The stunning £43m winger signing who can supercharge Arsenal's attack next season

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Arsenal are apparently scouting a supremely gifted young winger in Spain - but will he want to leave his current club?

When Athletic Club’s star winger, Nico Williams, put pen to paper on a new long-term contract just a few months ago, it sent a message that a player admired by many club in the Premier League and La Liga was not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. But according to new reports from The Daily Mirror and others, Arsenal haven’t been listening to that message – and they may be right to ignore it.

Williams, a 21-year-old winger with 11 Spain caps to his name already, shook hands on a deal which pays him £170,000 per week until the summer of 2027, but the Spanish media has recently noted the fact that his minimum fee release clause – a required inclusion in all La Liga contracts – is set at just €50m (£42.6m). Given that many big-name players have astronomical sums written into their deals to dissuade suitors, it seems as though Williams might not want to spend another three years in the Basque Country after all. If he had, he wouldn’t have inked that bit in.

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Arsenal are just one of the clubs who were linked with a move for the youngster last year. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool and Aston Villa have all been name-checked in the past and likely will be again now that it’s clear that Williams isn’t quite so unobtainable after all. But the Gunners may be one of the clubs that need him the most if they want to remain competitive at the top end of the English league ladder.

One of Arsenal’s undeniable issues is squad depth. In the wide areas they have Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, a pair of inside forwards which any club in the world would be at least a little jealous of. But if either player is unavailable, then there is a definite drop in quality towards their backstops, Leandro Trossard and Reiss Nelson. Other top sides like Manchester City simply have more options and are more resilient to injuries or losses of form than Arsenal are right now.

Williams is a versatile winger, capable of covering both sides of the field much like his elder brother Iñaki who also plays for Athletic - although Nico typically plays as an inside forward over on the left flank. Right-footed but more than capable with both feet, he has the qualities to beat defenders on both sides of the ball and the speed, movement and technique to be just as effective getting to the byline as he is cutting into more narrow areas.

And he’s improving rapidly, too. Consistency had been an issue with him since he first broke into Athletic Club’s first team, but he has levelled his peaks and troughs out and become a much more reliable performer. That has had a positive impact on his production, too – last year, he managed 10 goal contributions in La Liga in 36 matches. This time around, he’s already on nine in just 20 games, and minute for minute, averages a goal or assists every other match.

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He isn’t just improving in terms of raw numbers, either. His technique is appreciably better than it was a year ago, his first touch seems to have developed tremendously and the goals he is scoring have got better and better. Last year, a lot of his highlight-reel moments were dependent on his raw pace and running, but now he’s adding moments of genuine class, rather like luscious goal against Rayo Vallecano…

And much of that improvement can be put down to his attitude and work ethic. Williams is widely admired among Spanish coaches for his personality and dedication to his craft and his level of determination is evident on the field. Although not an especially effective defender, he is constantly chasing down lost causes or trying to close down his man. For a team that play with a concerted high press, like Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, he fits the mould required.

The question, then, isn’t whether Williams would be a good signing for Arsenal – he would – so much as what they can afford to spend given that there are issues with squad depth in other areas of the field, not to mention the much-debated need for a central striker. And there is no guarantee Williams would want to come. I love Bilbao and I love Athletic”, he said last year. “I want to be with my brother and all my team-mates. It’s like a family for me. I want to stay at Athletic.”

Which seems fairly clear-cut, as does his signing a new long-term deal, but if he didn’t want to leave the door at least slightly ajar, he would have agreed to a rather higher release clause. For now, it seems, Williams is happy to stay put – but he is ambitious and knows that he will have to move on at some stage if he wants to compete for honours. Arsenal will do well to ensure that they are at the front of the queue when the time comes.

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