Arsenal

Arsenal

Premier League • England

Top five Arsenal striker targets ranked by suitability for Arteta as Edu seeks perfect upgrade

Ryan Baldi
Joshua Zirkzee, Victor Osimhen and Alexander Isak

Arsenal are growing confident of signing Joshua Zirkzee but is he the best fit?

Identifying areas for improvement in Arsenal’s title-challenging squad will not be an easy task for Mikel Arteta this summer.

The Gunners boast the best defensive record in the Premier League and the second-best attack, behind only Manchester City.

One area ripe for a revamp, however, is the centre-forward position. The versatile Kai Havertz has been deployed as a false nine of late, while conventional strikers Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah have combined for just nine league goals all season.

Here are five strikers Arsenal have been linked with ahead of the summer transfer window, ranked in order of how they’d fit in at the Emirates and how much they’d improve Arteta’s attack.

Victor Osimhen

In terms of the profile of striker who would fit the most neatly into the system Arteta has constructed at the Emirates, the prospective centre-forward would share many traits with Jesus and Havertz, two players who have had mixed results at the point of the Gunners’ attack this term.

A high level of athleticism and the energy and discipline to lead the team in a high press is crucial in the out-of-possession phase. With the ball, any incoming Arsenal striker would ideally be able to drop off the front line to link with Martin Odegaard and Declan Rice in midfield and possess the creativity to conjure scoring opportunities for Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli coming inside from the wings.

If Arsenal’s next No.9 can tick all those boxes while also being a more reliable finisher than Jesus and Havertz, they’ll represent exactly the type of upgrade Arteta needs – think prime Roberto Firmino at Liverpool.

Napoli’s Victor Osimhen does not tick all of those boxes. He is not a Firmino-esque facilitator. He is not as nuanced a pressing leader as Havertz. He does not often drift deep to augment the midfield.

He is, however, one of the best goal-scorers in world football and the kind of talent that could transform Arsenal’s attack with what he is good at – putting the ball in the net, something he’s done 76 times in 132 appearances for Napoli.

Signing Osimhen would not be cheap. The Nigerian has a £113 million release cluse in his contract at the Stadio San Paolo and Napoli are likely to demand the full figure. And competition for his signature will be stiff, with Chelsea long-time admirers of the 25-year-old former Lille star.

But Arsenal proved last summer with their pursuit of Declan Rice that they are not afraid to spend big on a potentially transformative player.

Adding Osimhen to Arteta’s attack would require some recalibration, with the likes of Saka and Martinelli needing to adapt to roles that emphasise creativity over scoring. It would be more than worth the rethink, though. Osimhen’s elite movement, instinctive finishing, powerful strike and aerial prowess would level-up Arsenal’s attack more than any other realistic target.

Joshua Zirkzee

Bologna striker Joshua Zirkzee would require no such tactical rejigging were he to become the marquee attacking arrival at the Emirates this summer. And, as exclusively revealed by TEAMtalk, the Gunners are ahead of Manchester United in the queue of potential suitors for the 22-year-old Dutchman.

The former Bayern Munich prospect has the tools to fit in swiftly at the Emirates and not only thrive individually but also get the best out of Saka and Martinelli thanks to his creativity, hold-up play and movement.

The 6ft 4ins striker is remarkably agile and athletic for his size. He is a skilled dribbler capable of creating space in tight situations and he is diligent in his off-ball work, ranking in the top quartile of strikers in Europe’s five major leagues for tackles, blocks and clearances per 90 minutes, according to fbref.com.

Zirkzee is also a deadly finisher, with his 11 Serie A goals this season coming from chances worth just nine expected goals.

And, valued at around £60 million, he would cost a fraction of the outlay required to sign Osimhen.

Viktor Gyokeres

Swedish striker Viktor Gyokeres is another option who’d fit seamlessly into Arsenal’s frontline while also offering huge upgrade in terms of finishing quality.

The 25-year-old Sporting CP striker is something of a late bloomer, having made just eight appearances in four years with Brighton earlier in his career, bouncing around between loan moves before finding his feet with Coventry City in the Championship.

He scored 40 goals in two seasons with the Sky Blues and then joined Sporting last summer, with whom he has enjoyed a breakout campaign, scoring 41 goals in all competitions to fire Ruben Amorim’s side to a league title.

Viktor Gyokeres has 41 goals this season

How many goals each Arsenal striker target has scored this season

Gyokeres is about more than goals, though. He has also provided 10 assists in the Portuguese top flight this term, as well as displaying dynamic dribbling skills (2.17 successful take-ons per 90) and the ability to lead counter-attacks by carrying the ball forward at speed. His defensive statistics do not compare favourably to Zirkzee’s, but the Swede is used to operating in a high-pressing system under Amorim.

Alexander Isak

Less of a stylistic fit for Arsenal than either Zirkzee or Gyokeres, Newcastle United star Alexander Isak is nonetheless reportedly a top summer target for Arteta.

The Swedish scorer has proven himself to be one of the top strikers in the Premier League this season and he has developed a skillset reminiscent of a former Gunners icon.

His pace, athleticism and unerring finishing has drawn comparisons to Thierry Henry, but Isak lacks the Frenchman’s ability to create for others, with just one assist to his name in the league this season.

However, for his speed, the impeccable timing of his bursts behind opposition defences and his coolness when one-on-one with goalkeepers, Isak recalls images of a young Nicolas Anelka.

And with his 20 Premier League goals so far this term, the Newcastle man has also shown a broad range of finishing techniques similar to the player the Gunners sold to Real Madrid for £23 million in 1999. He is comfortable opening up his body to slot into the far corner from the left side of the penalty area, able to drive across goal from the right and capable of rounding a stranded shot-stopper one-v-one or dinking a delicate chip.

Newcastle will be hugely resistant to losing Isak, whom they signed from Real Sociedad for a club-record £64 million two years ago. But there is a belief that a need to comply with the Premier League’s Profit & Sustainability rules could force their hand in having to sell a star player, with Bruno Guimaraes and Anthony Gordon also rumoured targets for other top-flight clubs.

Santiago Gimenez

Reportedly a target for both Arsenal and Real Madrid, Santiago Gimenez has posted an impressive scoring record over his two seasons with Feyenoord.

A return of 23 goals for the 2022-23 campaign has been improved upon this season with 26, including 23 in 30 Eredivisie appearances.

The 23-year-old former Cruz Azul player is a well-rounded centre-forward, too, providing six assists in the league and a proficient finisher off either foot or with his head.

Consistency has been an issue for the Mexican this season, though. A hot streak at the campaign’s outset saw him score 15 goals by late October. But his productivity has dropped off since, with a seven-game scoreless stretch between January and February and a six-game drought snapped last weekend with two goals and an assist in a 5-0 victory over PEC Zwolle.

And Arsenal might be reticent to fork out the €50 million fee Feyenoord are demanding for Gimenez given the hit-and-miss track record of attacking players who’ve transitioned from the Eredivisie to the Premier League down the years. For every Ruud van Nistelrooy, there’s a Mateja Kezman; for every Robin van Persie an Alireza Jahanbakhsh.

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