Arsenal - January 22/23

By KalSereousz | FCM Scout | 9 Jan 2023


What a season It’s been so far. 16 games played, 43 points accrued and Arsenal are top of the league. It’s not by a slim margin either. At the time of writing Arsenal are 7 points clear of 2nd placed Manchester City who have also played 16 games. With the World Cup behind us, the Transfer Window open and the Domestic League season resuming, It's a good time to reflect and also to look ahead.

Jesus

I was praying that Arsenal players didn’t pick up any injuries during the World Cup but unfortunately It happened to our main striker Gabriel Jesus. A knee injury cut his World Cup short and required him to undergo an operation. Thankfully all went well and Gabby was pictured in good spirits soon after the procedure.

I’m trying to look at the bright side of things these days, which leads me to believe that Gabriel getting injured was a blessing in disguise. Jesus scored 2 against Leicester, 1 against Villa, Brentford and Tottenham, which gives him a record of 5 Premier League goals in 14 games. He does have 5 assists too which takes his tally of goal contributions (GC)  to 10 GC in 14 games. An excellent contribution. However, the Derby was in October and Gabby didn’t score against Liverpool, Leeds, Southampton, Forest, Chelsea and Wolves. That’s a run of 6 games without a goal.

I don’t want to come across as though I’m critiquing the man. Jesus has incredible dribbling skill and is a very good all-round player. A Premier League Champion. His goal contribution record speaks for itself. An important player for Arsenal.

Nketiah

With Gabby out injured, Eddie Nketiah now has the chance he’s been waiting for. As far as I’m concerned, goals are Eddie’s game. He might not have the well-rounded play and amazing dribbling ability of a Jesus, but Eddie scores goals, that’s exactly what he does. Gabby was in something of a goal drought, but Eddie has the ability to make it rain! I recently popped down to The Emirates during the mid-season break and watched Arsenal play against Juventus. Filming an Ødegaard Free-Kick, I captured what seemed to be a perfectly legitimate goal from Eddie. Unfortunately it was ruled out by the officials. Where's VAR when you need it?

Seeing Nketiah live in the flesh gave me confidence that the underrated striker will be a capable deputy for Jesus. I expect the Englishman to score more goals than the Brazilian did after 14 games so Deputy might not be the right word. This is the season for Eddie to establish himself as a senior member of the team and become a genuine alternative to Gabriel, rather than being seen as a backup.

Consecutive goals against West Ham and Brighton will do wonders for the young Gunner’s confidence. The League game against Brighton proved that Arsenal have a genuine goal threat in every position of the attack. Ødegaard is adding more goals to his game. Martinelli is also increasing his output and Saka is now among the best attackers in Europe.

Saka

I found a list of goal contributions by players under the age of 21 based in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Bukayo tops the list because he has more end product than the likes of Rodrygo (Real Madrid) and Musiala (Bayern Munich). It’s amazing to see that Arsenal have three players in that list. Martinelli and Balogun are the other players present. The future is looking very bright.

Injuries

Arsenal’s 4-2 win against Brighton displayed their incredible attacking threat. Four goals should be enough to win any game. But if you took a look at the bench, you’d realise that the squad is looking a bit light in terms of attacking options. Fabio Vieira and Marquinhos are all the Manager had to call upon.

As mentioned earlier, Arsenal’s main striker Gabriel Jesus is injured. His injury rules him out for months. It’s great that Nketiah can come in, but you can’t expect him to play every game for months on end. There is also the possibility that Eddie could get injured too. Arsenal’s third striker (Folarin Balogun) was mentioned earlier among the most prolific young attackers in Europe’s top leagues. But he is on loan at Remis and getting some much needed playing time to continue his development.

A player that I haven’t mentioned yet is Reiss Nelson. Much like Eddie Nketiah, Nelson is another one of Arsenal’s exciting talents who has yet to fulfil his potential. At 23 years old you would have hoped the starlet would be firing on all cylinders by now and we know there is more to come from the young winger. Reiss has been amazing when called upon this season. But unfortunately he picked up a thigh injury against Juventus in the mid-season friendly.

Emile Smith Rowe suffered a groin injury at the start of the season. He would’ve been another great attacking option to have after his impressive 12 goal contributions in 33 Premier League games last term. Emile has shown he has excellent finishing ability and will surely have been a big loss. Especially because he is such a versatile player who can play in midfield or on the wing. Fortunately reports indicate Emile is getting closer to full fitness.

Before the end of the Summer Transfer Window Mikel Arteta stated that he wanted more firepower. Arsenal were linked with a number of attacking players but they couldn’t finalise any deals. Hopefully now, the lack of recognised attacking options on the bench against Brighton is starting to make sense.

Competition

With the January Transfer window now open, it should be clear that Arsenal need to bring in the extra firepower that Mikel needs. When Arsenal lost to Brighton in the League Cup I was upset. They rotated the squad and the team wasn’t good enough. They lost that game. But then I tried to look at the bright side. Less games will help to ease the fixture congestion and this could be good for Arsenal's thin squad in the long run.

At the time of writing The Gunners are still in the FA Cup and the Europa League. Of course they are top of the Premier League so there is a chance to win multiple trophies. Isn’t that what we all want? Then we must see more quality coming through the door! We smashed Brighton in the League with a full team. We can’t have another League Cup situation due to a lack of squad depth.

Liverpool have signed a player I wrote a report on (Coady Gakpo) for what seems like good value compared to what Untied paid for Antony. United and Chelsea are rumoured to be in the market for attackers too. So who can Arsenal sign? It’s important to remember that Jesus, ESR and Nelson will all return from injury at some point. Balogun will return from loan next season too. So I don’t believe Arsenal should sign multiple players. A versatile player or two who could play in a number of attacking positions would be most useful. 

For me Gakpo is a missed opportunity. The Dutchman played in a number of positions for Netherlands during the World Cup. His versatility would’ve been a solution to Arsenal’s attacking problem. There’s a few other players that I really like though. I could write reports on all of them. I've watched them play and looked into their records. Through my Career Mode saves and FIFA gaming I simulated in-game scenarios with their computer models too. I feel like I know their game without having done a formal write up on them. For me, two of the best players available are Moussa Diaby and Rafael Leao.

Goal Contributions

As an Arsenal fan I’ve been blessed to see a number of special players like Dennins Bergkamp and Nkwanko Kanu. Some players can make a large contribution that can’t be measured or represented in statistics. So I know goal contributions aren’t everything. But we need to use something as a point of comparison and ultimately It’s goals that win games.

If we judge based on goal contributions, I think of 20+ as the mark of a top quality attacker. Double figures in both columns. 10 goals and 10 assists or thereabouts. This is the kind of return you expect from Mohammed Salah on a consistent basis. 15-20 would be the next level down, like a Wilfred Zaha. Then 10-15 would be the third tier of goal contribution, like Allan Saint-Maximan.

Tier 1: 20+ GC

Tier 2: 15-20 GC

Tier 3: 10-15 GC

For the purpose of consistency I’m not considering domestic and international cup competitions. Neither am I considering International matches played by National Teams. My calculations are based purely on club football and domestic league matches only.

Career Best GC Table

GC Table

Arsenal GC

Last season Bukayo Saka achieved 18 Premier League goal contributions. According to my Goal Contribution (GC) system, I’m categorising Saka as a Tier 2 (T2) attacker. He’s right at the high end of it too. The way he’s playing this season, you wouldn’t bet against him pushing into Tier 1 (T1). Martinelli has had his injury problems and as a result is behind Saka in his development. But I expect Gabigol to achieve T2 this season. I believe he has potential for T1. Ødegaard is on course to exceed his 11 GC and Tier 3 (T3) status from last season. The Norwegian only needs 3 GC to take his current tally to T2! Could he become a T1 player this season? Gabriel Jesus has achieved 21 GC / T1 as a Manchester City player and already reached the T3 mark with Arsenal before his injury this season. In his first full season Emile Smith Rowe emerged as a 12 GC / T3 player. Hopefully it is now clear to see the level of the Arsenal attackers and also that they all have enormous potential.

Valuation

What is worth and what is value? We know that the market will dictate the price. An asset is worth whatever someone is prepared to pay for it. So Grealish is worth £100m. But does the Grealish transfer seem like good value when Haaland is worth £50m? So what is value? One way to look at the intrinsic value of an asset is to compare the attributes with another similar asset. We’ve previously looked at GC. I believe the league a player plays in, their age, potential to improve and nationality are all worthwhile factors to consider. Maybe playing for a nation high in the FIFA rankings adds value. International honours surely do. Who wouldn’t pay a premium for a World Cup winner? Possibly a Brazilian international will sell more shirts than a Canadian international. Maybe playing in top European leagues adds more prestige than playing in what might be considered a lower level of competition?

Transfer Policy

What philosophy should Arsenal adhere to when signing players? Do they go for the best T1 talent? Or do they go for a T3 who can grow into a T1? Anyone who has been paying attention will know that there is a project. Arsenal have already put together a squad of talented young players with the potential to improve. They are one of the youngest squads in the league. As mentioned previously they already have three attackers amongst the most prolific young players in Europe. So do they continue acquiring these young talents? Or can they consider the squad to have enough youth so now they go for experience? Obviously experienced T1 players will come at a premium. Should Arsenal spend big? Personally I think they can go for a mixture of youth and experience. Let’s look at some options.

Potential Options

Moussa Diaby has 4 seasons of experience playing in two of Europe’s top 5 leagues. Last season he became a T1 player with 25 GC in 32 Bundesliga games. Diaby can play anywhere in the attack but I prefer him as a winger. A French international with 7 caps.

Rafael Leao also has 4 seasons of experience in two of Europe’s top leagues. Last season he produced 19 GC in 34 Serie A matches. This categorises him as a high end T2 player like Bukayo Saka. He plays exclusively on the left wing. The Portuguese international has 15 caps.

Diaby and Leao are both 23 years old so I believe they have the perfect blend of youth and experience. They were in fantastic form last season and both players have made a positive start to this season too. But they aren't the only good options out there.

Leroy Sane is a 26 year old seasoned pro with six full seasons of experience across two of Europe’s top leagues. The former Premier League Champion achieved T1 in back to back Premier League seasons before suffering an injury that ruled him out for the whole of 2019/2020. It’s clear that his level has dropped since moving to Bayern Munich. But 14 GC in 32 games places the German at the high end of T3. That’s still a very good level. Leroy was coached by Arteta at Manchester City when he reached T1. So I wouldn’t bet against Mikel Arteta being able to help his former player rediscover his outstanding form.

Marcus Thuram is a 25 year old attacker who can play both as a central striker and as a winger. I like him as an old fashioned #9. A target man. The French international has 8 caps and played in the 2022 World Cup Final. Marcus also has multiple seasons of experience across two of Europe’s top leagues. He once reached a high T2 level registering 18 GC in 31 Bundesliga matches. The son of a World Cup winner is currently on 13 GC in 15 games. If that form continues, It’s looking like T1 this season.

Joao Felix is a 23 year old attacker who can play on the left and through the middle. Still a young player but somehow he has four full seasons of experience. Felix has been playing well below his level for years. His situation is complicated and we could speculate on the reasons why. The manager tends to utilise him as an impact sub but he still returned a respectable T3 level in Spain quite consistently. The Portuguese international’s best season came in his home country where he achieved T1. The La Liga starlet has a number of international caps and is arguably the most talented of all the options. Although he doesn't score a lot of goals when he plays as a Centre Forward. Perhaps he's better in a creative role behind a striker, opposed to leading the line.

Mykhailo Mudryk is a 22 year old left winger that Arsenal have actively been pursuing. He doesn’t have a full season of experience yet. The young Ukrainian has 8 caps for his country but is historically below the GC level of all the players at Arsenal. Mykhailo’s 14 GC in 12 Ukrainian Premier League matches this season is very impressive though. A high T3 at this point in the season suggests he could finish with a T1 score. He certainly passes the eye test too. You could describe him as a wonder kid. His age makes him the youngest of all the options. The Shakhtar star's current season GC puts the Ukrainian on the same level of what Martinelli achieved in twice the amount of matches last season.

Is Mudryk A Sure Thing?

If you ever saw this lad play you’d be impressed for sure. He has ridiculous pace, good technique, and an eye for goal. He plays with urgency and seems very direct. It looks like a Premier League style of play. Of course there will be a difference between playing in the Ukrainian Premier League and in the English Premier League. You would expect that the level in the top European leagues is higher and players making a transfer will have to make a step up. Can Mudryk make that step?

One example of a transfer to a top European league is Arthur Cabral. The Brazilian reached T1 whilst playing for Basel. 21 GC in 33 Swiss Super League matches. He transferred to Fiorentina in January 2022. The first half of his season was spent at Basel where he achieved 18 GC in 18 games. But after moving to Italy he only managed 4 GC in 14 games. Counting to the 1-1 draw with Monza, Arthur’s current Serie A 2022/2023 numbers show 4 GC in 13 games. At this rate he might just finish the season with a low T3 in Italy, after performing to a T1 standard in Switzerland.

According to the data I’ve reviewed, Mudryk is actually the worst option available. He has the least experience, he doesn’t play in a top league, there is no guarantee he will make it in the Premier League and his valuation is more than what he is worth. The transfer is high risk. We know the player is young and has potential. We know Arteta is a top coach. I would expect Mikel to be able to help his players to fulfil their potential. But it is my opinion that there are better options than Mudryk in the market. 

It’s understandable that Shakhtar Donetsk value their most valuable asset highly. He could become a superstar one day. But due to the high fee they are demanding, I believe Moussa Diaby, Rafael Leo and Leroy Sane would all be good alternatives. Don't get me wrong, as a fan I would welcome Mudryk to Arsenal. He is already a fantastic talent and I believe he has T1 potential. I have confidence that he can become a success at Arsenal. But all things considered, perhaps Arsenal should turn their attention elsewhere.

Conclusion

To wrap it all up, I think Arsenal has a real chance of winning something this season. Maybe even multiple trophies. All the conditions are right. The level of the players is very high. The Coach has a good group, playing good football, performing well and improving. You could even say they have luck on their side, as injuries haven't crippled the team and seen a drop in results.  The only issue is the squad depth.

Arsenal were linked with players in the Summer and have been reported to be chasing Mudryk in January. We know there is an intention to strengthen and a financial backing too. I just hope we get a winger who can rotate with Saka & Martinelli. Plus a striker who can rotate with Nketiah. I believe players like Diaby and Thuram could be of the right level and profile to come in and help Arsenal to compete for trophies. But ultimately I don't care who signs. I just hope that whoever comes through the door can make a huge contribution and Arsenal end the window with solutions to their problems.

Resources

  1. https://theathletic.com/4046161/2023/01/02/joao-felix-transfer-loan-chelsea-arsenal-man-united/
  2. https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11670/12761483/gabriel-jesus-arsenal-forward-undergoes-knee-surgery-after-injury-at-world-cup-with-brazil
  3. https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1710800/Arsenal-news-Reiss-Nelson-injury-Juventus-friendly
  4. https://www.fourfourtwo.com/news/arsenal-mikel-arteta-wants-to-add-more-firepower-before-transfer-window-closes
  5. https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/arsenal-injuries-smithrowe-tomiyasu-nelson-28827012.amp
  6. https://www.bundesliga.com/en/bundesliga/player/leroy-sane
  7. https://www.whoscored.com/Players/144711/Show/Leroy-San%C3%A9
  8. https://www.bundesliga.com/en/bundesliga/player/moussa-diaby
  9. https://www.whoscored.com/Players/353397/Show/Moussa-Diaby
  10. https://www.bundesliga.com/en/bundesliga/player/marcus-thuram
  11. https://www.whoscored.com/Players/296322/Show/Marcus-Thuram
  12. https://www.legaseriea.it/en/player/rafael-leao-90328
  13. https://www.whoscored.com/Players/349207/Show/Rafael-Le%C3%A3o
  14. https://www.whoscored.com/Players/362431/Show/Jo%C3%A3o-F%C3%A9lix
  15. https://www.laliga.com/en-GB/player/joao-felix
  16. https://upl.ua/en/people/view/59078
  17. https://www.whoscored.com/Players/409376/Show/Mykhailo-Mudryk
  18. https://www.skysports.com/app/transfer/news/12691/12774946/cody-gakpo-liverpool-reach-agreement-to-sign-netherlands-international-from-psv-eindhoven
  19. https://www.skysports.com/transfer/news/12691/12779601/mykhailo-mudryk-chelsea-considering-bid-for-shakhtar-donetsk-winger-amid-arsenal-interest
  20. https://www.football.london/chelsea-fc/news/chelsea-injury-news-sterling-mount-25908128

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KalSereousz
KalSereousz

A man of many interests


FCM Scout
FCM Scout

Football Scouting

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