Mikel Arteta has already made his decision on Arsenal’s Lacazette replacement amid Scamacca link

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It’s no secret that Arsenal will be looking to add firepower to their attack this summer. The Gunners missed out on a top four place to Tottenham by just two points, but managed eight fewer goals than Antonio Conte’s side. Premier League winners Manchester City meanwhile outscored Mikel Arteta’s men by 38 goals in the campaign. If Arsenal are to close the gap then more regular attacking potency is needed.

Center-forward was something of a problem position last season for the Gunners. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started off as the first choice No.9, but managed only four league goals before being exiled from the squad, only to be replaced by Alexandre Lacazette who himself could muster just four strikes across the season. Eddie Nketiah did appear to solve some of the issues towards the end of the season by netting five times in eight matches, and looks set to be rewarded with a new contract extension. However, there are still calls for Arsenal to sign two strikers this summer in order to solve their problems.

Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City and Sassuolo’s Gianluca Scamacca have both been heavily linked in recent months. However, the Gunners may already have a player who can halve Edu’s workload this transfer window.

READ MORE: Mikel Arteta set for transfer window bonus as Arsenal signings can benefit from World Cup change

Before delving into that it’s worth taking a look at exactly what Arteta wants from a central striker. “He puts the ball in the net, that’s priority number one,” the Spaniard told Sky Sports earlier this year. “Any successful team needs enough goal threat in the squad. Without it, you have nothing. You can play good football but you need enough goal threat in the team.

“The other thing is that he has to complement the other people we have, personally and on the pitch, and for that, we need the right profile. We need a profile where you can exploit his qualities at the same time as the qualities we already have, so we do not have to transform our way of playing again to adapt to that specific player. “

When playing in the second half of the season Lacazette struggled in both these departments. As we’ve already outlined, the Frenchman’s threat in front of goal was minimal, but early on during his run in the team this was offset by his ability to drop deep and link play. He managed seven assists in 12 matches across a three-month period leading up to the March international break, and helped bring the very best out of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe.

However, other sides soon caught on to the Frenchman’s predilection for coming short, and began to squeeze him higher up the pitch. Lacazette’s lack of threat running in behind meant that they could do so without fear of being caught out and the 30-year-old was quickly nullified as an attacking threat. Suddenly, Arsenal went from playing the game in the defensive opposition third to having to operate much deeper, as they were forced to adapt to their striker’s shortcomings – something Arteta specifically stated he does not want to do.

The Spaniard doesn’t just want someone to post up to link the play. He also wants a striker who is mobile enough to run in behind and also to lead the press. With this in mind it was no surprise to see Nketiah’s success when he came into the team for the home stretch of the season as he fulfilled these characteristics. Gabriel Jesus is another player who shares these traits and as a result it’s no surprise to see that Arsenal are so keen on bringing him in from Manchester City this season.

Many though feel that having Nketiah and Jesus would not be enough for the Gunners for the upcoming campaign. A lack of depth proved to be a real issue for them last season, and with European football now back at the Emirates there is a feeling that a third striker is needed. However, instead of bringing someone else in Folarin Balogun could well be the man to fill the void.

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There were high hopes for Balogun when he committed his long-term future to Arsenal by signing a contract extension in the summer of 2021, but with a lack of senior opportunities he struggled to impose himself on the first team picture. As a result he was sent out on loan to Middlesbrough in January, and since then he has started to show glimpses that he has the traits that Arteta desires in a number nine.

He is a tremendous presser high up the pitch, and went viral with a delightful backheeled assist for Duncan Watmore during Boro’s 4-1 win over Derby in just his second start for Chris Wilder’s side. He has also started to show signs that he can link the play nicely as well. As seen in the picture below, the 20-year-old drops deep in the build up to obtain the ball.



Folarin Balogun drops deep to receive the ball during Middlesbrough's Championship clash with Coventry (image from Wyscout)
Folarin Balogun drops deep to receive the ball during Middlesbrough’s Championship clash with Coventry (image from Wyscout)

He then lays it off to Neil Taylor.



Folarin Balogun lays the ball off to Neil Taylor.  (image from Wyscout)
Folarin Balogun lays the ball off to Neil Taylor. (image from Wyscout)

Balogun then shows the mobility and the drive to sprint forward into the box where he ultimately receives the ball back. He then lays it across to Andraz Sporar to tap home.



Folarin Balogun drives forward into the box and delivers a low cross for Andraz Sporar to fire home.  (image from Wyscout)
Folarin Balogun drives forward into the box and delivers a low cross for Andraz Sporar to fire home. (image from Wyscout)

This is a lot of what Arteta appears to want in a center forward. Balogun can link play, and has the mobility to press high and get on the end of chances. He is also proving that he can fulfill Arteta’s primary demand of ‘putting the ball in the back of the net’ after netting twice more the England under-21s on Tuesday night against Albania, the first of which was assisted by Smith Rowe.

While no one is suggesting that he is going to be a regular starter next season, Arsenal could do worse than to keep him around for at least the first half of the campaign. There are Europa League group stage games where he’s bound to get a chance, not to mention the early rounds of the Carabao Cup for the 20-year-old to play in. With plenty to do this summer elsewhere this summer, such as signing a new midfielder and potentially a new full back, the Gunners may be wise to trust in another Hale End prospect going forward.

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