For some, title hopefuls Arsenal splashing out £105m in order to secure the signing of Declan Rice may have been seen as a potential overpayment, with the Englishman not exactly the man to make the difference in the final third – scoring just 15 goals in 245 games in all competitions for former club, West Ham United.
As it has panned out, however, the 25-year-old has since proven that those funds were certainly invested wisely, with pundit Jamie Carragher even going as far as to suggest that the eye-watering fee now looks like a ‘bargain’, such has been the midfielder’s impact at the Emirates.
Writing in his column for The Telegraph last month, Carragher added to that claim by describing the former Hammers skipper as ‘probably the most influential player in the Premier League this season’ while also pointing out the likeness between Rice and a certain, Roy Keane, due to his undeniable ‘presence’ in the centre of the park.
While initial hopes that the midfield maestro could help lead the Gunners to the title have been rather tempered amid a difficult run of form over the festive period, if the north Londoners are to enjoy success this season, the £105m man will be crucial to it.
The only issue is, however, that Mikel Arteta has yet to find a convincing partner for Rice in the centre of the park, with the jury still out on whether Kai Havertz is the best fit in that left eight role, while Thomas Partey has proven rather unreliable once again this season due to injury.
As such, whether it is this month or over the summer, Arteta and Co may need to consider forking out to sign another midfield sensation, with one standout target having already emerged on the table from the Bundesliga.
Arsenal eyeing ex-Chelsea youth product
According to a report from TEAMtalk earlier this month, Arsenal are believed to be one of the clubs who are showing an interest in Bayern Munich sensation, Jamal Musiala, albeit with Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea all interested in securing his signature.
Much like Rice – who was let go by the Blues at the age of 14 – the German international was also once on the books in west London, yet could now be set to seal a return to the Premier League, amid that raft of elite suitors.
Hopes of signing the one-time England youth star have been bolstered by the fact that he is yet to sign a new deal with the Bundesliga champions, opening up the possibility that the 20-year-old could depart in the near future with his existing contract set to expire in 2026.
While the suggestion is that the Stuttgart-born starlet could still command a fee of around €100m (£87m), as Arsenal have found with the addition of Rice, such a signing could be worth every penny for the Gunners – not least due to his apparent likeness to Rice’s Three Lions colleague, Jude Bellingham.
How Jamal Musiala compares to Jude Bellingham
The 6 foot playmaker – who previously played alongside Bellingham in England’s youth ranks – has operated on the flanks at times during his stint in Bavaria, although like the current Real Madrid hero, he also has the flexibility to feature in a number ten berth, or in a deeper, creative midfield role.
That versatility is seemingly part of the reason that Musiala bares such a similarity to the Golden Boy winner, with FBref stating that the latter man is the fourth-most similar player to the Bayern gem among their fellow attacking midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues, while also being the most similar among their fellow midfielders.
Such a likeness is particularly illustrated by the duo’s innate ball-carrying ability, with Musiala ranking in the top 1% among European midfielders for both progressive carries and successful take-ons per 90, while Bellingham ranks in the top 3% and the top 1% for those same two metrics, respectively.
Not only do the pair have that knack for being able to breeze their way up the pitch with a silky, jinking run, but they also have the quality to provide an end product at the top end of the pitch, with the two youngsters both ranking in the top 1% for non-penalty goals, while Musiala just edges it with regard to shot-creating actions (top 2% vs top 4%).
Of course, it is Bellingham who is truly flourishing this season in Madrid with 17 goals and seven assists in just 25 games, yet his German counterpart has still caught the eye, racking up ten goal involvements in just 19 games.
In fact, Musiala’s record of 64 goals and assists in 144 games for his current side is not too far off what the former Dortmund man has achieved in his career to date – registering 79 goals and assists in 202 senior games – further proof of the potential diamond that Arsenal could have on their hands.
How Musiala would fit in at Arsenal
That addition could be a welcome one for Rice, in particular, with the £240k-per-week ace having thrived alongside Bellingham under Gareth Southgate at international level of late, hailing his young teammate as the “future of English football”.
With Rice operating in a deep-lying role in front of the back four, it has allowed Bellingham the freedom to roam in a more advanced role to help link up with the forward line, with the one-time Birmingham City ace notably registering two assists against Italy on his most recent England appearance.
Musiala’s Bundesliga season by numbers
11 games (8 starts)
3 ‘big chances’ created
1.4 key passes per game
2.0 tackles won per game
83% pass accuracy rate
2.9 successful dribbles per game
1.2 fouls won per game
7.43 avg. match rating
Stats via Sofascore
The hope will be that Arteta can fashion a similar partnership utilising Rice and Musiala alongside each other at the Emirates. The current Gunners star can offer the protective screen as he ranks in the top 8% for interceptions per 90, while once he regains possession he could then feed Musiala ahead of him, as he ranks in the top 9% for progressive passes per 90.
As previously indicated, the playmaking genius – who was previously described as the “Messi of the future” by compatriot Lothar Matthaus – has the creative quality to then wreak havoc in the final third, allowing him to combine with the likes of Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka to devastating effect.
Ray Parlour: Arsenal could find their new Ian Wright by signing £100m star
Ray Parlour has claimed that the Gunners’ leading target shares a likeness with the legendary ‘Wrighty’
While for some the thought of signing such a talent may seem like a pipedream, if a deal can be wrapped up in 2024, Arteta can put together a midfield duo that would likely be the envy of the rest of the Premier League.