Usually when a manager starts describing his plans for the pre-season, there are a couple of areas in the squad that they hope to strengthen – Mikel Arteta is not really that happy.
The Arsenal manager is literally in the opposite position in that there are a couple of areas in his squad that do not need to be strengthened – the rest is a bit messy.
Could James Maddison be on his way to the Emirates? / Warren Little / Getty Images
Goalkeeper, right back, midfielder, central midfielder, winger, striker – you name it, the Gunners need it.
Right then, it was the bad news, the worse news is that we have not even mentioned the most important position that needs to be addressed.
Arsenal’s strike force has suffered a lot in the last 12 months and while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have not exactly been in the shape of their lives, they are both qualified strikers, so could the real flaw in the stuttering Arsenal machine be midfield?
The Gunners scored just 55 Premier League goals last season – a match played by relegated Blackpool in 2010/11 – and their blunt attack was undoubtedly the reason they failed to secure European football for the first time in 25 years.
The kid Emile Smith Rowe performed well under the circumstances, but the party’s arrival Martin Odegaard failed to live up to expectations and his flashes of brilliance were far too rare.
After missing Aston Villa after the signing of Emi Buendia, Arteta will reportedly set up a permanent move for Odegaard and it should set alarm bells for Arsenal fans.
Arteta is still looking for midfield creativity / Steve Welsh / Getty Images
The Gunners need a spark, someone who can produce moments of magic and pull their team out of trouble with goals when they need them most – something Odegaard failed to do – and that’s exactly why they should break the bank to sign James Maddison.
None of the creative midfielders that Arsenal have been linked to in recent months have gained the experience of the Premier League and the ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat that Maddison has.
The Leicester man can sometimes be inconsistent – unfortunately it’s the nature of the animal when you want to add creative midfielders to your side – but his stats alone will tell you that he gets better and better as his career progresses and his goals have improved every campaign since he moved to the fox.
Last season, Arsenal’s entire midfield contingent managed 11 goals and 16 assists in all competitions, while Maddison alone managed 11 goals and 10 assists – anyone who thinks he would not add to Arteta’s side does not know much about football.
Apparently Leicester’s transfer department is among the best in the business when it comes to negotiating hardball methods and a price of around £ 60 million would probably have to be paid for Maddison, but unfortunately young English players with years of quality football ahead of them always get a prize.
Of course, Arsenal’s quest for Odegaard would have a much cheaper price than Maddison, but there is a reason why the Norwegian international’s rating is so much lower.
Despite a glimmer of class, the 22-year-old has never really looked to produce the goods on a consistent basis, and while some may argue that he will get better with a season of Premier League football under his belt, Dani Ceballo’s second loan moved to the Emirates Stadium showed that it is far from safe.
Arsenal are at serious risk of becoming a midfield team whose fans’ only real pleasure comes when they recall their teams from the past. If Arteta is to stop the rot and ensure that the Gunners are still ranked as one of England’s best teams, next season will be crucial.
James Maddison could be the key to stopping Arsenal’s decline / Visionhaus / Getty Images
It is certainly not overreacting to suggest that the 2021/22 campaign could have a major impact on how Arsenal’s future unfolds, and therefore they cannot afford to bet on cheaper alternatives that could come in handy.
Maddison is a proven Premier League player with the ability to help spark Arsenal’s once deadly front line into action, and for that reason Arteta must do everything he can to secure his services.