It had been no secret that Arsenal were following Emiliano Buendia. The clubs interest in the Argentine precedes this summer window and it was speculated in the latest winter window that Arsenal were close to prizing the man away from Carrow Road and bringing him to the Emirates. However, despite the conflicting reports as to whether Arsenal actually went in for Buendia, the Argentine has agreed a deal to move to Aston Villa for a club-record fee. What exactly does this mean for the Gunners and who else can the side turn to in this position?
According to football.london the clubs apparent primary target is Martin Ødegaard,. The Norwegian, who recently spent six months in North-London on a loan deal, impressed with many of his performances during the stint and appears to be exactly what Arteta wants from someone operating in the number 10 role. Ødegaard was clearly extremely comfortable on the ball and often came deeper to receive the ball and carry it forward, most notably in the 3-3 thriller away at West Ham.
The Real Madrid man reinvigorated Arsenal when the side went 3-0 down and took it upon himself to drag his side back into the game. He appeared to be everywhere on the pitch during the second half and his ability to combine with Calum Chambers on the right-hand side created a lot of problems for the Hammers. As well as this performance, notable moments such as his last-minute Özil-esque assist for Martinelli at Palace and his screamer against Olympiakos demonstrate the all-round attacking prowess that Ødegaard possesses. One of the main facets of Ødegaard’s play which often goes unnoticed is his desire to work off the ball. The Norwiegan is constantly tracking back and winning the ball around Arsenal’s defensive third which means that a switch to a 433 from a 4231 is available with him in midfield.
Despite his young age, he is also the captain of his national side and can therefore be considered both a leader on and off the pitch, through both his ability and his temperament. Martin Ødegaard may be considered out of Arsenal’s price range if Real Madrid drive a hard bargain but based on his first six months in England, it may be impossible to pass up the opportunity to sign him permanently.
Another potential signing to make Arsenal fans forget all about Emi Buendia is that of Houssem Aouar. The young Frenchman had Arsenal fans purring all throughout last season’s summer window and was widely reported as Mikel Arteta’s number one priority for the market. Whilst he would offer the creativity we have been craving for years, Aouar would symbolise the change in shape from a 4231 to 433. It is likely that Aouar would operate as the more advanced midfielder in a 433 and despite coming off the back of a disappointing campaign for Lyon, Aouar’s quality is there to be seen and by being just 22 there is still plenty of time for Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff to ooze the potential out of him.
As well as these primary targets, players such as Julian Brandt and Hakan Calhanoglu have been linked to the club in recent days. These would offer cheaper alternatives to the aforementioned names with Hakan’s contract coming to an end and Julian Brandt rumoured to be in the £20m-30m region respectively. These signings wouldn’t attract the same excitement and attention from Arsenal fans and would likely be seen as the club skimping on a position which is crucial to the way Arsenal have played over the last two decades, highlighting the importance in getting this signing right.
Despite all this, Arsenal may not even have to shop for this position over the summer. The emergence of Emile Smith Rowe, who is set to be rewarded with a new contract, and Joe Willock’s performances on loan at Newcastle, suggest that there may be inhouse solutions for Arsenal’s advanced midfielder. Luckily for the club there is no need to panic over missing out on Buendia. There is a wealth of options to fill this role and as long as the club land an exciting player, the fans will be on board with the decision not to pursue Emi Buendia.