After Gabriel Magahaeles’ transfer was all but confirmed, attention has turned to other priorities for Arsenal in the transfer market. Right now, the focus seems to be on midfielders. Because of this, three names have been linked with a move to North London, those being Houssem Aouar, Thomas Partey and Thiago Alcantara. But who is actually the player Arsenal need the most?
Before answering that question, it is important to find out what type of midfielder Arsenal need. Right now, one of Arsenal’s biggest deficiencies is creativity from midfield. In the 19/20 season, only ten goals came from our senior midfielders. This puts too much pressure on the forwards to create chances and score goals.
While Thomas Partey doesn’t necessarily fit the creativity bill, he does offer something else. Partey complements Granit Xhaka very well. He offers the mobility that Xhaka simply doesn’t possess. The 27-year-old also puts up good defensive numbers; 3.7 tackles and interceptions per 90 and 1.4 interceptions per game. The Ghanian also averages 0.7 key passes per game, 0.8 chances created and has a pass accuracy of 83.1%, to go with the 2.2 dribbles he makes in LaLiga, higher than Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos.
These statistics show that Partey can do a bit of everything in midfield, he’s a good passer, solid defensively and can even do a bit offensively. His biggest allure, however, he could complement Xhaka very well and could form a very solid midfield with the Swiss international, provided another attacking midfielder can come in.
Houssem Aouar would seemingly take up the role Dani Ceballos currently occupies in the squad, so it seems only fair to compare the two. Aouar this season in Ligue 1 averaged 1 key pass per game and averaged a pass success rate of 85.7%, compared to Ceballos, who averaged 1.2 key passes and had a pass success rate of 87.9%. Despite these numbers, Aouar beats the Spaniard in shots per game, dribbles per game and goal involvements in 19/20.
Aouar’s biggest strength, however, is his ball progression. The Frenchman excels in link-up play and he is good at finding and exploiting pockets of space with a killer pass. The graph below from The Athletic says it all really, Aouar is a very versatile player and has the potential to become an elite playmaker. Mikel Arteta could do much worse than the 22-year-old.
Thiago is the interesting one, as his name has just started being linked to Arsenal, and he reportedly also spoke with Arteta recently. Now, if I were in charge of Arsenal, I would be fighting tooth and nail to bring Thiago in. While the Spaniard is 29, he is still a world-class midfielder.
Thiago in the Bundesliga this season has averaged 3 dribbles per 90, 0.8 key passes per 90, 3.8 tackles and interceptions per 90, put up over 6 long balls per game and has 3 goals and a pass success rate of 90%. All of these numbers are higher than any of Arsenal’s midfielders. Oh, and he’s just won the Champions League in a side who haven’t lost a game since the start of 2020.
Now, after profiling these three players, it’s time to answer the question, who do Arsenal need more, and who should they actually get? Ideally, that answer is Thiago. He’s one of the best midfielders in Europe and is an absolute steal for £23 million. A massive coup. The problem is, however, would Thiago want to come to Arsenal
If the answer to that is no, who do Arsenal get? Partey or Aouar? Does Arteta prioritise creativity or solidity? The best scenario would be that both come, that way you have a solid three-man midfield comprising of Partey, Xhaka and Aouar.
If I HAD to pick one however, I’d most likely go for Aouar. Arsenal’s midfield creativity is absolutely dire and should be the key priority now the left-footed centre back issue is seemingly fixed with the arrival of Gabriel. Aouar should be the priority, and if Arsenal can’t get Thiago, they should bring the Frenchman in.