The £50m thrilling forward that could make all the difference for Arsenal - and sting Spurs into the bargain

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Arsenal aren’t too far from a genuine title-winning squad - but could a Spurs transfer target be the player who makes all the difference in the Premier League?

Arsenal have done an awful lot of good business this summer and, judging by their eventual victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield, they shouldn’t be too far away from being able to mount another serious title challenge. But there’s still one part of the team that the Gunners need to address before they can talk about being on the same level as the reigning champions.

When Mikel Arteta signed Gabriel Jesus from City for £45m last summer, that was meant to be a long-term solution to a position that had been problem for Arsenal since the decline of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette – the central striker. Unfortunately, Jesus was not the answer.

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Lille’s Canadian forward Jonathan David (L) celebrates after scoring a goal for Lille Lille’s Canadian forward Jonathan David (L) celebrates after scoring a goal for Lille
Lille’s Canadian forward Jonathan David (L) celebrates after scoring a goal for Lille

It’s not that the Brazilian isn’t a fine player with a range of exceptional traits – it’s just that he isn’t a great finisher, and that undercuts everything else that he brings to the team. He’s undershot his xG in five of his six Premier League seasons, and the one time he managed to get his head above the waterline it was by the barest of margins. More usually he has missed the mark set by an average goalscorer in the division by a mile.

And then there’s his injury record – Jesus missed 12 league games last season, has never managed more than 24 starts and now starts the new campaign on the treatment table. For all his pace, guile and ability to slip his marker, he is unreliable both in his finishing and in the simple ability to play games. If Arsenal want to go one better this season, they may be well advised to move on – especially when their back-ups would either be playing out of position (Leandro Trossard and Kai Havertz) or are simply a little further still from the required level (Eddie Nketiah).

The good news is that even in the current strikers’ market – where quality is thin on the ground and prices are sky high – there is a player who is clearly available, offers many of the same qualities as Jesus, but simply scores far more goals. And to make it even more enticing, he just so happens to be on Spurs’ shortlist of candidates to replace Harry Kane. As a transfer it wouldn’t just be shrewd, it would be immensely satisfying. The player in question is Jonathan David.

The 23-year-old Canadian international scored 24 goals in Ligue 1 last season, his best season yet in front of goal. Over the past three seasons at Lille he’s demonstrated not just a considerable turn of pace but also a fine first touch and the guile to manoeuvre away from defenders. In other words, he exhibits many of the same attributes as Jesus – except that he actually hits the back of the net.

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David has overshot his xG every season he’s played at senior level. He has the predatory instincts that Jesus doesn’t, allied to all of the same physical and technical skills that the Brazilian can offer. The only thing that Jesus is appreciably better at it beating defenders with the ball at his feet – but David is better at getting in behind a defence and rendering his dribbling skills essentially irrelevant. In the age of the high press, he’s got everything you need to be a successful striker.

And reports have started trickling in that the Canadian is on Tottenham’s shopping list for the day that the seemingly inevitable finally comes to pass. With Daniel Levy finally accepting an offer for England captain Kane, Spurs will certainly be looking to spend some of that money on a new striker – should Kane decide to leave, at least - and gazumping a rival club would only sweeten the package for Arsenal. Given Levy’s tendency to try and extend negotiations until the very last moment in order to extract fractional extra pieces of value, it may also be fairly easy to outflank them in negotiations if Arsenal were willing to go in wholeheartedly.

And it should be noted that while he looks like a bargain compared to many of the centre-forwards currently on the market, David would not come cheap. Lille are expected to look for around £50m for their prize asset, hardly peanuts – even for a club with some serious money in reserve like Arsenal. But if it would make the difference when it comes to turning this talented team into future title winners? It would be a bargain.

And David himself would almost certainly be keen – it’s fairly clear that his agent is shopping him around and making the kind of noises that imply the striker is ready to move on to the next step in his career. He is outgrowing Lille and looks ready for a bigger stage. It won’t be long before one of Europe’s established sides offers him a chance, and Arsenal might need his services more than most clubs that fit the bill – a 20-goal striker could easily be the added ingredient that takes Arteta’s young side up towards the stratosphere. And hey, even if he didn’t live up to expectations – you’d still have got one over on Spurs, right?

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