Arsenal under Unai Emery had their weaknesses – but not in attack. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette leading the line, the Gunners had considerable firepower, with successor Mikel Arteta just needing to shore up the rest of the pitch.
But times change. Alexandre Lacazette has always been patchy in truth and available for free in the summer, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looks destined for an exit following disciplinary issues and even following the big two, Eddie Nketiah – who bagged his first senior career hat-trick this week – is running down his contract, too.
Arteta could potentially be left with just Gabriel Martinellicome the end of the season. With plenty of big names linked with the Gunners, Arteta has a decision to make. So who's the best shout from everyone linked? Let's separate the wheat from the chaff to work out who's likely, who's a good fit and who Arsenal should sign.
1. Mason Greenwood
Let's address the most outlandish rumour first. It's emerged this month that Mason Greenwood is a target for Arsenal – who could pay £100m for him – as the Manchester United star looks for minutes in a congested squad.
If there is any possible chance of the Gunners signing Greenwood, they need to grab it with both hands. Not only would the coup of luring United's golden boy be groundbreaking for the north Londoners after years of other sides nabbing their stars, Greenwood is obviously worth it. Two-footed, an unbelievable finisher, physical, versatile and intelligent – what's not to love?
It's just a shame for Arteta that it's never going to happen in million years. United would never let him leave – especially to a historic rival – and contractual obligation stretching to 2025 means the ball is absolutely in their court on this one. Look elsewhere, Mikel.
2. Joao Felix
A surprise option but another that might be a little out of reach. Atletico Madrid paid nine figures for Joao Felix but are reportedly open to letting him leave – whether he'd go to a side outside the Champions League is another matter.
Still, this would be the jewel in the crown of a young team, landing one of the most sought-after starlets in Europe. There's no doubt that Felix could develop to become a Firmino-type drifter in the Premier League, linking up with the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith in a fluid frontline. The idea of it is sumptuous now – just imagine how good they'd all be in five years.
Unfortunately, football is seldom how you imagine it. Who's scoring the goals here? Felix has been wasted at Atletico but he's still not the goalscorer to hang your hat on. Arsenal have made expensive gambles in the past that haven't paid off – hello, Nicolas Pepe – and Felix feels like more high risk, high reward.
3. Ivan Toney
Ivan Toney has just two non-penalty goals in 14 appearances in the Premier League. Still, he might be exactly what Arsenal need.
The Brentford striker has impressed in the top flight with his improved hold-up play, deft touch and physicality leading the line for the Bees. Aerially, he's been dominant; he's managed to create a fair whack and it's not as if he can't score in a team that dominates possession a little more: last season he broke the record for most goals scored in a Championship season.
Toney would be attainable, potentially for £40m. He's worked his way up from League One, has a superb attitude and work rate and were Arsenal to bring in another superstar striker in two years' time, Toney would still be 27 and probably more than up for a fight for the first-choice spot. He might just be the best option available to the Gunners right now – and he ticks a lot of boxes of what their recent signings look like.
4. Ollie Watkins
Another former Brentford striker who's made his way up from the lower leagues, Aston Villa might be keener to consider offers for Ollie Watkins than they were 12 months ago – given that they now have Danny Ings.
They'd be foolish to let him go, however. Watkins is a rare blend of top technical quality, superb dribbling and touch, yet the physicality to win balls aerially and compete as a no.9. He has the tools to combine in a playmaker's area and he's still just 25: he'll improve in time.
The only thing he's yet to prove is a ruthless streak. While this Arsenal team are maturing and developing the killer edge as one, Watkins would have to develop it, too – rather than becoming the experienced finisher that Arteta hoped Aubameyang would be this season. Watkins would likely be a good fit at Arsenal – but if he's joining a big team, he perhaps needs the support of leaders around him, like he'd get at somewhere like Liverpool.
5. Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is exactly the kind of forward that Arsenal fans cried out for at one point. Incredibly physical, there's perhaps no better target man in the Premier League right now.
That would give Arsenal a whole new angle. While his technicality can still be improved, DCL would be more of a battering ram for the Gunners; a harder edge with which to float crosses into.
Still, he'd be expensive and his combination play is a little lacking; Everton look best when Richarlison is close to him and Arteta might want someone a little more complete for the price he'd cost.
6. Alexander Isak
Alexander Isak has been linked with Arsenal ever since leaving Borussia Dortmund. The Real Sociedad striker is still just 22 – and could well develop into one of the best strikers in the world in a few years' time.
With height, excellent close control and good link-up play, Isak stands out very obviously. The Swede is technical and physical – and he might not cost the earth, either.
But while Isak's all-round game is good, he's not the elite striker that will hit the ground running and guarantee top four. He doesn't inspire fear in opponents and his drifts out towards the left may well get in Gabriel Martinelli's way. Is he ready? Former teammate at La Real, Martin Odegaard, will surely put in a good word…
7. Jonathan David
An excellent presser, superb outside the box linking with others and a good finisher to boot, Jonathan David is as close to Alexandre Lacazette as Arsenal would find – except he's a lot quicker.
And this season, David's scored 12 in 19 – better than the Gunners no.9. The Canadian is maturing into a good all-round forward who can drift, find space and cause havoc in the box. Is he ready for the step up?
Rather like ex-teammate Boubakary Soumare, David's physicality would have to improve if he were to thrive in the Premier League. Though he's enjoyed a purple patch this season, goals would have to flow and it might be a big ask. Again, he's perhaps best suited to being a squad option.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT.
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