Former Arsenal star Paul Merson says he is keen on the Gunners signing a “genuine playmaker” who can play in a deeper-lying midfield role.
The Sky Sports pundit has picked out two players, Wolves’ Ruben Neves and Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse; both of which he feels manager Mikel Arteta should consider for the position:
“Xhaka and Partey do a great job in there but they’re not going to take you to the next level. I don’t think they’ve got a genuine passer in the team; a genuine playmaker from deeper positions like that. And if anyone can find that type of player it should be Arteta because he’s played that position himself.”
“Sometimes you have to be able to hit that diagonal ball over the top. With Arsenal, everything is short, short, short. Martin Odegaard does a great job of that, playing one-twos and trying to slip players in. But you need someone with a good passing range in behind him too. Someone who keeps it simple but can hit your forwards with a long ball or two as well. Ruben Neves does it for Wolves. James Ward-Prowse does it for Southampton. I have no idea how he’s still at Saints. It must be the sea air! Both of them take free-kicks and give you an extra dimension from set-pieces in my opinion as well.”
Neves is believed to be a genuine target for Arsenal, but his manager Bruno Lage has suggested that the Portuguese international could cost £100m, which would be well outside of the Gunners’ price range. The player is also attracting interest from Manchester United and Tottenham.
In terms of Ward-Prowse, it does seem like a good shout, considering some of the excellent performances that the 27-year-old has been putting in this season. However, it doesn’t look like the England international will be considered.
Leicester’s Youri Tielemans appears to be the favoured option at the moment. Reports suggest that, with his contract running down, he could be available for only £25m, which may tempt Arsenal into making a move.