Mikel Arteta has identified his No.1 target to reinforce Arsenal’s midfield as he contemplates the next step in a rebuilding job that is beginning to gather pace.
The Gunners are currently in fourth place in the Premier League and have shown signs of having made significant progress in recent weeks.
Arsenal have scored 19 goals in their last five matches, with the emergence of youngsters Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and summer signing Martin Odegaard all huge factors in the recent upturn in performances.
Arteta is yet to decide how best to go about replacing exiled former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng who has been banished since being stripped of the captaincy earlier this month.
The Gabon international could miss the next five games after he was given permission to join up with the Panthers squad ahead of next month’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Arsenal have drawn up a shortlist of players to replace the 32-year-old with Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak, Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic, Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins all potential options, but none of that quartet is likely to be available until the summer.
While the attack remains a slight work in progress, Arsenal’s defensive record has improved markedly with summer recruits Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu proving shrewd additions, while Gabriel Magalehaes is excelling in his second season at the club.
Arsenal’s midfield, however, remains an area of concern especially given the impending departure of Ainsley Maitland-Niles who is on the cusp of joining Roma.
In the short-term Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are due to miss the next five games at least while they are at AFCON, leaving Granit Xhaka and Sambi Lokonga, who has only just recovered from a bout of Covid, as the club’s two senior midfielders.
According to ESPN, Arteta is a keen admirer of Watkins’ Villa teammate Douglas Luiz who he is said to view as an alternative to Jorginho, whom he was keen to sign 18 months ago when the Italy international couldn’t get a lookin under Frank Lampard.