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Arsenal don’t need a new superstar attacker when they have Saka

Arsenal, according to many observers including some of their own fans, need a new attacking difference-maker. This widespread belief led to speculation about a move for a centre forward in the January transfer window and while the Gunners ultimately pulled back from several targets the consensus about Mikel Arteta’s attacking options remains.

Ivan Toney has been strongly linked with Arsenal while the North London club’s interest in Dusan Vlahovic is long-standing. Arteta was even asked about the possibility of moving for Kylian Mbappe. “When there is a player of that calibre we always have to be in the conversation,” said the Spaniard, somewhat mischievously.

The Gunners don’t need a new attacking difference-maker, though, because Bukayo Saka is already that figure for them. The 22-year-old is Arsenal’s brightest star in the final third, highlighted by the numbers he has registered in the Premier League over the last three seasons. Saka has become a phenomenon.

Since the start of the 2021/22 season, Mohamed Salah and Saka are the only two players to have recorded 40+ goals and 30+ assists in the Premier League. Saka has scored 10 or more goals in each of his last three Premier League seasons and is on track to achieve his best-ever campaign this season.

“We don’t really see it [in football],” said Arteta about Saka. “Especially forward players and wingers with that level of consistency and numbers. At his age it is something really strange to find but it is not a coincidence when you look at him every single day. The way he trains, the way he applies himself, the qualities that he has. And he can do more.”

Saka is so influential and so consistent that it’s easy to forget that he is still only 22. While other players his age are still seen as raw potential, Saka is a central pillar for a team challenging for the Premier League title. Arsenal have a special talent on their hands and must be careful not to do anything to halt his further development.

By signing a new attacker for the starting lineup, Arsenal would risk disrupting Saka. The way Arteta sets up his team is designed to vacate space for Saka on the right side, giving him the opportunity to create one-on-one situations against opposition defenders. Adding another figure to the equation might upset the formula.

If Arsenal fail to land the Premier League title for a second season in-a-row, Arteta and the decision-makers at the Emirates Stadium will have to assess how they can make another step up. That process, however, should focus on other areas beside the attack – certainly the right side of the Gunners’ frontline.

Arsenal have suffered from a lack of creativity from midfield into attack this season. Their open play Expected Goals (xG) have suffered a dramatic drop-off from last season with the Gunners more reliant on set pieces than ever before. If Arsenal are in the market for a new difference-maker, it should be in attacking midfield.

Questions have also been asked of Oleksandr Zinchenko at left back. The Ukrainian is important to the way Arsenal like to control matches in the centre of the pitch, but he can be vulnerable in defensive transition and this is where the Gunners could make a move to find a different option in that position.

In an attacking sense, though, Arsenal are well-equipped to continue challenging for domestic and European honours over the coming years with Saka the face of Arteta’s team. Toney and Vlahovic might strengthen the Gunners if either of them arrive in the summer, but neither will have the influence of Saka.

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