Ahead of the summer transfer window, there has been much talk about the areas where Arsenal could strengthen.
Will it be in defence? Well, after the injury to Jurrien Timber adding more depth in that position could well be a smart call.
However, a move to really take the Gunners to the next level could be in attack. Ivan Toney has long thought to be a target of Mikel Arteta but there are three concerns over a potential deal this winter.
First of all, Toney hasn’t played any football this season yet after being banned for betting offences, Brentford and Thomas Frank don’t want to sell, and if they do, it could take the best part of £100m.
The January market is never easy to conclude deals, particularly one of that magnitude, which means Edu and co may have to wait until next summer to bolster their attacking armoury.
Toney is perfect for Raya
It would be rude of us to suggest that Brentford are a route one team under Frank. That wouldn’t be doing their side justice at all.
Indeed, they can play equally as well with the ball on the deck, punishing teams on the counterattack and winding them down courtesy of players such as Yoanne Wissa and Bryan Mbeumo.
However, when the Bees had Toney and David Raya in their ranks, it provided a different layer to the game.
Arsenal fans will know all too well that their new goalkeeper is adept with the ball at his feet and Brentford used that to their advantage to play long into Toney, a striker who very rarely loses an individual duel against a defender.
Last season, no goalkeeper had more touches per 90 in the Premier League than the Spaniard’s 45.32 but crucially, he was one of the best when it came to passing. Equally, no stopper could better Raya’s success from passes longer than 40 yards up the pitch. On average in the top-flight last term, he completed 9.13 per game.
This was largely because he had one of the best target men in the division to aim for; Toney. Their two styles of play complement each other beautifully well, with the busy Brentford striker winning 3.32 aerials per 90 minutes in 2022/23, enough to rank him in the top 9% of strikers in the league. For reference, Everton’s Calvert-Lewin was the best with 5.10 per 90.
What that means is that more often than not, Toney was able to win long balls forward from Raya. The perfect match.
Arsenal already have their own Ivan Toney
Of course, signing the Brentford marksman in 2024 would bring huge benefits. There is that pre-existing relationship with Raya to consider and how that could be utilised to Arsenal’s strengths, while his 21 goals last term is also a pretty attractive thing.
However, it’s possible that Arteta already has his own version of Toney in their ranks. Enter Kai Havertz.
The German has been a polarising figure since signing from Chelsea in the summer for £65m, but appears to finally be finding his groove in north London.
Havertz scored the late winner against none other than Brentford a week ago and then also scored the opener in their 6-0 demolition of Lens in midweek. It was perhaps a surprise, therefore, to see him on the bench for the visit of Wolves.
Arsenal could force Havertz into a new role by signing £52m PL star
Kai Havertz could be deployed in attack if Arsenal make this exciting signing.
It might well be difficult to work out what the former Chelsea man has brought with him since arriving but one thing is for certain, just like Toney, he’s a menace in the air.
Standing at 6 foot 4, the “special” player as Paul Merson dubbed him, offers something no other Arsenal player can do in the final third, an aerial presence.
Last season, Havertz ranked inside the top 13% of forward players in the Premier League for aerials won per 90 with 2.77, a statistic that when compared with attacking midfielders placed him in the very best 2%.
Most aerial duels won – Premier League midfielders (2022/23)
Player & ranking
#1 Tomas Soucek
#2 Kai Havertz
#4 Joao Palhinha
#6 Jefferson Lerma
Stats via FBref.
It’s not quite the same level as Toney but it gives Raya a focal point to aim for and we’ve already seen it in action this season. Only on Saturday in the dying embers of the game did we see Arteta screaming at his goalkeeper to find the German. What happened? Well, the ‘keeper used his vision to pick out Havertz who was able to retain the ball high up the pitch for his team.
This is a method that we’re set to see throughout the rest of the season, it’s just a shame their £280k-per-week summer signing doesn’t offer the same level of goal threat as a certain Toney.