Premier League • England

Everton star Amadou Onana would be a game-changing signing for Arsenal; Toffees demand £80m

Everton midfielder Amadou Onana could be a big signing for Arsenal

Everton midfielder Amadou Onana could be a big signing for Arsenal

Amadou Onana is a monstrous defensive midfielder and one of the best ball-winners in the Premier League and Arsenal are determined to sign him this summer. 

If the Gunners are successful in poaching the Belgium international from Everton they would arguably have one of the most solid midfields in Europe, fit to battle any team.

Onana is a huge physical presence in the centre of the pitch. Standing at 6’5” he has a dominance that just can’t be coached. For Everton, he’s a warrior in their midfield.

An aggressive ball-winning defensive-midfielder who loves to battle, Onana reads the game so well. His front-footed style enables him to intercept passes or recover any loose ball, then retain possession and progress forward.

With a long powerful physique, Onana uses his rangy legs to sweep and collect the ball off attackers. Onana’s tackling is top quality because of this.

He’s the type of midfielder who teams hate to come up against because he can dominate you shoulder to shoulder, he’s quicker than most midfielders and he has the power and technique to stride away after he’s stolen the ball off you.

Someone this dominant in duels but also so secure on the ball would be a dangerous weapon for any top team.

It’s no surprise that Arsenal have made him a top target for the summer. He won’t come cheap, though, with Everton slapping an £80m price tag on his head.

Onana is a big presence on the pitch

Given his height, there’s no surprise seeing how much of an aerial presence Onana has. He’s a colossus in midfield. On set-pieces he dominates aerially due to the combination of his height, strength and athleticism to have a huge leap too.

For Arsenal this would massively come in handy as set-pieces is clearly something they really focus on with set-piece coach Nicolas Jover.

This season in the Premier League, Arsenal have the second-most corners in the Premier League this season with 188 (Man City top with 192). Quite a lot more compared to Everton’s 117 (14th).

Arsenal have the most goals from set-pieces this season (including penalties) with 24 goals. 16 of these goals are from corners/free-kicks, eight from penalties.

In fact, since Nicolas Jover’s appointment in the summer of 2021, they have the highest amount of set-piece goals excluding penalties (48).

Adding a presence like Onana on these corner and free-kick routines (along with a new target man striker like Toney, Osimhen who have been linked) would be another advantage to gain over their opponent.

Onana could revolutionise the Gunners’ midfield

The prospect of putting Amadou Onana next to Declan Rice is almost reminiscent of a Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva double pivot that Arsene Wenger would play. A blend of physical dominance and technical brilliance.

One of Onana’s best strengths is his ball-carrying. He’s a transitional monster. When he picks the ball up deep, he can eat up ground so quickly with his long powerful strides and good control of the ball.

His ability to do this and also be a presence when crashing into the box is also why he has potential playing further forward as an eight.

Positionally right now he’s best as a double pivot player, though. If Arsenal were to sign him he could play here and him and Rice could alternate who carries the ball and who sits deep. A good balance and coverage to avoid it being too risky and too many bodies being committed forwards.

In addition, Onana could develop as a single pivot. Being in a JDP (Juego de Posicion) system would help massively as of the organised rotations and positional discipline needed to play there would give him more exposed to the single pivot role.

Juego de Posicion is a term which in translation means ‘Positional Play’ and refers to the philosophy of utilising positional discipline to create a free man to help progress play and penetrate the opponent’s defensive lines.

Coaches such as Arteta, Guardiola, De Zerbi play with this iterations of this philosophy. A key aspect of JDP football is to have players with a natural ‘gravity’ to draw players to them by carrying the ball.

This creates unfavourable scenarios of 1v2 meaning that there’s a spare man to pass to now. For this reason, quality ball-carriers are valuable in these systems and Amadou Onana is exactly that.

One of the principals of JDP is the planned interchanging of positions to confuse the opponent and beat the press. This type of style would be beneficial for Onana to learn how to play as a single pivot at times in the game but also to be further forward with Rice as the single pivot at times too.

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Arsenal have often lined-up with a diamond midfield 4 in possession. One example was in the first game of the season vs Nottingham Forest.

Arsenal lined up with a 4-3-3 on paper with a back 4 of Partey (RB), Saliba (RCB), Gabriel (LCB), Timber (LB). and a midfield of Rice (DM), Odegaard (RCM), Havertz (LCM).

But when in possession, Partey would invert and become the defensive midfielder, Rice would push up into a LCM position and Havertz would come central to play as a second striker (SS) to create a diamond formation.

This shape enabled Havertz to be more of a ‘pockets’ player where he’d float around behind the striker and connecting the wingers to play off the them. It also allows for combinations between the striker and Havertz.

Havertz can then push up to be the situational striker target-man and Gabriel Jesus up top can drop to play off Havertz’s knockdowns.

There’s a possibility that Arsenal could be looking to sign Onana to play the role of Partey here. Partey so often is out injured for Arsenal and misses the big games.

They need cover for him. Arsenal’s strongest lineup consists of Partey and Rice together in the midfield, however they’ve only started together 5 times this season.

Partey has played only these 5 games this season for Arsenal out of a possible 36 games. In these five games, Partey started 3 of them at RB with Rice as a DM and against Man City in The Community Shield he started as a DM while Rice was the LCM. But Arsenal’s rest defence shape is more of a 4-4-2 set-up.

In the game against Man City that 4-4-2 consisted of Rice and Partey forming a double pivot block and Odegaard leading the press as a striker with Kai Havertz.

The role of Partey here is where I see Amadou Onana best used. Onana would be in a double pivot with Rice blocking all progression through central areas. Two elite ball-winners mopping everything up against the best teams.

Onana’s passing and pace could be huge for Arsenal

Another aspect of Amadou Onana’s game which is underrated is his passing. There’s a lot of talk about how he’s not the most technical but it’s much more to do with the set-up he’s in under Sean Dyche.

Dyche has Onana more focussed on carrying the ball rather and getting up the pitch quicker. But a slower build up in a JDP system would allow Onana to show off his passing prowess and spray passes forward from deep.

Onana is raw tactically in regards to this type of system but he has the fundamentals to excel in this role when he adapts. He would be a great signing.

The Premier League posted the quickest speeds in the league this season. Micky Van De Ven (37.38km/h) was no surprise at the top. Players like Kyle Walker (37.31km/h), Chiedozie Ogbene (36.93km/h), Pedro Neto (36.86km/h) and Anthony Gordon (36.68km/h) were no surprise to be towards the top.

But one of the shocks was 6’5” Amadou Onana with a top speed of 36.65km/h ahead of players like Gabriel Martinelli (36.33km/h), Luis Diaz (36.42km/h), Moussa Diaby (35.93km/h), Adama Traore (35.55km/h) this season.

The fact that such a physically dominant dueller is also one of the fastest players in the league is ridiculous. A genuine athletic freak. The prospect of him next to Rice ahead of Gabriel and Saliba creates an almost unbreakable spine.

Arsenal will have lots of competition for the signing of Amadou Onana though with teams such as Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona all linked with the Belgian midfielder. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up.

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