Premier League • England

Paul Merson implores Arsenal to snare James Ward-Prowse and prevent rival from landing star

James Ward-Prowse, Jan Bednarek, Southampton, April 2022.

Paul Merson feels Arsenal are ‘crying out’ for a player like James Ward-Prowse and should do everything they can to sign the Southampton midfielder.

The Gunners just missed out on a top-four finish, with Tottenham pipping them to the final Champions League spot. But it was still a decent season for the north Londoners, whose fifth-placed finish was an improvement on the debacle of 2020-2021. That effort left them with no European football last term but they will feature in the Europa League next season.

And, with that in mind, the Spanish tactician has already strengthened his ranks. Goalkeeper Matt Turner, winger Marquinhos and midfielder Fabio Vieira have already been recruited.

There is every chance of further new faces arriving at the Emirates. Ward-Prowse enjoyed a superb campaign for Saints.

The 27-year-old started 36 Premier League games, scoring ten goals for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side. And he also made three England appearances in 2021-2022 after being called up to Gareth Southgate’s squad.

Unsurprisingly, a number of clubs have been linked. West Ham United, Manchester United, Tottenham and Newcastle United have all been mentioned in connection with the star.

And ex-Gunner Merson feels Arsenal must try to usurp the interested parties and land the Portsmouth-born ace.

“Arsenal cannot allow West Ham to buy James Ward-Prowse,” he wrote in The Daily Star. “I think he is a great signing for whoever gets him. I think he is one of the best passers of the ball in England.

“Him and Trent Alexander-Arnold see things few other English players do. And they can spray it around the pitch because they have such a good range of passing.”

Ward-Prowse pondering options

Ward-Prowse has emerged as one of the best dead-ball specialists in the English game. He has bagged 14 goals from direct free-kicks and is only four behind the record held by former England skipper David Beckham.

However, his ability to pick a pass from midfield means there is more to his game than just free-kicks. His rise over the past few years has seen interest grow and a summer exit seems inevitable.

Mikel Arteta managing Arsenal

The man with 11 England caps will not come cheap but Merson has urged his former club to get the schemer on board.

“I don’t understand why Arsenal are not pulling out all the stops to try and take James Ward-Prowse from Southampton,” he added. “Arsenal need to buy experience and they would be buying an experienced England international who knows the Premier League and would make a huge difference to them.

“They are crying out for a player who can spray the ball around from the middle of the pitch.”

Ward-Prowse may well leave Southampton before the start of next season but Arsenal face big-name competition for his signature.

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