Premier League • England

Arsenal believe top midfield target ‘could be tempted’ into U-turn to help unleash existing star’s full potential

Martin Zubimendi and Declan Rice

Arsenal want to pair Declan Rice with Martin Zubimendi

Arsenal are aiming for quality over quantity in the upcoming transfer window, which means a huge move for Real Sociedad star Martin Zubimendi is on the cards, a report has explained.

Zubimendi has been identified as a top midfield target for Arsenal as they prepare for the potential departures of Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny this summer. One of the best players in his role in LaLiga, the 25-year-old has also established his Champions League pedigree.

Arsenal want to put the finishing touches to completing a world-class squad, so they are focusing on Zubimendi as someone who could strengthen their midfield.

According to the Daily Mirror, Arsenal are in the hunt for a deep-lying playmaker who can take Partey’s place in the squad if the Ghana international is sold one year before his contract expires.

Zubimendi, who has a €60m release clause equivalent to £51.3m, is one of Arsenal’s main candidates to fill the void. However, he has previously indicated a desire to remain in Spain.

That could be changing, though, as the report claims Arsenal now ‘think he could be tempted for a new challenge in the Premier League’.

Whether they have discovered this via his representatives or are simply being optimistic isn’t entirely clear.

But they are said to have big plans for a system Zubimendi could be involved in next season, whereby they would use him as their deepest midfield conductor.

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Zubimendi arrival to facilitate Rice role change

In turn, Declan Rice would play as more of a no.8 than a no.6, gaining the freedom to break forward more often.

It isn’t what Arsenal originally thought Rice would be doing when they broke their transfer record to sign him from West Ham in the summer, but it is a way Mikel Arteta and company think he could fulfil his maximum potential.

Rice has recorded nine goal contributions already this season, the same as he did in the entirety of the previous campaign, and the one before that too.

In fact, the next time Rice gets a goal or assist, it will mark his most active season ever in terms of goal involvements.

Theoretically, in a box-to-box role with Zubimendi the anchor behind him, Rice could have even more of a say in Arsenal’s attacks next season.

For now, Zubimendi will remain committed to Real Sociedad, where he has spent his entire career so far, ultimately making 178 appearances.

This season, the 25-year-old has scored four goals and added one assist from 35 appearances, but it might end up being his last season of this phase of his career as Real Sociedad brace themselves for bids.

His contract in San Sebastian is valid until 2027 still, but his employers will be powerless if anyone he wants to join meets the value of his release clause.

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