Arsenal Handed Fresh Hope in Aouar Hunt
Arsenal may have been handed a boost in their pursuit of creative midfielder, Houssem Aouar.
Aouar was seemingly Arteta’s top target in the summer window, regularly being linked with a move to the Emirates. However, the Gunners could not raise the funds to bring the Frenchman to North London, after failing to move on Mesut Özil, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi. A £35m bid was rejected by Lyon, which was reportedly well below Jean-Michel Aulas’ asking price. Arsenal instead opted for a £45m deadline day move for Thomas Partey.
Recent reports from Aouar’s current club, Lyon, could provide the Gunners with some optimism in their hunt for the French playmaker. In the past week, the Ligue 1 leaders, confirmed that a blend of COVID implications and a shortfall of TV rights has seen them lose close to £96m – the French giants may be forced to sell some key players as a result. Aouar continues to impress this season, boasting 3 goals and 3 assists in 20 league appearances. But with Ødegaard arriving on loan, and Smith-Rowe’s promising breakthrough, is the 22 year-old still on Arteta’s mind, or will the Gunners look elsewhere?
Ødegaard has impressed so far in the famous red and white. The Norwegian was eased into the starting XI, but has shown glimpses of his quality in starts against Leeds and Benfica. Our new number 11 has been able to thread the ball through the lines and filled pockets of space well – something Arsenal were crying out for in their dire winless run. Arteta has recently been singing his praises; speaking before the Benfica game, Arteta reserved special praise for Ødegaard’s leadership, decision-making and huge potential, calling him ‘a player for us.’ The Spaniard has also hinted at making Ødegaard’s loan (or audition!) permanent – “At the end of the season we will sit together and decide where we can take that relationship forward.” However, Real Madrid and Zidane may not be willing to let the talented playmaker leave for cheap, potentially pricing Arsenal out of a move.
Another creative force Arsenal currently have on their books is Emile Smith-Rowe. The most recent Hale End graduate to break into the first team has earned himself the nickname ‘The Croydon de Bruyne’ after a string of fine performances. The youngster has made 4 assists in the Premier League since his inclusion in the side on Boxing Day – no Premier League player has provided more in this time. A midfielder who always plays on the turn, the 20 year-old has been pivotal in Arsenal’s recent upturn in form, but Arteta must be careful not to ‘burn him out.’ Hence, Ødegaard was signed in the January window, and Arsenal will most likely look for another creator in the summer to ease the pressure on Smith-Rowe’s young shoulders – but who this will be is yet to be seen.
Emi Buendia is another man high on the shortlist. After failing to get Aouar in the summer, Buendia was seemingly Arsenal’s top target in January, before making a late move for Ødegaard. The Argentine impressed in the Premier League for Norwich last season, creating 3.1 chances per 90 minutes. The 24 year-old continues to impress for the Canaries in the Championship, with 20 goal contributions in 25 league games. With experience in England already, Buendia is unlikely to need any time to adapt to the league – another positive. Arsenal were unwilling to pay the £40m asking price in January, but will they go back for the Argentine in the summer? Julian Brandt was another playmaker linked in the January window, but the German has struggled this season, with only 1 assist in 32 games for Dortmund this campaign.
There is no doubt that Arsenal will look to sign a creative midfielder to support Smith-Rowe in the summer window – but who will that be? Will the Gunners be buoyed by Lyon’s financial struggles and make a return for Houssem Aouar, or will Aulas’ notoriously tough negotiations put them off? Will Edu look to make Ødegaard’s loan permanent? Will Buendia’s Premier League experience play a factor? Or will a new target emerge?
Creativity is not as hard to come by for Arteta’s side as it was in October or November. But Arsenal must not rest on their laurels and go all out for a playmaker in the summer.
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