It’s no real secret that Arsenal are chasing a new striker at present, with it yet to be seen whether Mikel Arteta and co will act decisively this month, or patiently wait until the summer in order to get their man.
Either way, the addition of a leading number nine has become a necessity in 2024 for the Gunners, with both Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah having failed to convince as the starting option through the middle this season – the pair scoring just eight league goals between them.
Having also allowed Folarin Balogun – who has eight goals and assists in just 14 Ligue 1 outings this term – to depart for Monaco on a permanent deal over the summer, the north Londoners will have to look elsewhere in order to find a prolific solution to ease their goalscoring woes.
With the transfer rumour mill currently churning, the name on everybody’s lips is Brentford talisman, Ivan Toney, albeit with reports indicating that the Bees are likely to demand around £100m for the 27-year-old, despite the fact that he is yet to feature this season.
While many supporters will be hoping that the Emirates outfit are able to stump up the required cash to get that deal done regardless – with rivals Chelsea also sniffing around – it would be wise to also consider possible alternatives to the Englishman.
That hunt for other options has seemingly led the Gunners toward the Serie A market, with Arteta appearing to have taken notice of one sparkling young talent who is arguably “one of the most interesting strikers in Italy” – as hailed by talent scout Jacek Kulig.
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As per a report from the Telegraph’s Sam Dean earlier this week, the Premier League side are believed to be “admirers” of Bologna sensation, Joshua Zirkzee and are currently keeping a “close eye” on the 22-year-old marksman.
Said to be valued at around half that of Toney – with a £50m price tag noted – the former Bayern Munich man is still “unlikely” to be making a move to England this month, though he would certainly represent a far more affordable option than the Brentford man.
The Gunners may also want to act quickly amid claims that Manchester United are also keeping tabs on the Dutchman amid their search to find a competitor to Rasmus Hojlund, with suitors circling for the in-form talent.
While splashing out £50m on a player who scored just two league goals last season could look like a significant gamble, Zirkzee’s heroics this term are certainly a cause for excitement.
Joshua Zirkzee’s style of play
It is fair to say that Zirkzee’s previous stint at a truly elite club didn’t exactly go to plan, having begun his professional career on the books at Bayern, only to then make just 17 first-team appearances for the Bundesliga giants, scoring only four goals.
As history will tell us, that lack of success at the Allianz Arena should not dissuade the Gunners from making a move, with Thierry Henry, for instance, having been happily moved on by Juventus prior to exploding at Highbury, while Dennis Bergkamp was also shipped off by Inter Milan after just two years at San Siro, only to then enjoy a glittering decade in north London.
While it may be a bold comparison to make, it is the latter whom Zirkzee may be looking to emulate, with the former Netherlands U21 international – who would also be moving from Italy to England – having shown shades of Bergkamp in recent times.
That was evident back in August as the £50m-rated hotshot produced a “stunning Bergkamp-like turn” in Bologna’s Coppa Italia win over Cesena – in the words of writer Stephen Kasiewicz – expertly sending the opposition defender for the proverbial hot dog, before duly prodding home.
Such a moment of genius, as Kasiewicz hinted at, was akin to his compatriot’s delightful turn and finish for the Gunners against Newcastle United back in 2002, suggesting that Zirkzee could be the next Dutch star to dazzle for the north Londoners.
In a similar vein the now-retired icon – who Paul Merson described as the “greatest Arsenal player of all time” – the emerging superstar has that silky quality to his game to also get involved in the build-up, having been hailed as a “creator” and “one of the most complete” strikers by data analyst, Ben Mattinson.
Of course, Arsenal may be looking for an out-and-out finisher rather than a Bergkamp-esque second striker, yet – as Mattinson has suggested – the former Anderlecht ace could “reach new heights” at the Emirates with regard to his “goal output”, if supported by the likes Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard.
Zirkzee’s season by numbers
On the face of it, the £19k-per-week gem’s goal return this season has not been overly eye-catching, having scored eight goals and contributed four assists in all competitions, including bagging seven goals and two assists in 19 Serie A outings.
Zirkzee’s Serie A season by numbers – 2023/24
19 games (18 starts)
8 ‘big chances’ created
1.3 key passes per game
1 ‘big chance’ missed
4 left foot goals
3 right foot goals
7.14 avg. match rating
Stats via Sofascore
As mentioned previously, however, that return in the league, in particular, is far beyond the record of both Jesus and Nketiah, with the current Arsenal duo contributing just two assists between them in the Premier League.
Equally, Zirkzee has prior experience with regard to enjoying a particularly clinical campaign in front of goal, having scored 18 times – and chipped in with 13 assists – across all fronts while on loan in Belgium back in 2021/22.
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The 23-year-old could challenge White for his place.
Again, the desire for those at the Emirates will be to add a 20-goal-a-season striker to improve upon their current options, yet as Mattinson noted, being blessed with the service of the likes of Odegaard and Saka should allow Zirkzee to thrive in an Arsenal shirt and vastly improve upon his previous goal returns.
That may not be a risk that Arteta is willing to take, yet with the club having seen one Dutch star thrive after making the move to the Premier League from Serie A, what’s stopping history from repeating itself in 2024?