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The Window of Versatility- Arsenal's transfer strategy

By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)

Gabriel Jesus, Lisandro Martinez, Fabio Vieira, Aaron Hickey, Richarlison- these are a small sample of Arsenal transfer targets/ interest/ rumours from this transfer window. Despite playing in different areas of the pitch, the one thing they have in common is their positional versatility- the ability to play in relatively different roles at a very high level. These qualities are at a premium in the modern game and can prove to be highly effective in the right tactical set-up.

There is a significant shortage of traditional high-quality strikers in the market with the quality-to-cost ratio justifiably not worth the risk. This Arsenal side is crying out for a top-class striker so splashing the cash on the right player could take this team to the next level and arguably, a risk worth taking. But in this small sample of quality strikers, each one has very different strengths and the competition for them is so crazy that the margin for error is higher than ever. Lukaku is a great example of the consequences of getting things wrong and Arsenal definitely does not have the luxury of getting it wrong.


The alternative: versatile forwards. The ability to play anywhere on the front line provides a lot of positional flexibility to the team as well as a more fluid nature to the attack and in my opinion, this Arsenal side needs more dynamism than a traditional striker. Arteta wants his strikers to drop into the space between the opposition's midfield and backline and progress up the pitch.


Lacazette adapted his game to be effective against some teams with his link-up play but his physical decline meant that the goal-scoring task took quite a hit. Nketiah provided a glimpse of what is demanded from this role in the last few games of the season. Gabriel Jesus ticks all the boxes in this role and with his peak years ahead, would be a big upgrade to the current squad. A potential downside to recruiting forwards could mean a lack of a clinical goal scorer but this can be offset by an improvement in fluidity and chance creation.


As one dives deeper into our latest signing, Fabio Vieira, it's easy to see why Edu was keen to get the signing done quickly. A versatile technical player with the qualities to play as an attacking midfielder and a winger is not very common and his ceiling appears to be very high.

On the other end, defenders who are capable of covering multiple positions are highly sought after in the modern game as they allow coaches to be more tactically flexible and find the balance between exploiting the right spaces and minimising the opposition's strengths.


Despite his injury troubles, the signing of Takehiro Tomiyasu proved to be a very solid signing thanks in part to his two-footedness. This has allowed Arsenal to play out through the press much more effectively as the comfort with both feet allows him to have a more balanced body shape while receiving the ball in tight spaces. He was used as a left-back as well against Raphinha and did a very solid job. Ben White is also someone who can play as a midfielder along with deputising at right-back if necessary. The ability to switch into different positions without an adjustment period is an underrated quality and players who fit this bill need to have a very good understanding of the game. In the past, Calum Chambers has talked about how operating as a defensive midfielder improved his understanding of the game while playing as a defender.


In this window, one of the primary targets is Ajax's Lisandro Martinez, according to The Athletic. The Argentinian international has played as a defensive midfielder in the past before operating as a left-sided centre-back over the last couple of seasons and can fill in at left-back when required. He appears to be very good at playing through the lines and the positional versatility could help plug different holes in the current squad. At 5'9, the height is a concern but he has held his own against some of the best in the Champions League and his aggressive playing style should be suited to the Premier League.

These are all great qualities to find through scouting and analysis, highlighting the specificity in our recruitment since last summer. The mentality is another important factor when signing versatile players. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are perfect examples of players wanting to play in a specific position rather than embrace the wide variety of skillsets they possess. On the back of last summer, there is clearly an emerging trend to be smarter in recruitment to bridge the gap to the top sides in the league in a rather unorthodox approach.

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