Mikel Arteta knows he is close to finishing his Arsenal rebuild which could turn the Gunners into a force again, but there is one decision to make this summer which could prove pivotal to his plans
With the search underway to find a new striker to lead his Arsenal attack, Mikel Arteta will need no reminder that this summer he is facing the most important decision of his managerial career so far.
Alexandre Lacazette is on the way out of the Emirates in a month’s time with no new contract on the horizon for the Frenchman. And for all of Eddie Nketiah’s talents and improved form towards the end of the season, the 22-year-old is not quite ready to shoulder the burden of Arsenal’s need for a 20-goal-a-season striker if he decides to stay.
It is clear Arsenal need at least one new striker, but the sheer variety of options available means that the Gunners must carefully choose the identity of their marquee signing this summer. It cannot be rushed, but at the same time, leaving it to deadline day in the hope of finding a bargain would be irresponsible.
Gabriel Jesus looks like the most obvious option as it stands. Manchester City need to offload the striker after signing Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez, and the Brazilian has hinted he could leave. “About my future, it’s still uncertain,” Jesus told ESPN Brazil. “I have a contract with City and I have already expressed my desire to the City people and to my agent.”
Tammy Abraham has also been linked after a storming debut campaign with Roma, scoring 24 goals in Serie A for the Giallorossi. But his buy-back clause, inserted by Chelsea when he left for £ 34m last summer, makes any prospective deal complicated.
Technical director Edu Gaspar has been relentless in his efforts to find a new frontman that can take the club back to where they belong. Whether the Brazilian’s moves have been realistic is another argument altogether, mainly because prior to this season, Arsenal had finished eighth in the Premier League in consecutive seasons.
The club missed out on Dusan Vlahovic in January simply because Juventus represented a better option for the Serbian. Then, they failed to agree a deal for Alexander Isak in time because the La Liga side demanded £ 77m for the Sweden striker, which was far beyond their means. Neither of those situations could be helped, but it could be argued Arsenal were too ambitious in pursuing their targets.
Tottenham, West Ham and Manchester United are all likely improve their squads this season after a fairly prudent 2021-22 in the transfer market. And if Arsenal have designs on finishing above them, they need to strengthen at a similar level. Mistakes have been made in the past, but this is a decision they can not afford to get wrong.
Age, injury record, goalscoring ability and potential re-sale value must all be considered to ensure the right man is brought in. Speculation persists that Arsenal are keen on signing Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but this is an example of the kind of signing that could land the Gunners in trouble further down the line.
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The 25-year-old scored five goals in 17 appearances for the Toffees last season but was plagued by injury and a lack of form. Ask Everton for their demands, however, and they are likely to be in excess of £ 50m. For the risk attached to the deal, Arsenal cannot justify splashing out a huge chunk of their budget on a player who plays in less than half of their games.
And that is where Jesus comes in. In his five full seasons at the club, the striker has never played fewer than 28 league games in a season, with an overall record of 95 goals in 236 appearances. He has a decent record of goalscoring in the Champions League, featured at the World Cup with Brazil and can play in a number of positions across the frontline.
After spending years on the periphery of greatness with City, he would surely relish being Arsenal’s star man. A signing of his caliber would represent a coup for the club, and if the striker expresses his interest in joining the north London side, Arteta and Edu must work tirelessly to make the deal happen. Just like when they signed Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie, it could prove to be a turning point in this new era of Arsenal.