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A transfer window wouldn’t be a transfer window without a saga to keep track of. Matthijs de Ligt’s future was initially the hot topic of conversation but interest surrounding his next destination has died down over recent weeks.
In its place is Arsenal’s pursuit of Wilfried Zaha.
Reports claim the Gunners have made the 26-year-old their top summer target. They’re even prepared to stretch their £45million transfer budget to land the former Manchester United man. However, Crystal Palace, having already sold Aaron Wan-Bissaka this summer, are in no rush to part ways with their prized asset.
With the player seemingly keen to leave and the club refusing to bow to his demands, this could get messy. There’s little more than a month left before Premier League clubs can no longer strengthen their squads until January.
Unai Emery may want to add Zaha to his forward line but there needs to be a cut-off point. And there have to be alternatives if they can’t convince Palace to sell.
Can anyone actually name someone who does what Zaha does, and is
a) better than Zaha, and
I keep seeing people saying he's overpriced, but I don't see many suggested alternatives.
This is a serious question. Suggestions welcome. Let's go.
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) July 1, 2019
Finding players similar to the Ivory Coast international isn’t easy. In many ways, he’s unique. An aggressive ball carrier who thrives in one-on-one moments. He's not a great goalscorer but is still a great goal threat with a lot of what he does well not really quantifiable.
That said, there are players out there who can do what Zaha does and would cost Arsenal a fraction of the price.
Marcus Thuram would've been on the list but he looks set to move to Borussia Mönchengladbach for a cut-price fee of just £9million if reports are to be believed.
However, we've still come up with a list of three players who tick the boxes for the Gunners using the Football Whispers Lab.
Believed to be a target for the Eagles if Zaha does depart, Saint-Maximin could be the man Arsenal turn to instead if the Palace No.11.
Nice are reportedly prepared to sell the 22-year-old for £22million, a bargain fee for a player with the potential he possesses. His unpredictability could well be worth that alone.
He’s not a serious goal threat but he still had an expected goals average of 0.20 last term, a mere 0.02 higher than Zaha's but higher nonetheless.
His real value comes as a creator. Saint-Maximin isn’t the sort to sit deep and pull the strings, instead he dictates what happens in the final third with the sheer number of dribbles he completes, along with his eagerness to get into the penalty area.
Saint-Maximin is the sort of player opponents flock around to stop and this creates opportunities for others. In many ways, he’s the sort to thrive in chaotic situations.
His versatility means he can play on either flank, as well as an attacking midfielder, giving Emery a number of options and allowing the former Sevilla man to fit him in alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
If reports are believed, a host of Europe's elite are courting the PSV flyer. Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Milan and even Ajax have all shown an interest in the £30million-rated 21-year-old – and Arsenal should too.
He was one of an exclusive group of players to score ten or more league goals and register ten or more assists last term. Granted, the Dutch Eredivisie isn't considered one of the big five, it's still an impressive achievement, one only 11 players managed during the 2018/19 campaign.
It's even more impressive when you consider he managed it while splitting his time between two positions. He was deployed as a right-winger and as a left-winger, mixing it up with Hirving Lozano, yet it didn't impact his output or effectiveness.
Bergwijn seems to have it all.
He's a goalscorer, a volume monster – averaging more than three shots, five attempted dribbles and six touches in the opposition's box. For a rumoured £30million, he could be one of the signings of the summer.
The wildcard one of the list. Boufal spent the 2018/19 season on loan with Celta Vigo in what was a disappointing campaign for the club. However, on an individual level, the Southampton-owned winger looked back to his very best.
Reports in April claimed the Saints would accept £13million for him though there probably would be a Premier League premium added to this if he joined Arsenal. Even so, he could be worth the gamble. If money is limited, as suggested by countless media outlets, the Gunners need to be savvy in the market.
While Boufal isn't a world beater and won't be any time soon, he shares a number of similarities with Zaha. He is a moments player – evidenced by his stunning solo goal against West Bromwich Albion in 2017 – looking to create one-on-one situations in order to use his dribbling ability to create space for himself and others.
He isn't prolific but with Aubameyang and Lacazette leading the line for Arsenal, that isn't a requirement. Zaha isn't a goal machine either.
Arsenal want a winger. They want one with pace and superb close control. If they want a name then Boufal isn't going to tick that box but in terms of profile, he would be worth a gamble.