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Arsenal can surge to the title by signing £34m star who’s “similar” to Kane

Written by on May 18, 2024

Arsenal are possibly just one day away from being crowned champions of the Premier League for the first time in two decades, though Mikel Arteta’s side are relying on Manchester City to drop points at home against West Ham United on Sunday.

This… seems unlikely, given the title-bulldozing nature of Pep Guardiola’s serial-winning outfit, and so it’s hardly surprising that sporting director Edu has turned ahead to the summer transfer window as he seeks reinforcements to overtake the Citizens as the Premier League’s prized club next term.

The Gunners need for a centre-forward is a narrative that is becoming monotonous but it holds weight all the same, but now, Edu can take the assured step toward landing a star to compete alongside the likes of Kai Havertz and co for the No. 1 spot and take Arsenal toward the title.

Arsenal eyeing new striker

As per Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport, Arsenal are seemingly certain to move for Bologna’s Joshua Zirkzee this summer, with an offer perhaps in the works – the Gunners said to be willing to offer a four-year deal worth £6m per season in wages to get their man.

Bologna have defied expectations to qualify for the Champions League in Serie A this season, though Thiago Motta’s side are unlikely to retain the services of the 22-year-old, who has a €40m (£34m) buyout clause inserted in his contract.


Bologna striker Joshua Zirkzee

The player is open to staying in Italy, with AC Milan holding an interest, but the Gunners are one of the finest teams in Europe and Edu is fighting tooth and nail to see this one over the line.

Joshua Zirkzee’s season in numbers

Bologna appointed Motta as their new manager in September 2022 after recording three consecutive bottom-half finishes in the Serie A, and his control-based philosophy with strong defensive roots swiftly paid dividends through a ninth-place finish to the 2022/23 campaign.

This season, i Rossoblu have eclipsed expectations, third in the standings with two matches left to contest, four points ahead of Atalanta in fifth. While football is a team sport, Zirkzee’s impact, as the video below illuminates, has been extraordinary.

As per Sofascore, the towering 6 foot 4 forward has scored 11 goals and added four assists across 32 starting displays in the Italian top flight, though it is his many-faceted skill set that has established him as one of Europe’s most exciting talents – and it is for this reason that Arsenal have taken note.

Zirkzee might only have four assists to his name but he’s created 11 big chances, also averaging 1.3 key passes, 1.5 dribbles, 4.1 successful duels and 3.0 ball recoveries per fixture.

He’s come on leaps and bounds from a disappointing first campaign at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, as the table below will show you.

Joshua Zirkzee: Serie A Stats 22/23 vs 23/24

Stat (per game)

22/23

23/24

Matches played

19

34

Matches started

5

32

Goals

2

11

Assists

2

4

Shots

1.5

2.5

Key passes

0.8

1.3

Pass completion

78%

78%

Big chances created

2

11

Dribble attempts

0.8 (46%)

1.5 (42%)

Duels won

2.2 (33%)

4.1 (40%)

Stats via Sofascore

The incremental gains that have been made in just one season bears testament to Motta’s managerial ability and the Netherlands star’s ability to absorb information and make the requisite adjustments to take the next step in his development.

Zirkzee’s success rate in his ball-carrying and duelling might not appear to be anything significant but this is typical of a forward-placed player, who won’t have the same space, time and technique as an anchoring central midfielder.

Bukayo Saka, for example, succeeds with 48% of his dribbles and 49% of his duels on average in the Premier League this season.

Arsenal have the third-youngest squad in the Premier League this season and yet Arteta has cultivated a winning mentality, fighting against the indomitable force that is Manchester City in successive seasons.

Zirkzee would dovetail into the system, and with certain cogs looking like they might shift in the months to come, it really is a deal that makes a whole lot of sense.

Why Arsenal are interested in Joshua Zirkzee

Recent reports from Italy have suggested that Arsenal are prepared to sell Gabriel Jesus this summer and have even moved to transfer list the Brazilian for €50m (£43m).

His proposed replacement? Zirkzee. The former Bayern Munich prospect enjoyed early success in Bavaria and bagged four goals from only three starts during the 2019/20 Bundesliga season to announce himself as a top-class prospect, but he fizzled out and transferred to Bologna – with a buyback clause – in 2022.


Joshua Zirkzee at Bayern Munich

Unfortunately, Zirkzee’s first term in Italy failed to offer any success, with the table in the previous section highlighting his paltry return of two goals and two assists apiece all year.

But now he’s starting to bloom into one of the most technically sound strikers on the planet, and if Jesus is to be sold then his signing would serve to enhance the Emirates Stadium’s frontline considerably.

As per FBref, the Dutchman ranks among the top 19% of centre-forwards across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for pass completion and progressive passes, the top 17% for shot-creating actions and the top 9% for successful take-ons per 90.


Manchester United transfer target Joshua Zirkzee in action in Serie A.

His diversified approach to his football makes Zirkzee the perfect mould for Arteta’s project, with this style of play perhaps even providing the north London club with their own version of Harry Kane.

Analyst Ben Mattinson has gushed that the rangy ace is “so similar” to Bayern Munich’s world-class frontman in regard to his natural movements, match intelligence and creativity.

Kane, sure, is one of the deadliest marksmen in the business and Zirkzee will need to nurture his striking success to ensure he grows into a player of similar standing to the England captain, who has scored 44 goals and provided 12 assists from just 45 matches this year.

The Tottenham Hotspur legend ranks among the top 11% of forwards across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for assists and the top 10% for progressive passes per 90, denoting his similarities in playmaking and progression to Arsenal’s top target.

Zirkzee is a player who seems to just keep on improving, and if Arsenal welcome him to the fold this summer his creative, weaving qualities would enhance the likes of Leandro Trossard, Kai Havertz and Saka by adding an extra layer of playmaking.

It’s a move that might indeed take the club that extra mile next year, pipping City to England’s pinnacle club prize.

It’s no wonder that Bayern have inserted a buyback clause into Zirkzee’s contract – he very much appears to be Kane’s natural successor. However, the 30-year-old will keep on purring at the spearhead for many years yet and Arsenal must now take advantage.

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