Arsenal are in desperate need of some firepower heading into the January transfer window.
Arsenal’s efforts in the final third over the last few matches of 2023 were nowhere near good enough for a team with title aspirations.
Against West Ham, they registered a whopping 77 touches inside the Hammers’ penalty area but failed to beat Alphonse Areola in between the posts. Against Fulham, they were arguably even worse going forward, despite the fact they did open the scoring during that 2-1 defeat.
One win in their last five league outings is hopefully a wake-up call to Mikel Arteta and with the January transfer window now open, it’s timely.
That lack of firepower of late means a striker should arguably top their wish list this month.
Who Arsenal could sign in January
According to reports there are a number of names on Arsenal’s agenda in January, although with the finances predicted to be involved and the time of the year taken into consideration, it will be difficult to spend huge waves of cash.
Ivan Toney has perhaps been the most notable name linked, with there have also been shouts concerning Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke and Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins. While Toney may be more viable after his lengthy recent ban, the other two names will take a considerable fee to prise away from their clubs and have been key performers this term.
That’s why Edu and Co could target Serie A where a familiar name in Dusan Vlahovic lingers. Two years ago Arsenal tried bringing the powerful Serb to the Emirates Stadium, only for him to end up at Juventus instead.
Mbappe-like striker 1 of 5 players Arsenal could sign instead of Ivan Toney
Arsenal could turn to one of these alternatives rather than signing Ivan Toney in 2024.
Now, 24 months later, TV Play, via Football365, suggests Arsenal are targeting Vlahovic again. A bid could be forthcoming in the next few weeks, with the Gunners willing to put €40m (£35m) on the table to conclude a move.
The trouble is that Juve are looking to rake in a fee closer to €60m (£52m). That’s not quite the £100m price tag Brentford allegedly want for Toney, so a move may well be easier to wrap up.
How Vlahovic compares to Arsenal’s current strikers
Make no mistake about it, Arsenal need a striker. They have been far from their free-flowing best this season, a fact that Ian Wright has been quick to criticise. In the aftermath of their defeat at Craven Cottage on New Year’s Eve, he took to social media to criticise the system Arteta was employing.
You could argue that most strikers would struggle with the current set up but we are yet to see many convincing displays from both Gabriel Jesus and chiefly, Eddie Nketiah.
The former has just three league goals all season while the latter, despite his hat-trick at home versus Sheffield United a few months ago, has not scored a Premier League away goal in over a year. If you want to win a title, then a striker with a more clinical nature is urgent.
Fortunately, Vlahovic has that in spades, even if his recent form has diminished. Prior to the Gunners’ original interest in 2022, the Serbian forward had found the net 17 times in 22 outings for Fiorentina in the first half of the 2021/22 campaign.
His form in Turin, however, has been less convincing, scoring 29 goals in 79 outings. That said, this is clearly a forward with a higher degree of pedigree than Nketiah, a man who had a torrid afternoon against Fulham.
|Eddie Nketiah vs Fulham
|Expected Goals (xG)
|Expected Assists (xA)
|Stats via Sofascore.
Nketiah dropped a 4/10 display, as per the Standard, and left his day by the Thames having had fewer touches of the ball than goalkeeper David Raya and made just eight passes in 90 minutes; worrying indeed.
Comparisons between Haaland and Vlahovic
Vlahovic isn’t exactly the link-up player that Jesus is but he’d guarantee a more destructive level of performance than those currently leading the line for Arsenal.
After all, his form with La Viola a couple of years ago earned comparisons to Erling Haaland. Serbian FA president Nenad Bjekovic said in 2022: “Vlahovic is better and more complete than Haaland. The Norwegian has devastating power, but Dusan is not inferior: there is also very little difference in their height.”
Well, ‘better than Haaland’ has clearly not been the case of late. The Manchester City sensation ended last term with 52 goals in 53 appearances after all.
However, you could suggest there is more to Vlahovic’s game than just sticking the ball in the back of the net. Here’s how the two striking phenomenons compare.
|Dusan Vlahovic vs Erling Haaland: 2023/24 Season
|Stat (per 90)
|Passes into final 3rd
|Stats via FBRef.
Obviously, Haaland is the pure goalscoring sensation. You wouldn’t swap him for many, if any strikers in world football. That being said, Bjekovic’s comments are true. Vlahovic is the more complete attacker.
As can be seen in the table, the Juve star is far more likely to take a defender on with the ball at his feet and he’s far more likely to drop a bit deeper and play a pass into dangerous areas in the final third. Considering Jesus’ exploits since he joined Arsenal, that is what Arteta will surely want. Yet, what Vlahovic also brings is the ability to score goals at a high rate.
It may not be the mega-money answer some fans are seemingly crying out for but it would be a smart move, one that helps the club to finally move on from the languid displays of Nketiah.