The January transfer window was met with an unexpected twist and turn in the fortunes of Ukrainian starlet Mykhailo Mudryk after the 21-year-old wonderkid agreed to a shock move to struggling Premier League giants Chelsea after Shakhtar Donest accepted the Blues’ unexpected €100m (£90m) bid earlier today.
With a situation that developed rapidly after earlier suggestions pointed to Mudryk first rejecting the chance to head to Stamford Bridge and instead preferring a “dream move” to Arsenal, the Gunners have been left questioning where they can transition their January focus to after club technical director Edu Gaspar and manager Mikel Arteta were convinced they would get their man and fold him into a budding young senior setup that is currently topping the Premier League table.
Mudryk is now set for a medical with the club ahead of what is a Ukrainian record transfer fee received before putting pen to paper on a seven-year deal, locking his fortunes to a Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital Group ownership and a foundering ship currently being piloted by Graham Potter, with Chelsea sitting tenth in the table but still aggressive spending ~£150m during the winter window for Benoît Badiashile, David Datro Fofana, João Félix, and Andrey Santos on top of the impending move for Mudryk.
This has left the Gunners in another pickle that has some fans concerned that a repeat of last season’s winter window, which many attributes to the reason why Arsenal missed out on Champions League football, may strip the club’s chances of securing its first Premier League win in eighteen seasons.
And with no current links to Edu and Arteta switching gears to other possible targets, there is a real worry that Arsenal was so convinced they would land Mudryk that they may not have considered other possibilities, irrespective of the fact that the club did just that - do rave reviews - during the summer window.
Where does Arsenal go from here? 101 Great Goals takes a look at five potential alternatives to Chelsea-bound Mykhailo Mudryk.
Michael Olise (Crystal Palace)
One possible option for Arsenal could be looking somewhere closer to home, just across the Thames, in fact, in the direction of Selhurst Park and 21-year-old French youth international Michael Olise. Notably utilized in a myriad of rules under former Arsenal midfielder and Gunners icon Patrick Vieira, Olise’s profile suits what the club has ideally been targeting recently; versatile players that can still be molded to what Arteta’s requirements are on the pitch.
Olise has already received top praise from Vieira as well as Arsène Wenger, which he has proven correct across the last two seasons at Crystal Palace when it comes to his ability to dictate match tempo while offering technical craft and exhibiting creative characteristics. Capable of being deployed on the right flank, through the middle in the 10 role, or as a mobile 8, Olise is certainly more flexible and malleable than Mudryk while already being proven in the Premier League. His current value of ~£20m would make him affordable in theory but being contracted until 2026, it could be a tough nut to crack.
Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton & Hove Albion)
The story that has been the rapid rise of Japanese international Kaoru Mitoma at Brighton is what footballing dreams are made of. After first climbing through the youth ranks of Kawasaki Frontale starting at the age of ten until he turned eighteen in 2015, Mitoma turned down a professional contract from Frontale in order to pursue coursework at the University of Tsukuba. His studies have gone on to pay off massively when it comes to his footballing career, with the 25-year-old fast becoming one of the brightest wingers in England.
Mitoma first cut his teeth in Europe during another storyboard season in 2021-22 with resurrected Belgian side Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, but soon found his way to the American Express Community Stadium due to the direct link between Brighton and Brussels. Since then, Mitoma has shone under Roberto De Zerbi, with his technical ability at pace coming to the surface on a weekly basis, with Arsenal having already suffered at his hand during the Gunners 4-2 win over De Zerbi’s men on New Year’s Eve. Arsenal may have failed in past attempts to bring Japanese talent to north London, but Mitoma’s previous seasoning and proven Premier League ability should not go unnoticed.
Marcus Thuram (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Possibly viewed by some, myself included, as a relative no-brainer option that may still be on the market, French international forward Borussia Mönchengladbach key man Marcus Thuram could be a potential needle-moving deal that Arsenal should, at the very least, openly explore in the remaining two weeks of the January window.
Currently sitting joint-second in the Bundesliga with 10 goals and just two behind RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku in the race for the Torjägerkanone, Thuram - like many others on this shortlist - brings needed versatility. But more so than the others, Thuram has a proven goal record that is ahead of the rest. Ten goals and eight assists highlighted his debut season in Germany back in 2019-20, but two campaigns of struggle for Gladbach meant that Thuram suffered like many of his colleagues and so did his return, particularly last season.
His cameos at the 2022 World Cup showcased what he is capable of; an ability to be utilized directly but also in a possession-based system while bringing pace to the table and a creative touch to accentuate his ability in front of goal. Though Thuram has been linked with interest from Chelsea, while Gladbach boss Daniel Farke has been adamant that he won’t lose his prized forward in January, Arsenal loses nothing by presenting their case to the Frenchman.
Jesper Lindstrøm (Eintracht Frankfurt)
A player linked with interest from Arsenal in previous months this season, Danish international attacking midfielder Jesper Lindstrøm is an intriguing option that ticks a lot of boxes for the Gunners while also presenting the north London giants with a player that has a lot of potential upside while having yet to hit his developmental ceiling.
One of Oliver Glasner’s key performers for Die Adler, the 22-year-old Taastrup native is a terrific blend of technical craft and dynamism while being a dual threat both from a creative standpoint and his ability to find the back of the net. At current, Lindstrøm goes into the Rückrunde sitting on six goals and two assists in fourteen Bundesliga appearances this season while also directly chipping in during both Europa League and DFB-Pokal play. His improvement in front of goal is perhaps most notable after his debut season last year saw him hit five goals (and add five assists). Most importantly, Lindstrøm is a left-sided player who is also capable of being deployed centrally. He may not be a fashionable name, but he could be the best fit.
Nico Williams (Athletic Club Bilbao)
Last on the list is a player many would not consider for a number of reasons, but from the perspective of continuously looking to build for the future, Spanish international and Athletic Club academy product Nico Williams certainly fits the bill.
Though Williams struggled in his first full season in the senior setup in Bilbao in 2021-22 in terms of direct goal contributions, the right-sided attacker has come on leaps and bounds in the current La Liga campaign while adding five goals and four assists in nineteen appearances across all competitions. A clinical and killer technician with blistering pace, Williams clocks in as the third-best dribbler across Europe’s top-five leagues this season for wingers who have played 900-minutes or more. That profile added to his age (20), and the notion that Arteta has proven time and again that he can mold young wingers into experts of their craft, certainly would offer something for Arsenal to consider.