5 Bundesliga Players Arsenal fans should look out for in the coming weeks (Part 1)
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
With the Bundesliga today being given the green light to return in the second half of May, avid football fans will be glued to their sofas in the coming weeks, watching perhaps the most underrated league in Europe play out the final weeks of their season. The German top flight not only possesses the most dynamic, progressive and exciting coaches on the continent at the moment (which make it a delightful spectacle for tactics nerds), but it also possesses some hugely talented players, many of whom have been linked with moves to Arsenal.
So, with high quality football finally set to commence once again within the next two weeks, I thought I’d take a look at five players Arsenal fans should be keeping an eye on when they tune in to watch the Bundesliga, with some more likely to venture to North London in the next window than others.
Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)
A man who needs no introducing to Arsenal fans, given he’s probably been the most talked about player amongst Gooners in the last twelve months who hasn’t joined the club. Having said that, many of the Emirates faithful may not have actually seen the French defender live with their own eyes, so this period will be a great opportunity for them to do so, as well as experiencing the pulsating style of Julian Naglesmann’s Leipzig.
The 21-year-old 6’1 centre-back is quick, physically imposing and a calming presence at the back of a tactically flexible side that plays an intense pressing and offensively fluid system. He’s far from the finished package, so some fans may be slightly taken back by his level, given the perception that he’s already an extremely accomplished defender who would slot in seamlessly to our back four and be amongst the league’s best centre-backs immediately- which is quite unrealistic.
Whether or not Upamecano is actually a viable option given the (supposedly reduced) price tag of €40 million remains to be seen, but he’s certainly worth a watch in this period.
Ibrahima Konate (RB Leipzig)
Another French centre-back and another staple of RB Leipzig’s defence who strangely seems to get a lot less mainstream praise than his defensive compatriot aforementioned. Konate’s staggering 6’4 frame gives him a slightly different playing style from Upamecano, being more dominant in the air, less reliant on (what is still a very impressive) recovery pace and more able to utilise his excellent positional awareness and physicality to monitor opposition attacker’s effectiveness.
Konate has spent the large majority of this season on the sidelines, either injured or not selected, which is perhaps the reason he’s not seen linked as frequently with big money moves away from the Bundesliga. Having said that, he may be a more realistic and cost effective alternative to Upamecano, so if he’s to get more opportunities in the final month or so of the season, it’s definitely worth getting a glance of his abilities.
Konrad Laimer (RB Leipzig)
Konrad Laimer 19/20
Yet another reason to watch Leipzig as much as possible in the upcoming weeks is the brilliance of midfielder Konrad Laimer, perhaps the best midfielder on the defensive side in the German top flight this campaign. However, because of just how vital a cog he is in the Naglesmann machine, being able to lure him to North London will probably remain a bit of a pipe dream. But we’ll talk about him anyway.
The 22-year-old Austrian international is the midfield anchor in this Leipzig side. His phenomenal ability to press persistently, and to good effect, is astonishing, and sees him win a ridiculous rate of 5.59 tackles per 90 (possession adjusted of course). He is quite literally a tank, with his incredible stamina and ability to cover drastic amounts of ground unparalleled, having him in this Arsenal side and in the Premier League in general would be absolutely wonderful.
Not only does he break opposition play up on a regular basis, he’s also a relatively successful dribbler and is heavily involved in the construction of moves (mainly starting them by winning the ball high up the pitch). Unfortunately, as I said, this is probably nothing but a pipe dream.
Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Kai Havertz 19/20
Finally, we move away from Germany’s most hated club, although we don’t swerve away from the more unlikely acquisitions. As far as Mesut Ozil replacements go, Kai Havertz may be close to perfect.
Not only does he possess the creative assets of Ozil, registering a brilliant 0.27 open play xA per 90 this campaign, he also poses a much greater goal threat, managing 0.23 xG per 90 himself this season, which is actually a step down from last season’s incredible 0.39. He fits perfectly in a modern day system, and would be able to develop into a mezzala if Arteta was to revert to a 4-3-3 based system.
Not only will he be great for us Arsenal fans to fantasise over the possibility of him donning the beautiful red and white, he’s also just brilliant to watch from a neutral stand point, and plays in another very attractive side in Leverkusen, so definitely watch out for the 6’2 20-year-old playmaker.
Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Deniz Zakaria 19/20
Perhaps the first player on this list whose signature is actually real possibility. We were heavily linked with the Swiss international in December, and if we are to not land Thomas Partey in the upcoming window (which is very possible), then Zakaria is certainly a player we should consider bringing in.
Although the Ghanaian and Zakaria’s skill sets differ slightly, in that the former contributes significantly more in Atletico’s ball progression, they do actually share many similarities. Both are physically imposing, athletic and good dribblers, whilst both contribute significantly defensively.
Zakaria would provide the defensive protection we need to our vulnerable back four, protecting the side from being exposed in the transition, and would complement a Granit Xhaka (as he does internationally) or Matteo Guendouzi well, who can focus on progressing the ball, which is undoubtedly both their main strengths. However, we’ve seen Mikel Arteta’s reluctance to use a ball winner who isn’t particularly adventurous in his distribution in Lucas Torreira, which may deter Zakaria’s appeal to the Spaniard.
Having said that, Zakaria adds a dribbling ability which is currently lacking in our relatively stagnant and immobile pivot and at just 23, he may be a more sensible use of our limited resources than signing Partey, who turns 27 in June.
Regardless of whether we even go near him as prospected target, he’s definitely worth a look at in what is yet another exciting side in Gladbach.
That’s all for now, and you may have noticed I’ve gone for slightly bigger names in this one. The Bundesliga has so many exciting, talented players that I’m probably going to do several parts to this, so watch out for this and cheers for reading.