Arsenal are expected to move for a centre forward this summer with Alexandre Lacazette set to leave the club just a few months after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang departed to join Barcelona. The Gunners have made progress under Mikel Arteta this season, but the need for a new frontman is clear.
Arteta has spent the last two years building his team and so the Spaniard has certain criteria a new number nine must satisfy. Work ethic and off-the-ball movement will be important, but Arsenal primarily need someone who can put the ball in the back of the net.
Here are five potential summer transfer targets for Arsenal:
While Dominic Calvert-Lewin will want to quickly forget a difficult 2021/22 season, the 25-year-old is still reportedly on the Gunners’ radar. There are few centre forwards as formidable in the air as Calvert-Lewin with the England international winning a highly impressive 5.31 aerial duels per 90 minutes.
This would give Arsenal a different dimension in the final third even if Calvert-Lewin is limited in some other areas of his game. However, the Everton forward ranks in the 95th percentile for tackles in the attacking third and averages 3.21 successful pressures per 90 minutes. He would be a slightly left field signing, but would still satisfy many of Arteta’s criteria.
Arsenal’s have a well-documented interest in Alexander Isak. The Swedish international is a complete number nine in his technical and physical qualities and would give Arsenal something they are currently lacking: Penalty box presence.
Isak has scored just six goals in 31 La Liga appearances for Real Sociedad this season, but he managed 17 league goals in 2020/21 and has proved himself for both club and country. Isak is ranked in the 92nd percentile for shots on target and also the 87th percentile for through balls, highlighting his ability as a creator.
Now might be the perfect time for Arsenal to act on their long-term interest in Isak. The 22 years old is ready to take the next step in his career, but the Gunners might have a free run at signing him due to an underwhelming 2021/22 campaign. His fundamental qualities of Isak still make him an extremely exciting prospect.
Arsenal’s pursuit of Gabriel Jesus is already public knowledge after the Brazilian’s agent admitted talks had taken place. It’s easy to see why the Gunners would be interested in Jesus, given his scoring record. The 25-year-old has 13 goals (all competitions) to his name this season and has scored 95 goals in 235 appearances for Manchester City.
However, Jesus might be a better fit for Arsenal on the right wing than in central attack. The Brazilian is among the best at pressing (he is averaging 6.77 attacking third pressures this season) from the front and offering passing triangles. However, he is most effective at doing this from a wide position.
There is a lot of hype around Darwin Nunez right now, and with good reason. The Uruguayan netted 32 times (all competitions) for Benfica this season including six times in just 10 Champions League appearances. Nunez has been linked with Manchester United and Newcastle United, but Arsenal might be the best fit for him.
Nunez is in the 96th percentile for tackles in the defensive third, illustrating how he is willing to help out on the defensive side of the ball. However, the 22-year-old is also exceptional at carrying the ball, averaging an impressive 5.42 progressive carries per 90 minutes this season. In many ways, Nunez is a similar centre forward to Erling Haaland in the way he plays the game.
Reports state Arsenal would have to pay at least 70 million euros to sign Nunez from Benfica this summer. Still, this would be a statement of intent for a club that hasn’t had a truly world-class centre forward since Robin van Persie left the Emirates Stadium a decade ago.
The 2021/22 season has been an extremely difficult one for Marcus Rashford with the 24-year-old scoring just four goals in 25 Premier League appearances. It has been suggested that Rashford could leave Manchester United this summer and Arsenal would be a logical destination for the England international.
Like Jesus, though, Rashford would be a better fit in a wide position rather than through the middle. Arsenal could do with another option on the left side after the departure of Aubameyang and Rashford, who is in the 72nd percentile for progressive carries into the box, is most comfortable when he has the freedom to cut inside off the wing. That’s where he is most dangerous.