The lethal £65m striker that Arsenal must make their first summer signing

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As Arsenal’s search for a striker continues, could the answer come from closer to home?

How many strikers have Arsenal lined up and missed out on at this point? There was Benjamin Šeško, who ended up agreeing a new deal with RB Leipzig. Joshua Zirkzee, who seems far more likely to go to AC Milan. Viktor Gyökeres, now widely expected to stay at Sporting Lisbon. The hunt for a new number nine is not going according to plan – so where should the Gunners turn next?

A lack of reliable firepower up front proved costly in last season’s title race but it still seems unlikely that the money men will make enough ready cash available to sign someone like Victor Osimhen (who could well cost north of £100m) and the list of proven top-level goalscorers available at a more affordable price point is getting a little think. A few media outlets, starting with The Daily Express, have suggested that Arsenal are lining up a move for a familiar face – Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke.

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It isn’t all that long ago that Solanke was a figure of fun, a heavily-hyped young striker who moved to Dorset for big money and failed to live up to expectations in the Premier League. But while it may have taken him 26 years, he’s finally proven himself to be a prolific goalscorer at the very top level, scoring 19 league goals in 2023/24 and leaving the mockery of his early years on the south coast firmly behind him.

But there is still a gap to bridge between scoring for Bournemouth and bagging key goals in a potential title race. So could Solanke be the man Arsenal need? Could he live up to a reported asking price of £65m? And is he an improvement on the players Arsenal have access to right now?

Solanke is, in one way, precisely what Arsenal need – he’s a proper number nine, not someone who drops deep or looks to play a starring role in the build up. With players like Gabriel Jesus, Leandro Trossard and Kai Havertz, Arsenal have been reliant on goals from players who aren’t always trying to find half a yard in the penalty area and score, and that’s precisely what Solanke does best. His link-up play is perfectly sound, but he’s fundamentally looking to be the one making the final touch.

And Arsenal have plenty of tricksy players who can make all the darting runs down the channels and play quick one-twos around the edge of the area – in Jesus, they added another such player but not one who could was a reliable finisher. That being said, as the table below (which compares the statistics behind Solanke’s last season and those of Arsenal’s current options up front) partly demonstrates, Solanke is not necessarily the best finisher himself – he slightly undershot his xG slightly in 2023/24 and has done so in every season of senior football he’s had, even the Championship campaign in which he scored 29 times.

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How Solanke’s stats shape upHow Solanke’s stats shape up
How Solanke’s stats shape up | NationalWorld

As the chart shows, Solanke is much less effective as a creator than Jesus, Havertz or Trossard (Eddie Nketiah has been excluded as he is very likely to leave this summer) but gets himself into more goalscoring positions than any of his potential rivals for a starting spot, and while his finishing may not be first rate, he converts enough chances to make sure that he gets a high volume of goals. Trossard’s impressive goals per game ratio, incidentally, is considerably higher than he’s managed in any other season over the course of his career and may well be an outlier – or, perhaps, an indication that he’s a better centre-forward than is widely appreciated.

The argument against signing Solanke, apart from the fact that his £65m release clause means he won’t be cheap, is that he lacks a strong all-round game, but the counterpoint is that Arsenal have the creativity, running and technical skills already present behind their striker. They just need somebody who can score 20 goals a season given sufficient chances, and one suspects that Solanke will get many more presentable chances playing alongside the likes of Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard.

Solanke still isn’t the flashiest signing that Arsenal could make, but he’s more affordable than the likes of Osimhen or Gyökeres and, unlike several recent targets, is likely to want to join them. In that regard, he could well be the ideal middle ground as they look to spend money on other positions, especially on the midfield. Would he make the difference as Arsenal look to chase down Manchester City next year? He might just…

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