25 wide attackers to keep an eye on
Will Arsenal be looking for another wide man this summer? Here are some who could fit
Welcome, one and all, to another list of Europe’s brightest young talents. Today I’ve decided to focus on one of the most difficult to measure positions on the pitch: the wide forward, or winger, or wide attacker, or whatever the heck you’d like to call the guy who attacks the goal from the wider areas.
As things stand today, it’s hard to say whether Arsenal will be in the market for another wide man this summer. With Reiss Nelson in particular standing out as an option and Leandro Trossard continuing to impress, Mikel Arteta and Edu could opt instead to pursue other players.
BUT, if you know me by now, you should know that won’t stop me from making a big ‘ol list of players. So, that in mind, let’s look at which players out there are worth a look for the bigger clubs of the world.
Now, like in my threads from days gone by on Twitter, a few notes to start:
This thread is based entirely on statistics. Please watch players play full games before reaching sweeping conclusions. I promise you I don’t rate these players in this same order, but it’s useful information.
This formula consists of only the most current season in each league, and is weighted in such a way to identify wingers who fit Arsenal’s current style of play. That means to rank highly, you should be a good blend of goal threat, chance creation, dribbling and at least some work rate off the ball, among other things.
As I tend to do, I’m more focused on younger guys here. My big 5 league cutoff was their 26th birthday, and I went even younger in the more secondary leagues.
There is a minutes requirement this time, so many notable players miss the list due to that. I also did remove players, for instance Khvicha Kvaratskhelia of Napoli or Ousmane Dembélé, for attainability reasons.
Due to a technical error, I’m missing the Eredivisie this time. My bad! I’ll include it in the next one.
Oh, and one last thing! In my opinion, Arsenal could do with a left-footer who plays on the right, but it’s hard to make a big list with such a specific profile! So I’m featuring both sides here. I’ll note footedness, etc., as we go.
Let’s get started with Arsenal’s two starboys out wide, shall we?
Gabriel Martinelli is having a great season, no doubt about it. In this ranking, he’d come in 7th, which is incredible considering it’s based on this season only, that he’s 21, and he’s playing in the toughest league here. Continued improvement on his ball security would be the biggest area for improvement, with passing coming second, although he’s made strides in both areas this season.
Bukayo Saka is either Arsenal’s player of the year (again) or runner-up. He’s been an amazing ballcarrier and creator and that shows here, and he does even more than stats can measure with his off-ball work. Interestingly, Saka’s dribbling stats hold him back in this formula, mainly his success percentage. In this calculation he would end up fourth.
Now, let’s get to the rankings, shall we?
I always like to throw out some names who just missed the cut. Here are some of those guys:
Samuel Lino, LW, Valencia (23, right-footed)
Alexis Saelemaekers, RW, AC Milan (23, right-footed)
Wilfried Gnonto, LW, Leeds (19, right-footed)
Igor Paixão, LW, Coritiba but just joined Feyenoord (22, right-footed)
Anass Zaroury, LW, Burnley (22, right-footed)
25. Patrick Wimmer, Wolfsburg
Wimmer just joined Wolfsburg this past summer, and he’s been solid. The right-footed right winger has six assists and has finished his chances well. But his ballcarrying, a strength at Arminia Bielefield, hasn’t been as good this season. I’d expect it to even out, though.
24. Donyell Malen, Dortmund
Malen, once thought of as an out-and-out number 9, tends to play off the left for Dortmund, where he runs a bit hot and cold. The right-footer (and former Arsenal youth player) misses too many chances but has been a very direct threat with the ball at his feet. He could definitely improve his ball retention.
23. Chris Führich, VfB Stuttgart
Führich has become a repeat name here for me because he dribbles well and doesn’t lose the ball. The right footer plays either side for Stuttgart, where he’s creating good chances without his teammates finishing. Probably too late in his career for bigger clubs to be interested, but perhaps a move beyond Stuttgart?
22. Jonathan Ikone, Fiorentina
Ikone’s career at Lille got off to a bright start, with him being key to multiple seasons where Les Dogues competed in France. But last season he fell out of favor, was sold to Fiorentina, and things have gotten better. He’s been very direct with his ballcarrying, which scores him points here. He’s not especially creative or a great scorer but a solid player with good pace, who’s also a left-footer who plays on the right.
21. Gonzalo Plata, Real Valladolid
Plata is a very direct player. Another right winger who favors his left foot, Plata relies on his pace and athleticism. He needs to develop as a passer and decision-maker, but he’s been to a World Cup already at just 22. I’d love to see what happens if he gets into a more ball-dominant side.
20. Takefusa Kubo, Real Sociedad
Kubo is an interesting prospect. Like Martin Ødegaard, he was gobbled up by Real Madrid as a teenager but never broke through, instead going on loan after loan to other Spanish clubs. He’s not yet 22 and is in his fourth full La Liga season, but Real Sociedad own him outright now. He’s left-footed and can feature as a number 10 or on either wing. He didn’t get to play much for Japan at the World Cup and still has got room to grow as a player, but he possesses the technique and quickness to be a handful for a long time.
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