New Arsenal midfield transfer target emerges with key Arteta skillset to partner Declan Rice

Arsenal are interested in signing Real Sociedad midfielder Mikel Merino
-Credit: (Image: Luka Stanzl/Pixsell/MB Media/Getty Images)

Arsenal have prioritised the signing of a central midfielder this summer understands. While also interested in the centre-forward, wide role and defence in addition to a potential backup goalkeeper (and the permanent arrival of David Raya), the middle third is in need of reinforcement with uncertainty over Thomas Partey's future.

One player being linked with a move according to Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo is Real Sociedad’s Mikel Merino. The 28-year-old is at the older end of the spectrum of players linked and in a similar bracket in that sense to Joshua Kimmich who is also said to be of interest.

Merino has been a player on the scene at the elite level for a while with experience in the Premier League with Newcastle and the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund. He is a well-travelled player and is now a Spain international having amassed 23 caps for his country.

He certainly fulfils the box-to-box desires that many have which would see Declan Rice drop into the No.6 position. Martin Zubimendi, another La Real player linked to Arsenal, currently plays that deeper role behind Merino and of course, he played with returning loanee Kieran Tierney last season.

With eight goals and five assists across all competitions in 45 matches, he has a decent goal contribution record too, which is certainly desirable in a side like Arsenal. The one year that remains on his deal also opens up the potential for a financially favourable move but it is understood there is competition from Barcelona.

Looking deeper into the metrics, his goals mean that he ranks in the 94th percentile of the top five leagues’ midfielders for non-penalty goals per 90. Other impressive attacking stats include sitting in the 93rd percentile for touches in the opposition penalty area per 90, 2.89 – highlighting how he enjoys getting forward which Arteta enjoys from his own midfield options.

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Defensively, a central midfield player must deliver and thankfully the numbers show Merino does just that. Standing at 6ft 2ins, he wins plenty of aerial duels - more than nearly any other player for his position, sitting in the 99th percentile for aerial duels won per 90: 5.99.

2.02 clearances per 90 see him sit in the 88th percentile and 2.66 tackles per 90 sit him in the 83rd percentile. Passing and dribbling are decent with 77th percentile for successful take-ons per 90, 0.98, and 76th percentile for progressive passes per 90, 6.10.