlahovic? Arsenal’s striker hunt the crucial next step in Arteta’s rebuild

08:00 GMT 06/12/2021
Vlahovic Calvert-Lewin David GFX
Gunners captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is struggling for goals and could come under pressure from a new signing next summer

When Arsenal spent £145 million ($200m) last summer to bring in six new faces, there was an acceptance at the club that more was needed.

But there was also an understanding that the widespread changes that were required could not all be completed in just one window.

So key areas of the squad were identified as priority positions which needed to be addressed, such as playmaker, goalkeeper, right-back and central midfield.

And the opportunity to bring in Ben White and pair him alongside Gabriel Magalhaes at centre-back was deemed too good to turn down, while bringing in Nuno Tavares to provide some natural cover for Kieran Tierney at left-back was viewed as essential.

Ideally, Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu would have done more, with a new striker high up on their wish list.

But with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette still at the club, it was decided that it was not financially viable to bring in another frontman when there were already two experienced forwards on big contracts in the squad.

“What I would like to explain is that it is not about this summer, it is about the project,” Edu said during an interview with Arsenal.com shortly after the summer transfer window closed

“We have started the project, we are in the middle, so it is not just about one window, it is window, window, window, window. 

“I think in this one we consolidated a big step, I am really pleased because the players we signed are what we are looking for. 

"We see the balance in the squad is much better, but again this is not the end. People have to understand we are still on the journey to go where this club deserves to be."

Looking at how Arsenal have fared over the opening 14 games of the season, it is clear that the business that was done during the summer has resulted in a far more settled and balanced squad.

All of the new additions have made an impact, although it is probably fair to say that Martin Odegaard needs to do a bit more having arrived on a permanent basis from Real Madrid.

Defensively things have improved and there is certainly more depth across almost all positions, with the way Tavares and Sambi Lokonga have deputised for Tierney and Granit Xhaka highlighting the smart business that was done.

For Arsenal, the key will now be the next step in the squad overhaul, with bringing in a new striker at the top of the agenda.

Arteta’s side travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton on Monday in a good position in the Premier League, despite Thursday’s frustrating 3-2 defeat at Manchester United.

But they have only scored 17 goals in their opening 14 league games - the same number as struggling Newcastle and fewer than newly-promoted Watford.

A lack of goals is a clear issue, just as it was last season, with Aubameyang having found the net just four times so far in the league since the start of the campaign.

The Gunners skipper has now gone five games without a goal and is looking a shadow of his former self, with some glaring misses blighting his recent performances.

“To put the ball in the net or not can be a difference of millimetres or by a second,” Arteta said in defence of his captain last week. “Auba has that capacity and hasn’t lost that capacity.”

But Aubameyang’s performance at Old Trafford on Thursday night was a perfect illustration of his struggles over the past couple of seasons.

He had five efforts on goal, but none of them were struck with the conviction of a striker that had any belief that he was going to score.

The 32-year-old scored just 15 goals in all competitions last season and looks on course for a similar sort of number in 2021-22 unless he can quickly find some form.

It is a worrying situation for Arsenal, who were banking on their captain to score the goals needed to fire such a young team forward, and it leaves them in a difficult position going into January.

Ideally, they would like to bring in a new striker to give them another option during the second half of the campaign, but that is looking highly unlikely.

The finances involved and the difficulty of getting players out of their clubs at the midway stage of the season means a summer addition remains the far more likely option when it comes to bolstering Arteta’s attacking options.

By then Lacazette will be out of contract and on the move, freeing up space on the wage bill, while the club could also look to find record signing Nicolas Pepe a new home.

Arsenal have been spoken about as having an interest in Everton frontman Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who will miss Monday night’s game against Arteta’s side due to injury.

The 24-year-old fits the profile of the type of player Arteta and Edu want to bring in and has recently switched agents, with many believing he is gearing up for his next move having spent the past five years on Merseyside.

And while Everton would not want to lose their main goal threat, the need to bring in money to invest in their squad could force the Toffees into doing business this summer.

"It is important to do the right thing at the right time,” Everton boss Rafa Benitez said earlier this month, when discussing the prospect of having to sell players.

"Some clubs have been selling players at the right time and with the money they received they improved the squad. That is something we have to learn.

"The owner is ready to spend money, but we can't spend all the time without bringing money back in.”

It would be no surprise to see Arsenal test Everton’s resolve to keep Calvert-Lewin at the end of the season, but they will no doubt be looking at other targets.

The Gunners are long-term admirers of Lille forward Jonathan David, who is expected to move in the summer, and have good relations with the Ligue 1 club having done business with them when it came to signing Pepe and Gabriel in recent years.

Fiorentina hitman Dusan Vlahovic is another player who has been heavily linked, although sources at Arsenal have distanced themselves from suggestions they are serious contenders for the 21-year-old.

Whoever Arsenal opt for, it is crucial they get the right man to lead them forward over the next few years.

Some smart work in the market last summer has led to a much improved squad, but the next stage of the rebuild will arguably be even more important - with quality over quantity the theme.

Arsenal need to find a striker who will not just score at a good rate, but who can also play the high energy pressing game that Arteta wants from his players.

If they can do that, then it could take the Gunners to the next level.