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Danny Welbeck’s ankle injury effectively spelt the end of his time at Arsenal. With his contract up at the end of the season, it was an unfortunate issue that denied the England international the chance to prove he warrants a new deal at the Emirates.
The Gunners have all but confirmed Welbeck will depart the north London side at the end of the season at the latest, which has prompted rumours as to who will replace him in the capital.
Here, we run through five possible candidates that Arsenal could target in the New Year to add to Unai Emery’s attack.
Reiss Nelson – Hoffenheim
Arguably the standout candidate, Reiss Nelson put pen to paper on a new deal at Arsenal before being sent out on loan for the season at Hoffenheim.
His good form has understandably impressed supporters, with Nelson netting six times in the Bundesliga this season; only Kylian Mbappe (12) has more of teenagers in Europe’s top five leagues this term.
While it remains to be seen whether he’ll return to London in January, his good form has certainly excited Arsenal fans.
Returns of 2.3 dribbles and 2.3 key passes per 90 are both notable returns for Nelson and if Unai Emery is to persist with the current 3-4-2-1 formation, that possibly put on the back burner following Rob Holding’s injury, the teenager is the ideal fit in either the supporting role or as the striker in the system.
Having played in central areas, though, it remains to be seen how effective he would be pulling to the flanks, but at his age, there is plenty of scope for improvement to his game. His return would also be cost effective and allow Arsenal to spend big elsewhere.
Nicolas Pepe – Lille
Should Arsenal fans, though, demand a big money splurge on a new attacker in January, then they could do a lot worse than Lille sensation Nicolas Pepe. The Ivorian’s good form hasn’t gone under the radar either, with Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona, among others, credited with an interest in Pepe, whose returns of 10 goals and five assists has landed him a WhoScored rating of 7.42, that the seventh best in Ligue 1 this term.
He hasn’t shied away from the big games either, having scored in meetings with Marseille, Saint-Etienne, PSG and Lyon for Champions League hunting Lille. Largely operating off the right, Pepe has time on his hands to develop accordingly and improve his all round game that would allow him to operate in any position in the final third. 1.8 key passes and 1.6 successful dribbles per 90 are both fine returns for a Lille side that averages a touch over 50% possession. Just imagine his numbers in an Arsenal team that sees more of the ball…
Christian Pulisic – Borussia Dortmund
Linked with a big money move to the Premier League to Chelsea and Liverpool in recent weeks, Arsenal could do a lot worse than steal a march on the duo in the race for Christian Pulisic. Borussia Dortmund may be looking to secure upwards of £70m for the American winger, but his high ceiling coupled with the directness on the ball would appeal to the Gunners.
What’s more, his versatility would be an asset for Unai Emery, with Pulisic, while better on the right, also able to operate on the left flank. 3.0 successful dribbles per 90 is a solid return for the 20-year-old and reinforces a WhoScored strength of ‘dribbling’. While his development has stunted in recent months, a change of scenery would benefit ‘Captain America’ and he could be a key player for Arsenal should Emery tap into his immense potential. That being said, he isn’t the cheapest option on the market and with a underwhelming goal and assist return, Arsenal could benefit from investing elsewhere.
Hirving Lozano – PSV
With Barcelona sniffing around, any move for Hirving Lozano would be a pipe dream for Arsenal, but never say never in football until the deal is done. Interest in the Mexican soared in the wake of an impressive World Cup, despite their last-16 exit, and he’s followed up Russia 2018 with a superb season to date for a PSV side that, up until last weekend’s 2-1 loss at Feyenoord, boasted a 100% start to the campaign.
10 goals and five assists has returned a WhoScored rating of 8.15, that the third best in the Eredivisie this season, and he, like Pulisic, would offer greater versatility on the frontline. Able to play on the left, right and through the middle, he has the credentials to become an immediate success for Arsenal. That being said, PSV can effectively name their price for Lozano, and that could throw a spanner in the works. At this rate, he’d likely be more expensive than Pulisic, but a readymade inclusion that would satisfy any Arsenal fan.
Memphis Depay – Lyon
A more far reaching suggestion, but then Memphis Depay has the attacking capabilities that would suit a Welbeck replacement. The Dutchman’s Manchester United career may have left many wondering what all the fuss is about, yet for Lyon and the Netherlands, Memphis has began to really realise his full potential. Comfortable both out wide and through the middle, an ability to play in any number of positions would be a huge bonus for Emery.
Memphis has scored five and registered seven assists for Champions League chasing Lyon this term, while his two goals in the UEFA Nations League saw a resurgent Netherlands top group 1 in League A shows how successfully he can transfer his form from club to the international stage. There would be complications over any possible move, as United supposedly have a buyback clause for Memphis, but even so, after witnessing a huge upturn in his game following his move to Lyon, he could be the ideal Welbeck successor at the Emirates.