Playing double dutch with Gakpo
By Sumaiya Vawda
In the space of a week, Cody Gakpo has risen from promising Eredivisie prospect to transfer market hot property, thanks to PSV reporter Rik Elfrink linking him to Arsenal. Whispers of Liverpool and Bayern Munich’s interest were not far behind. Fabrizio Romano has since picked up on the story and added Raphinha of Leeds to the mix. That would suggest Mikel Arteta is keen on a winger or may have a position transformation in mind.
Gakpo has 17 goals and 13 assists across all club competitions this season. The right-footed youngster operates predominantly on the left-wing and is characterised by his dribbling, cutting inside and finishing. On the surface, he fits the project- just 22 years of age, physically robust and already vice-captain at PSV Eindhoven. At a £40 million asking price, the Dutchman is lighter on the pockets than the likes of Alexander Isak, Darwin Nunez and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
There is, of course, a major difference between Gakpo and those players in that they are strikers by trade and he is not. This raises multiple questions, the answers to which may only be found in the mind of the Arsenal manager. If Gakpo is to operate on the left, it seems likely another significant investment will have to be made at striker. In the scenario where Lacazette and Pépé leave this summer, then Arteta may see fit to hand Martinelli some minutes at centre forward to lighten the burden on a new striking acquisition. Gakpo, Smith Rowe, Saka and the repurposed Martinelli would then serve as wide forward options.
Cody Gakpo has maximised shot and assist volume numbers this season in the Dutch league. Thus, it has been touted that Arteta sees him as one to occupy the underserved centre forward role in North London. The player stands at 6’2 and possesses good movement coupled with technical capability. When you toss in his goal numbers, one can see where the idea of him centrally was birthed. However, it would be unthinkable to go into next season with the team’s main striker having barely played the role and with no experienced back-up option. This adds to the (moderately low) merits of keeping Lacazette in the squad. Furthermore, his decisive crossing and impressive dribbling would be blunted centrally.
Another consideration is translation of his statistics to the Premier League. Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie effectively made the leap from Eredivisie, where Afonso Alves and Memphis Depay failed. Thus, such a transfer would not be without risk. The Netherlands International will notably not offer Lacazette’s hold-up play and off-the-ball defensive work. This has ripple effects for the Gunners' preferred style of play.
It’s difficult not to get excited about adding another pearl to a string of highly-talented young, versatile players to potentially trot out in a season with European football. Given Arsenal’s history with high-ceiling Dutch players (think Dennis Bergkamp), this would be an astute acquisition for left-wing if the price remains moderate. Uncertainty in the merit of signing Gakpo exists without knowledge of the knock-on effects this has in the market. Ultimately, the first concern is of a premium choice at centre forward. Then Arteta can have a go at fleshing his squad with the appropriate talent.