If Arsenal's striker misses more than a few weeks, who's really out there?
There’s still no official word on Gabriel Jesus’s prognosis after the injury he suffered at the World Cup, but that hasn’t stopped keyboard transfer experts from speculating about what Arsenal could do - or whom it could sign - to fill in should he miss more than just a couple of games.
Of course, there’s Eddie Nketiah, a key figure in Arsenal’s last dozen or so games last season. Eddie was key in (then) unlikely wins over Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham that restored Arsenal’s Champions League chances before they were eventually salted away. But even an in-form Eddie can’t match Gabriel Jesus’s impact, and the list of games between now and March includes 10 league games, at least 1 cup game and at least 2 Europa League games, likely too much for any mere mortal.
When you live by a small-squad philosophy, any injury to a key player that spans more than a couple of weeks and also happens to overlap with a transfer window is a test of your resolve. With Arsenal still atop the table, do you throw long-term squad-building to the wind and chase this title, or do you “trust the process?”
There’s no questioning that any move longer than a six-month loan would have to be a long-term fit for the club’s vision. Based on the current squad, that player would likely have to be in his early-to-mid-20s with ability to play centrally as a 9 while also providing depth out wide, and in a more direct sense than Eddie Nketiah does.
So why couldn’t Arsenal just sign a big striker and play Gabriel Jesus out wide? A few reasons.
Contrary to popular belief, even top clubs in Arsenal’s financial orbit don’t roll with two relatively equal players at every position. There is a best team, and the likelihood that Arsenal can sign a striker who creates a better three-man attack than Jesus-Saka-Martinelli, at least beyond the end of this season, is small.
That means your striker would have to accept the likelihood/reality that, upon his return, Jesus is King again. As it did this summer when folks discussed the idea of making two striker signings instead of just one, that narrows the list of possibilities quite a bit.
And that’s without considering the very real matter of money. The player we’re talking about above, be it Tammy Abraham or Dusan Vlahovic or Alvaro Morata, is probably a £150,000-per-week player, at least. With Jesus on about £250,000 and Eddie on another £100,000, as well as pending extensions to Martinelli and Saka that (I personally think) will put them both close to £200,000 per week, the wage budget for the next forward is likely not that big.
That means Arsenal are probably looking for their Richarlison or Luis Diaz, a player who may cost £35-60m up front but still takes less than £75,000 or so per week (Richarlison is reportedly on 90, with Diaz on 55). Given the way things work, that player is likely younger-ish.
So, keeping in mind the difficulty of buying in January and the reticence of some clubs to sell mid-campaign, who’s really out there? I’ve done my best to compile some names below.
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