Arsenal are interested in a Nottingham Forest favourite - but it's not clear that he'll make the grade

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Arsenal have been linked with a bid for one of Nottingham Forest's most exciting players - but is he good enough for the Emirates?

Mikel Arteta has assembled a very impressive squad at Arsenal – but few would argue that a bit of extra depth wouldn’t go amiss, especially in attack. That, perhaps, is why the Gunners are keen to sign Nottingham Forest’s Morgan Gibbs-White, at least according to a report by The Daily Star. But is the versatile 23-year-old good enough to push for a starting spot at the Emirates?

Signed two years ago for a club-record fee which could rise as high as £42m with add-ons, Gibbs-White has been one of the most dynamic and exciting players at the City Ground this season, playing on either flank or through the middle as a shadow striker. His directness and willingness to take risks has made him a fan favourite, but does that translate to the kind of production Arsenal would want as they look to consistently challenge for titles? That’s still unclear.

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In his 28 Premier League appearances so far this season, Gibbs-White has managed three goals from an xG of 5.2 and five assists – a modest return, especially in terms of scoring. Of course, direct involvement in the ball hitting the back of the net isn’t the be-all and end-all, but there are worryingly few numbers which back up the big money spent to sign him.

His dribbling success rate is pretty low at 38.9%. His passing success rate of 65.4% is one of the worst marks for an attacking midfielder in the Premier League. He doesn’t receive many passes in the final third, and he creates a respectable but still relatively modest volume of shooting chances at fewer than four per match. These are not the kind of numbers you expect from a big-ticket player linked with one of the biggest clubs in the country.

Of course, raw numbers don’t tell the whole story, and there is rather more to Gibbs-White than that. He lacks the pace to be a top-end ball-carrier but is blessed with a good first touch and the technique to shift the ball quickly and find space for passes and shots. And while his passing accuracy seems pretty awful, much of that is because he plays a very high percentage of high-risk, ‘killer’ balls into the box. Plenty of them don’t come off, but he is a very positive player who is always trying something.

The missing element seems to be the kind of movement and incisive decision-making in the final third that sets the best attacking players in England apart. He has a lot of the tools in his locker, but hasn’t yet consistently shown the kind of judgement to convert his natural skills into high volumes of goals and assists. But he appears to have the attitude, the determination and the self-belief required to take a step up down the road.

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If Arteta is indeed interested in him, then presumably he believes he can unlock that potential. After all, he’s already doing a similar trick with Kai Havertz, who was struggling at Chelsea but who is now thriving with the right coaching and encouragement behind him. Gibbs-White would be competing directly with Havertz (among others) for a spot at Arsenal, which is now a high bar to clear – but Arsenal have a lack of good depth options and he would get his chances to hurdle it.

Forest would probably prefer not to let Gibbs-White leave, given how much of a fan favourite his energy and dynamism have made him – but they have already been docked four points for breaching profit and sustainability rules, and reportedly need some ready cash this summer to ensure that they don’t dip too far into the red once more. Selling Gibbs-White is one of the easiest ways to make that happen, with Murillo another player up for auction.

The Star’s article doesn’t mention a possible price tag for the move, so it’s hard to gauge how big of a gamble Arsenal would be taking on turning raw talent and attitude into goals – but it wouldn’t be cheap, and it would represent a chance being taken. It wouldn’t be Arteta’s first rodeo, however, and at this point betting against his instincts doesn’t look like a smart move. All that remains to be seen is whether the rumours are real and Arsenal make a move.

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