There's a new £40m striker on Arsenal's shortlist - but he would be bad news for the Gunners

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Arsenal are reported to be looking at a free-scoring option for the number nine role next season - but for all his goals, is he a good fit?

Arsenal’s hunt for a striker to sign in the summer may be taking another twist, if widespread reports circulating in the sports media are true. Apparently, the Gunners have been casting an eye over Girona striker Artem Dovbyk, whose goals have propelled the Catalan club’s improbable tilt at the La Liga title. So who is Dovbyk, how would he fit in at the Emirates, and would he be a good signing for Mikel Arteta?

The 26-year-old is something of a late bloomer. He started his career at the now-defunct FC Dnipro in Ukraine, but left for Denmark as a teenager where he spent several years trying and failing to make an impression, struggling to break into the FC Midtjylland first team before scoring two goals in 18 games at SønderjyksE. He ended up heading back home to SK Dnipro-1, the club that emerged from the ashes of FC Dnipro, and it was there that he finally made his name.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dovbyk, by now moving into his mid-twenties, hit 49 goals in 78 games over the course of three seasons, including 24 in his final year before making a €7.75m (£6.6m) switch to City Group-owned Girona last summer. Life in Spain clearly suits him, and he’s scored 14 goals in 23 top flight matches, with five assists to boot. He’s also registered seven goals in his 23 caps for his national team. He's now tipped to go for as much as £40m, should a suitor arrive this summer.

The rumours going around don’t go as far as to suggest that the 26-year-old is Arsenal’s first choice – there’s a broad acknowledgement that they would prefer to win the race for Victor Osimhen or to splash out for Ivan Toney – but if Mikel Arteta wants a genuine goal-scoring centre-forward, it looks like he could do an awful lot worse.

Dovbyk is a very different sort of player from Gabriel Jesus. Where the Brazilian is fluent in his movement, a superb ball-carrier and excellent down the channels but ultimately wayward in front of goal, Dovbyk is far less technical and tends to stick close to the penalty spot, playing more as a traditional target man. Moving from Jesus to Dovbyk would not be strategically dissimilar from Manchester City moving from Jesus to Erling Haaland. It wouldn’t be the first time that Arteta has borrowed an idea from his former head coach.

It would, of course, be a reach to imagine Dovbyk scoring quite as many goals as the Norwegian, but he has a lot of the same fundamental attributes. He’s an excellent, composed finisher who knows how to work the angles to beat the goalkeeper, and he’s physically impressive, 6’2” tall with a powerful frame and both strong in the air and excellent at fending off his marker. There are few in Europe better when it comes to applying the finishing touches to balls into the box.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Which isn’t to say that’s the perfect target man. He isn’t especially good at quick, short passes which limits the ceiling on his hold-up play, and it’s hard to envision him regularly playing the kind of nifty one-twos which players like Bukayo Saka thrive on. Nor is he an effective pressing forward, although he has respectable if not remarkable pace. He is a goalscorer, out and out, and doesn’t contribute much to the build-up or out of possession. He simply manoeuvres defenders out of the way and scores. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Some Arsenal fans would probably opine that that was precisely what they have been missing, but Dovbyk doesn’t immediately look like a natural fit for the kind of fluid attacking set-up that Arteta employs as it stands. His impact at Girona has been impressive because he works well with Míchel Sánchez's tactics, which prioritise wide play and look to get crosses in either to Dovbyk at the near post or in the middle, or using him as a decoy to suck markers in and leave space at the back post for one of their wide forwards to steal in and score.

For Arteta to get the same kind of results out of Dovbyk would require a recalibration, and while he’s proven to be adaptable with his tactics already at Arsenal, it’s tricky to imagine that the current squad would be able to play a system similar to Girona’s without a lot of compromises. Dovbyk has worked well in a team which uses touchline-hugging wing-backs and wide forwards coming inside from the flanks, and that doesn’t fit the profile of players like Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ben White and Saka especially neatly.

Dovbyk doesn’t look like an especially clean fit for Arsenal, even if he’s obviously a fine player for the right side and offers many of the attributes that the Gunners have lacked up front over the past couple of seasons. That’s one of the reasons we’re slightly doubtful over the veracity of these reports.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There are two other reasons to query them. One is that the original source appears to be Spanish football outlet Fichajes, who can politely but fairly be described as having a patchy hit rate when it comes to the accuracy of their reports – not that they’re always wrong, by any means.

The second is that one wonders if, when Arsenal do dip into the market for their next number nine, they won’t reach for a starrier signing. Dovbyk’s returns are impressive and he has a great deal of quality, but players like Osimhen and Toney are surely a cut above again. Dovbyk may have some similarities to Haaland, but he probably isn’t going to score 50 goals in a season. The only reasons for Arsenal to prioritise a signing like Dovbyk is if they conclude that the bulk of their transfer budget is best spent elsewhere in the squad, and that doesn’t seem probable a few months away from the start of the summer window.

So is Dovbyk a fine player? Absolutely. Is he good enough for a team who want to challenge for major honours? Perhaps – he’s making a pretty big difference at Girona, and they’re giving the Spanish title a good go. But does he look like the right man for Arsenal? Probably not, unless Arteta is planning substantial tactical changes. Dovbyk signing wouldn’t be the most shocking signing of any given summer, but it would raise some eyebrows. But then, maybe Arteta knows something we don’t. That certainly wouldn't be a surprise.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.