Premier League • England

Exclusive: Arsenal to thrust Declan Rice into new role as Arteta identifies perfect £15m midfield signing

Arthur Vermeeren, Arsenal

Midfielder Arthur Vermeeren alongside the Arsenal badge

Arthur Vermeeren is one of the most exciting teenage talents in Europe and Arsenal are joining the line of top clubs looking to target him.

At just 18 years old, Vermeeren is being tipped to become a complete midfielder after an exciting breakthrough at Royal Antwerp last season but his current strengths lie in his defensive capabilities.

Manchester United have been linked with him recently, along with Liverpool, West Ham, Brighton and Spanish giants Barcelona, but sources have indicated to TEAMtalk that Mikel Arteta’s side are also taking keen interest.

Scouts from all of Europe’s major leagues have been clamouring to get a close-up view of Vermeeren, who has just been called up to replace Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard in the Belgium squad.

Yet a long-term strategy at the Emirates could become one of the more intriguing pathways that Vermeeren has to consider when he decides to kick on to the next stage of his career.

Declan Rice’s signing in the summer was a significant moment for the Gunners, particularly as they beat Manchester City to the deal by overpowering them financially, but also because they convinced Rice they will help reach his personal aims.

Rice is currently still viewed as a defensive-minded midfielder but that is not the long-term plan for him at Arsenal, where he will be given more license to attack as his influence over the team grows in coming years.

His ball-striking ability is somewhat underestimated and with the former West Ham captain now playing in a side who dominate possession, there is an expectation around the club that his growth sees him putting up improved numbers in terms of goals and assists.

Arteta wants foil for Rice

In order to unlock his full potential, Arsenal will look to rebuild the positions around him.

In the summer, there were storylines around both Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia joining the Gunners but the players they can target next for the centre of the park will be influenced by how they spend in the immediate future.

Arsenal are one of the teams targeting Ivan Toney and there is an acceptance that if they do meet Brentford’s valuation in January, which could end up close to £80million, their spending in the summer window will be impacted.

In terms of Vermeeren though, there are suggestions that a fee will end up somewhere in the region of £15million—which should mean a pursuit can become active.

Finding a long-term solution to come in alongside Rice is important to Arsenal as they begin to look to evolve beyond squad depth options such as 31-year-old duo Jorginho and Mohamed Elneny. Both players are heading towards the end of their current deals and there is also the case of Thomas Partey, who has been hunted by the Saudi Pro League.

Vermeeren perfect but Arsenal not alone

Arsenal must continue to build for the future and that means a blend of buying players that are already established and also adding emerging stars.

Vermeeren undoubtedly has the talent to make it at the very highest level and it is no surprise Arsenal see him as a good profile to be tracking at this stage. And interestingly the director of football at Antwerp is Marc Overmars, a former Arsenal player.

But other clubs to have shown interest in Vermeeren’s talents include Ajax, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund so this is a battle that will become one of the most talked about situations in Europe as we head into 2024.

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