Premier League runner-up Arsenal is set to embark on what will undoubtedly be a critical summer transfer window as manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu Gaspar are tasked with furthering the project in north London in a manner that sees the English giants continue to close the gap to Manchester City.
After missing out on the 2022-23 Premier League title, in what would have been the first league win in nineteen years, any Gunners fans want to see progress regarding the club’s aims of re-establishing itself as a perennial top four club at the very least.
Some sections demand more further still, and in some way(s), there is plenty of scope to suggest that wanting even more is justified after the club got so close to an unexpected title win across a season that saw Arsenal put on a title challenge which featured them topping the table for 250-days before City’s quality ultimately shone through in the end.
Continued links with serious interest in the likes of West Ham United Declan Rice and Brighton starlet Moisés Caicedo add further evidence that Arsenal is approaching the summer with real intent of pushing the needle on the pitch, while also raising the floor and the ceiling regarding the performance matrix at the Emirates respectively.
But there could be a spanner thrown into the works in the coming summer months after league rivals Chelsea remain heavily interested in Caicedo; a player that many Arsenal fans demand the club bring in alongside an anticipated potential arrival of Rice. The Ecuadorian is also on the radar screens of Manchester United and Liverpool, and though the 21-year-old is thought to prefer a move to the Emirates, nothing is certain.
There is also an increasing feeling that Scottish international defender Kieran Tierney could also leave the club this summer and head north to Newcastle United after losing his place in the team to Oleksander Zinchenko, while the likes of Jakub Kiwior and Takehiro Tomiyasu have also seen minutes on the left side of the defense even when the former Celtic man was fit for service.
With questions surrounding both the club’s capability of bringing in Caicedo and the future surrounding Tierney, two players that Arsenal could look to for answers in the summer are RB Leipzig talismanic midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, and AZ Alkmaar starlet left-back Milos Kerkez.
Captain of Hungary and one of the leading attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga, Szoboszlai has been a shining light in the Red Bull system ever since he first bubbled to the surface in Salzburg before ultimately making the jump to Leipzig in the summer of 2021. After two seasons, the native of Székesfehérvár is a vital piece of the puzzle in Saxony, but rumors that he is open to a move this summer could open the door for Arsenal despite apparent interest from both Liverpool and Newcastle United.
A serious goal threat from midfield - especially from range - and incredibly creative while being adept in transition as well as on the defensive side of the ball, the departure of Granit Xhaka leaves a dynamic in the Arsenal team that a player like Caicedo may not be able to replicate, but Szobodzlai would be quite capable of emulating.
Szoboszlai has hit 10 goals in all competitions in both of his seasons at RBL, 6 of which came in the Bundesliga in both campaigns. Beyond goals, his shot-creating actions sit above the 90th percentile in Europe (according to FBRef), while his assists/90, xA/90, progressive passes, blocks, and clearances are all highly competitive among his contemporaries. Given that the Hungarian star is so much more than just an attacking player, who comes with a price tag considerably less than what Brighton is likely to demand for Caicedo, this could be one avenue that the club should explore.
Regarding Kerkez, a player who I profiled a few months ago, there is a 19-year-old budding star who already possesses the key ingredients to become an ideal understudy to Zinchenko should Tierney look to depart the club this summer.
Once on the books at AC Milan, a lack of real opportunities saw him move to AZ Alkmaar during the January window in the 2021-22 season, and though the recently completed 2022-23 Eredivisie season was his first full year of senior football, the Vrbas-born left-back has already risen to become one of the brightest young fullbacks in Europe.
Much like Zinchenko, Kerkez is a serious attacking threat on the left side of the defense, but even more so than the Ukrainian, Hungary’s bright youngster has an even greater impetus to get into the final third and enter the 18-yard-box to offer a threat both in front of goal and from a creative standpoint.
Blessed with considerable pace and technical ability wrapped up in a physical frame that is noteworthy at nearly 6′0″, Kerkez could potentially view a jump to Arsenal as a massive stepping stone in his career while also finding minutes on offer due to the club’s return to the Champions League as well as two cup commitments on the home front.
Previously linked with credible interest from German giants Borussia Dortmund, Portuguese development factory SL Benfica, as well as a number of Premier League clubs including Leicester City, Bournemouth, and Leeds United, Kerkez’s rapid rise on the continent has hardly gone overlooked. As such, Kerkez could be a serious transfer coup for the club that could see them seamlessly transition from one player to the next in the coming years.
Certainly, a deal for a left-back to replace Tierney would make more sense for both the current and future seasons rather than relying on either the aforementioned Kiwior or Tomiyasu to provide cover, but there is some suggestion that the club could move for both a right-sided defender (if not a center-back capable of playing there, in the vein of Mohamed Simakan) as well as a left-sided full-back.
Regardless of what happens across the summer transfer window, it remains vital that Arsenal tackle the market in a way they have successfully done so under Arteta and Edu, and guarantee transfer alternatives that still fit the bill should key targets be missed out on.