When Martin Odegaard joined Arsenal on loan from Real Madrid in January after such an exciting time at Real Sociedad, there was a renewed buzz that electrified Gunners fans and Mikel Arteta must now fill that void.
Arsenal have witnessed plenty of lavish and ornate attacking midfielders grace the hallowed turf at both the Emirates and Highbury throughout time, stretching from Paul Merson to Mesut Özil.
It is a role that comes with great responsibility and one that Gunners fans have become accustomed to in their side over the years.
With Odegaard out of the frame ahead of the forthcoming season, and Emile Smith Rowe subject to ongoing interest from Aston Villa, Arteta will be scouring the transfer market for the Emirates’ next suitor.
Using fbref.com, here are three realistic creative midfielders that Arteta should be targeting this summer and how they compare to former loanee Odegaard.
Dani Olmo was a staple in Luis Enrique’s Spain squad at Euro 2020, featuring five times and recording three assists. He showcased the ability to play fluidly across the front four throughout the European Championships, showing he has the flair and trickery to lift fans off their seats at the Emirates.
The 23-year-old, who joined RB Leipzig from Dinamo Zagreb in January 2020 for £20million, excelled this season in the Bundesliga scoring five goals and picking up nine assists across 32 games.
Comparing this with Odegaard’s 2019/20 season in La Liga, the Norway captain recorded just ten direct goal contributions across 31 appearances.
However, when delving into the statistics, Odegaard underperformed with regard to his expected goals (3.2) and expected assists (5.1), meanwhile Olmo, this season, drastically overachieved with his expected assists (4.9) and significantly underperformed in expected goals (7.6).
Meanwhile, Odegaard generally has a better pass completion percentage and carries the ball forward more with more intent, however, Olmo appears to be more efficient with his chance creation action (0.78) per 90 compared to Norwegian (0.53).
The Spain international is valued at around £45m, however, Bild believe that it would take far more than that to prize the former Barcelona prospect away.
After reaching incredible heights and being a key player under Zinedine Zidane in the Frenchman’s first spell at Real Madrid, the 25-year-old midfielder is yet to reignite that form but could do so under Arteta if given sufficient game time.
Despite his history with injuries, the creative technician remains a potentially great asset for Arsenal and is valued at £38m with Real Madrid willing to entertain offers in said region, according to Spanish outlet Don Balon.
Asensio just completed his first full season at Los Blancos since he ruptured his cruciate ligament in 2019, directly contributing towards seven goals this season in 35 La Liga games, where he played on average just 53.4 minutes a game.
Although Asensio, who can play on the wing and as a number ten, played 14 more games this season than Odegaard, the Spaniard enjoyed a greater expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes.
However, the Norwegian appeared to produce more chances leading to his teammates having a shot per 90 minutes, highlighting the differing quality in end product of those on the receiving end at Arsenal/Real Sociedad and Real Madrid.
He may not be the most attractive signing out of the three but with the Gunners’ ongoing £50m links with Ben White, the deal may prove to have the perfect balance with regard to value for money, potential and opportunity.
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James Maddison seems to be the crown jewel that Edu and Arteta have their eyes set on.
Despite a season peppered with setbacks, the 24-year-old attacking midfielder directly contributed towards 13 goals in 31 Premier League games while also tremendously over performing in expected goals, bringing an eye for goal to the table.
As reported by football.london, Arteta is a huge admirer Maddison but his £60m valuation could prove to be a deterrent.
However, in addition to watching him glide through the thirds, it is clear as to why the Englishman is in such high demand when comparing his output to Odegaard and Asensio.
Maddison produced 4.5 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes this season, compared to Olmo’s 4.27, Odegaard’s 3.93 and Asensio’s 3.42, demonstrating his incredible ability to create chances that sets him apart.
Olmo and Maddison both look to be the ideal target for Arteta and have proven this season to offer more than just creativity and flair to the table.
However, following Olmo’s impressive Euro 2020 campaign for Spain he will likely see his value soar into the realms of Maddison’s price bracket, making it tough for the Gunners to engage in such talks.
But Asensio could be an interesting coup for a shrewd and negotiable price, especially with Ancelotti reportedly keen for him to make way for various incoming signings.
Who would you sign Arsenal fans? Let us know in the comments below.
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