Which right-winger should Arsenal target?
Identifying 21 of the market's top left-footed attackers for potential Saka depth
In terms of incomings, Arsenal have answered most of the big questions they faced this summer already. As we look ahead to the last six weeks or so of this transfer market, there are probably two big questions remaining: Whom would Arsenal sign if Thomas Partey leaves, and will they add a more right-sided attacker to back up Bukayo Saka?
Saka is, of course, massive for the club. I ran a formula on forwards/attacking midfielders specifically for this piece, and he came out in the top 15 among those who’d played at least 20 full 90s in league play this past season. He did that at age 20 and 21, and with some areas of his game that could use some more development — for instance, his dribbling numbers were down this season, and that did weigh on him, in terms of the numbers.
I’ve also said before that Saka’s game is one that encompasses more than statistics — he brings just as much value, for instance, in his knowledge of space and body shape and his willingness to occupy multiple defenders. It’s incredible for a player of his age.
There’s a long discussion to be had about whether you can realistically expect to back that up without dropping some levels. We’re probably going to talk about how much Saka plays for his full career at Arsenal, because that’s what superstars do when they’re not employed by Manchester City, or a club that’s a mile ahead of its domestic league like PSG or Real Madrid.
There are no doubt a lot of talented players out there who can fill in on either wing, or even on both wings and in advanced midfield positions.
But, as you may have noticed, many of them are right-footed, as are potential Saka backups Reiss Nelson and Leandro Trossard. Kai Havertz could be an option wide right, of course, but he lacks a lot of the 1-on-1 attacking game that Saka possesses, and profiles more as a creative inside forward. While Fabio Vieira has shown glimpses on that wing on occasion, I like him more as a central player.
If Mikel Arteta wants any potential Saka backup to be of a similar inverted winger profile, using any of those four could be an issue. And, as we know, footedness is a BIG THING for Mikel Arteta. I’d bet my next paycheck that was his big holdup in trying Jakub Kiwior over Rob Holding even as the season fell apart a few months ago.
So, eliminating all right-footers from the discussion, who’s the best out there?
In my ranking, it was Raphinha. He’s a popular name among Arsenal fans who talk transfers, partly because he’s really good, and partly because we pursued him last summer. What would have been his role then? Would he and Saka have split time?
I’m honestly not 100% sure, but I think as of now, Saka’s death grip on the right wide attacking position is absolutely a hindrance to recruiting at that position. You’re coming in as a second fiddle. I don’t care if you call it a backup or a deputy or “competition” for Saka, Bukayo’s not losing. So Raphinha could be tough to sell on the move.
And, for what it’s worth, it seems like Barcelona don’t want to sell anyway. This is from 10 days ago, amid reports that Al-Nassr are trying to tempt the Brazilian winger to join Cristiano Ronaldo.
It seems pretty certain that, with Xavi wanting the player and Raphinha not especially ready to move, any deal would start at a big number, probably £60 million or more. And that’s without getting too deep into role and wages, two more hoops Arsenal would have to jump through.
What about once you get beyond the former Leeds winger? Let’s take a look!
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