Can Salzburg’s Dominik Szoboszlai be the player to change Arsenal and unlock Mikel Arteta’s master plan?

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - JULY 1: Dominik Szoboszlai of Salzburg celebrates after scoring during the tipico Bundesliga match between Red Bull Salzburg and SK Sturm Graz at Red Bull Arena on July 1, 2020 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

No holding onto Hungary

Dominik Szoboszlai has been gradually gaining exposure across the Arsenal fanbase, as the club’s links to the Hungarian increase by the day. Red Bull Salzburg head coach Jesse Marsch has already confirmed that he ‘expects’ Szoboszlai to be snapped up in the January window.

The issue for Arsenal this season has of course been a lack of creativity. Defensively, Mikel Arteta has plugged a lot of holes, however that has come at a cost. With more players behind the ball, the Gunners have found it difficult to break down low blocks. When chances are created, a lack of clinical finishing has led to just 9 goals across 8 Premier League games.

The question is… if Szoboszlai is signed, can he change the club’s fortunes dramatically?

The key is context

Whilst the impressive free kicks and long-range efforts make the headlines, such efforts are not what will change Arsenal’s fortunes. Szoboszlai has just turned 20 years old, and plays for the most dominant club in Austria, who have won the title in their last 7 seasons.

Szoboszlai has 13 goals and 24 assists in 51 Austrian Bundesliga showings, along with 4 goals and 6 assists in 10 Austrian Cup outings. Such a return is quite frankly astonishing for someone who has gone under the mainstream radar for the majority of his time at Salzburg.

No doubt the quality of the league is progressing, with the likes of Sturm Graz and LASK improving greatly. Rapid Wein also continue to push Salzburg. However, not to take the Bulls’ staggering domination into account when evaluating Szoboszlai would be naïve.

The sample size against higher quality opposition comes in European competition. As of the time of writing, Szoboszlai has 2 goals to his name in this season’s Champions League, having netted against Lokomotiv Moscow and Atletico Madrid.

In 2019/20, a goal and assist came across two meetings with Belgian side Genk. After Salzburg dropped into the Europa League, the Hungarian bagged an assist in a 2-2 home draw against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Szoboszlai’s debut in European club competition came in his breakthrough season. Against Napoli, a spirited attempt to turn around a 3-0 away deficit saw the Hungarian assist during a 3-1 win in Salzburg. It wasn’t enough to take down the Italian giants, but Szoboszlai’s first showing was nevertheless impressive.

8 Champions League games – 3 goals and an assist. Not awe-inspiring, however context must again take precedence. When taking into account Szoboszlai’s age and position, playing in a side full of similarly inexperienced players, up against some of Europe’s best, one can start to understand the hype.

The next level

Whilst the Austrian Bundesliga’s progression is admirable, the step up to the quality of the Premier League is considerable. Were Arsenal to sign Szoboszlai, he would need to hit the ground running at a consistent level. The Gunners have forked out plenty of money on the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette, and it has taken (or is still taking) time for them to pay back such fees.

The reported fee for Szoboszlai is a meagre €25 million – courtesy of a release clause The Bulls will be painfully ruing was ever crafted. Arsenal will need whomever they add to join the likes of Bukayo Saka, Kieran Tierney, Thomas Partey and Gabriel Magalhaes as players who are producing consistently when in the red and white. They simply cannot afford to bring in a player who could be replaced by another Chelsea cast-off, or usurped by others once assumed to be on their way out the exit door.

Can Salzburg’s Dominik Szoboszlai be the player to change Arsenal and unlock Mikel Arteta’s master plan?

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Gabriel Magalhaes of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on September 19, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The advantage with Szoboszlai is his age and output. When taking into consideration his confidence at just 20, coupled with the midfielder’s direct style of play, his impact could be instantaneous. Averaging a 62.1% pass accuracy (according to Wyscout 2020/21) for balls into the box, of which nearly 3 are delivered per game, showcases such creative talents.

A set-piece specialist who would concern any goalkeeper. A corner taker who, to the relief of countless Gunners fans, can beat the first man with ease, whilst landing the ball into dangerous areas. And also a versatile player who’s efforts are often skewed to the left, but with all of the attributes to command a freer central-attacking midfield role.

Releasing Bukayo Saka into a threatening advanced left-wing role, with Szoboszlai occupying a left-sided number 8 position which becomes more akin to a 10 or second striker when fluid, would be a sight to behold.

The kid has the potential, quality and the drive to carry his rise through Austria and Europe onto the Premier League stage.

If Arsenal can indeed secure the services of Hungary’s most exciting player for several generations, it would be a coup Europe should take note of.

If you would like to find out more about Dominik Szoboszlai from a tactical standpoint, with expert insight and background history, click here.

Arsenal are considering Dominik Szoboszlai as a possible alternative to Houssem Aouar after ‘following’ him for ‘years’

Arsenal-linked Dominik Szoboszlai hits screamer in Champions League opener but Salzburg drop valuable points

This article was edited by Conor Laird.

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