The £70m lethal striker Arsenal can sign to take Premier League title ambitions to the next level

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Is Arsenal's striker search nearing an end? We look at the latest rumour linking the Gunners with a free-scoring new forward.

If you choose to believe every rumour that’s bubbled up linking Arsenal with a new striker this January, then you could be forgiven for thinking that Edu’s scouting meetings consist of writing the name of every expensive striker in Europe on a big board, tying Gunnersaurus to a chair with a spike on his head, and rolling him at the board like a giant dart before launching a bid for whichever name he happens to hit. Perhaps they do.

If so, then it’s lucky for Arsenal that one of the forwards who has been randomly selected by a mildly concussed and deeply humiliated man in a dinosaur outfit is Dušan Vlahović, because he may well be precisely what Mikel Arteta needs.

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Juventus spent around £75m to sign the big Serbian striker two years ago, back when he was widely viewed as one of the most exciting young prospects in Europe. Now 23, Vlahović could be on his way out for slightly less than the Old Lady spent on him, with a number of British newspapers claiming that a bid in the region of £65-70m is being prepared to bring him over to the Emirates.

That Juventus could be prepared to move him on without realising a profit may set a few alarm bells ringing, and it’s true that not everyone in Turin would be sad to see him leave. Vlahović has endured some pretty patchy form since joining, with some red hot scoring streaks interspersed with long and lonely dry spells. This season, he started off with four goals in four Serie A games, then managed just one in ten, and now he’s caught fire again, scoring six in his last five including back-to-back braces against Sassuolo and Lecce.

Part of the problem is that Vlahović is not an especially strong all-round player – but while he has some notable weaknesses, his strengths line up well with the issues Arsenal need to resolve if they want to challenge for the Premier League title consistently. Whether he would fit in with Arteta’s system is another matter.

Let’s start with what he’s good at – he’s a fabulous finisher with superb instincts around the six-yard box and he’s strong, powerful and very good in the air at 6’3”. He has all the attributes for a classical number nine, able to muscle defenders out of his way and take half-chances with aplomb.

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The Gunners have badly lacked that kind of killer touch in the area. Gabriel Jesus, for all of his slippery movement and excellent off-the-ball work, simply doesn’t score enough. Eddie Nketiah, meanwhile, is a fine finisher but doesn’t have the knack of working openings for himself. Vlahović is the best of both worlds in quite a few key ways.

On the other hand, Vlahović is no jack of all trades. He doesn’t contribute much, if anything at all, defensively, and is something of a non-entity in a high pressing system. That won’t suit Arteta very well at all. He also has a tendency to drop deep to collect the ball, which has benefits and drawbacks – he’s great at drawing markers and creating space in behind, space which players like Bukayo Saka could thrive on, but his passing and dribbling are somewhat lacking by elite standards and he isn’t very efficient at using the ball when he gets it in those deeper areas.

So all of that begs the question – could or should Arteta compromise his system to include Arteta? The answer depends on whether Vlahović’s tendency to drop deep would tread on the toes of Martin Ødegaard and Kai Havertz, bringing too many men into play in the same small space outside the area, or whether it would open up more space up for them to make use of.

So far this season, Areta has basically had Ødegaard plying the channels down the right to find link-ups with Saka, while Havertz has remained more central to pick up the ball in the areas normally occupied by a number ten. Vlahović dropping into those areas could open up more space for runs in behind, or allow Havertz to drift wider and look for one-twos with Gabriel Martinelli, spreading the play out more and diversifying Arsenal’s play patterns – and predictability has been an issue during their recent dry run of results.

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If that optimistic projection of the way Vlahović would slot into the system is correct, then he would be a superb signing. But the more pessimistic view is that he is flaky, doesn’t contribute to the press and can go missing for game after game. There is no doubt that spending £70m would represent a very real risk. Vlahović will be a fantastic player for the right team, but that doesn’t mean it will be Arsenal.

As it stands, we believe it remains unlikely that Arsenal will spend big money on a striker this January. A number of reports suggest that would need to sell to be able to buy in order to satisfy the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules, and as Everton and Nottingham Forest will tell you, you don’t mess around with those lightly. However, there have also been reports that Juventus are toying with extending Vlahović’s contract before the summer, with his current deal ending in 2026 – so if Arsenal are serious about signing him, they may need to act sooner rather than later.

Should they take the chance? We’re leaning towards yes, although they may find a safer option. Vlahović does one thing very well, and that’s score goals. He may blow hot and cold, but when he’s on he can hit the back of the net from anywhere, and he would add a physical dimension to Arsenal’s attack that is notable by its absence at presence. The bottom line is that Arsenal need a goalscorer, someone who can at least flirt with 20 goals per season, and they’ll find it incredibly hard to win the title without one. Vlahović is probably one of the better bets out there.

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