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Arsenal eyeing “monster” £60m Saka rival who’s a “nightmare”

Written by on June 4, 2024

The transfer window is just around the corner, and after a dramatic season that saw them once again come close to ending their two-decade Premier League title drought, Arsenal have some work to do.

Most pundits and fans alike will pinpoint the striker position and left eight as particular areas of need, and while they would be right, there is another position that needs strengthening: right wing.

Bukayo Saka seems to be the only player Mikel Arteta plays there – as demonstrated by his 47 appearances this season – but based on recent reports, it looks as if the club could finally land a player to rival the Englishman going forward – and give him some much-needed rest.

Arsenal transfer news

According to a recent article from The Athletic, Arsenal have maintained their ‘long-term interest’ in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Portuguese winger Pedro Neto.


Wolves star Pedro Neto

However, while the Gunners are big fans of the 24-year-old, his injury record is a concern, which could influence their final decision.

The report does not mention a potential price, but a story in the Telegraph earlier this year claimed that the fee needed to pry the attacker from the Old Gold would be north of £60m.


Pedro Neto

It would be costly to complete, and there are obvious concerns around his injuries, but the fact that Arsenal have maintained their interest in Neto suggests they view the upside of signing him as more significant than the downsides, and considering Saka currently has no competition, it looks like a deal worth pursuing.

How Neto compares to Saka

Now, the first thing to say is that whoever the Gunners opt to bring in as reinforcements for the right wing is almost certainly going to have to start out as a backup option to Saka, as Arteta and the club have made it abundantly clear that the Hale End sensation is the face of the project and their crown jewel.


Bukayo-Saka-Arsenal-Spurs

However, that doesn’t mean said backup couldn’t push for more game time through impressive performances, and based on what we have seen this season, there is nothing to suggest that Neto wouldn’t be able to stake a claim for himself over the course of a campaign.

For example, while the Englishman’s return of 20 goals and 14 assists in 47 games is boarding on world-class and averages out to a goal involvement every 1.38 games, the Wolves star’s three goals and 11 assists in 24 games is still seriously impressive and averages out to a goal involvement every 1.71 games.

Moreover, while the Ealing-born dynamo comes out ahead in most underlying numbers, it’s not as one-sided as you may think.

Neto vs Saka

Stats per 90

Neto

Saka

Non-Penalty Expected Goals + Assists

0.47

0.65

Non-Penalty Goals

0.16

0.30

Assists

0.52

0.27

Progressive Carries

5.83

4.78

Progressive Passes

3.21

3.89

Shots

2.03

3.20

Passing Accuracy

74.5%

75.6%

Goal-Creating Actions

0.83

0.65

Successful Take-Ons

2.20

1.51

All Stats via FBref for the 23/24 Domestic Season

In fact, the former Braga “pace monster,” as data analyst Ben Mattinson dubbed him, does more than just hold his own. He comes out on top in key metrics such as actual assists, progressive carries, goal-creating actions, and, crucially, successful take-ons, all per 90.

The five-capped international’s ability to take on defenders would be his most significant attribute in this Arsenal team, and it’s also why Mattinson described him as a “full-backs worst nightmare.”

His injury record will always remain a serious concern, as he’s missed a whopping 99 games over the last four campaigns, but if he was signed to provide competition for Saka and allow the talismanic youngster to come off in games more regularly or just rest altogether, he’d also have fewer opportunities to pick up injuries himself.

Ultimately, there are always some drawbacks to a signing, but given how good Neto can be and how badly Arsenal need another quality right winger, this transfer simply has to happen.

Related

Arsenal make offer to sign “dangerous” £51m Saka & Foden hybrid

The incredible winger could finally see Saka spend some time on the bench.

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