Arsenal’s January Dilemna: Aouar or Szoboszlai?

It’s crazy to think that the opening of the January transfer window is less than two months away. Due to the coronavirus-induced extension of the Summer window, just under three months separates 2020’s Summer transfer period and 2021’s winter window.

Inevitably, Arsenal will remain on the look-out for a new creative midfielder while the window is shut. Due to missing out on Houssem Aouar and Philippe Coutinho during the Summer, Mikel Arteta has somewhat struggled through the opening weeks of the season without an out and out creator in his side.

And overall, our Spanish manager has done pretty well to defy the creative issues at hand. Arteta’s getting the most out of Hector Bellerin’s offensive capabilities on the right, he’s deploying an increasingly effective press and has prepared a very solid base to build attacks from. But still, when you’re watching Arsenal, it feels like something is missing.

What is missing is the plethora of technical midfield options we once had at our disposal. Long gone are the days of the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla creating chance after chance for Arsenal. Our Summer pursuit of Houssem Aouar suggested MIkel Arteta is yearning for a player in the mould of those aforementioned.

However, there are still questions over whether Aouar is the right man for the job. The Frenchman has undoubted talent and will likely become one of the world’s best midfielders in a few years, but he’s not a pure creator. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but certainly a reason to suggest it wouldn’t be the be-all and end-all if we didn’t manage to land the 22-year-old’s signature.

It could be the case that Mikel Arteta isn’t particularly phased by the fact Aouar isn’t an out-and-out creator. After all, he does offer a number of attractive attributes. For example, his ability to pick the ball up on the half-turn in between the lines bettered by very few in Europe. Against Leicester two weeks ago, this is what we were crying out for.

Another player who enjoys popping up in those awkward positions between midfield and defence is RB Salzburg’s Dominik Szoboszlai. The 20-year-old is attracting suitors from across Europe as a result of his impressive showing with the Austrian side. According to the Szoboszlai’s agent, Arsenal hold an interest in his client.

Just like Aouar, Szoboszlai likes to operate on the left hand-side. However, so far in his career, he’s usually seen operating a little bit further forward than Aouar tends to. For both his country and club, he regularly starts on the left-wing and looks to cause problems by drifting in-field.

This isn’t to suggest Szoboszlai wouldn’t be able to be converted into the No. 8 Arteta craves. Many offensively-oriented central-midfielders start their careers on the wing. Nevertheless, due to his inexperience, it’s probable that the Hungarian wouldn’t make the immediate impact in the engine room that Aouar would.

This shouldn’t deter Arsenal too much. Szoboszlai has a quite freakishly good right-foot, his creative numbers are significantly better than anyone else’s in the current Arsenal squad and at the ripe age of 20, the sky is the limit for Szoboszlai. With his low price tag of rougly £25 million, Arteta would likely be prepared to gamble.

Arteta’s preference, though, will remain Aouar and this is something that has been well documented from the reports in the summer – Arteta loves Aouar. Arsenal’s approach towards the the Frenchman should be simple in January. A take-it or leave-it offer should be offered to a cash-stripped Lyon. The offer should be made with a straightforward ultimatum that we’ll be looking elsewhere if it isn’t accepted. And by elsewhere, I mean looking to sign Szoboszlai.

If Arsenal manage to land the signature of either one of these players, it would be representative of a major coup. Both Aouar and Szoboszlai are heading right to the top of the world’s footballing ladder. Let’s hope at least one of them chooses Arsenal as their next career destination.

I’ve supported Arsenal for as long as I can remember. The Emirates is about an hour’s train ride from my house so I go to the games regularly. Especially lately, writing about Arsenal has become a passion of mine so I hope it’s something I can do professionally in the future.