Isak signs, £145m deals, Rice dilemma - Arsenal four biggest summer transfer jobs for Arteta

Newcastle striker Alexander Isak
-Credit: (Image: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Unlike many sides across the top two divisions in England, Arsenal have not been particularly busy so far this summer. Still in the early days of the 2024 summer transfer window, there is little to speak of.

The closest they have come to doing meaningful business was with Benjamin Sesko and even that was wrapped up before the European Championship even started. Although there is no scramble to the June 30 profitability and sustainability rules (PSRs) deadline, there is work to be done in the coming months.

It is expected to ramp up quickly, though, with plenty still to be done. Pre-season will come round sooner rather than later; the first game (of sorts) is now just two weeks away when an Arsenal XI takes on Boreham Wood, while the tour of America is already on the horizon.

Having been active in their business 12 months ago, Mikel Arteta and Edu Gaspar will be keen to show their planning skills and efficiency again. With that in mind, here, looks at the four biggest jobs to be done.

Sort that striker

It's no secret. Arsenal need a striker. They signed Kai Havertz last summer to be a midfielder - albeit an extremely attacking one - and the attention being placed on Sesko for much of the past few months says plenty.

The Gunners are now looking at a shortlist that is still relatively long. Viktor Gyokeres, at £85million is not even the most expensive. Victor Osimhen for over £100milliion certainly is, but he is also the most proven. Joshua Zirkzee remains an option. Dominic Solanke's name will not go away.

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Whatever Arsenal chooses to do, and there are options, it is beneficial to act sooner rather than later. Letting striker sagas drag on deep into the summer is rarely a good thing. There is no standout figure here, though.

Jonathan David for cheap at £25million is the cheap and risk-averse signing. Alexander Isak for four times that is more glamorous and offers immediate, assured Premier League quality. He suits Arsenal down to the ground, but the sale of Elliot Anderson for over £35million to Nottingham Forest makes persuading Newcastle to get rid of a star more unlikely.

Isak is a perfect first choice, though. Making a play for him would be a statement of intent and could hold all the answers.

Get the sales done

To fund Isak, Arsenal also need to do their own bit of selling. This is not just to boost the kitty but also to clear out the squad. Arteta's lack of rotation across the past two seasons says a lot. He doesn't feel he has options outside of an increasingly small group.

Those on the way out are wide-ranging. From Aaron Ramsdale to Eddie Nketiah, there could realistically be as many as six players from the first-team squad last season on their way out. Add in Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, both of whom have increased competition for their spot that was so assured in 2022/23 and muddied clarity on gametime, and there's even more.

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Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson both need to go for the better of their careers, plus sales would count as the much-heralded 'pure profit', even on the 2024/25 accounts. Thomas Partey has 12 months left on his deal, and replacements are being eyed; anything over £30million for him would be enough, while £25million for Smith Rowe, £30million for Ramsdale, £15million for Nelson, £25million for Nketiah, and £20million for Vieira would all be a result.

Given how poor Arsenal have been at recouping money for their assets, even valuable ones, this is a considerable challenge. Maybe an even bigger one will not leave the group short come the start of the season in mid-August.

Listen to Arteta

Arsenal have a new model in place, and plenty is left for Edu and Arteta. Like they may have done in a midfield partnership, the pair of vital cogs in the north London model now have a huge few weeks ahead.

It's not always best practice to leave things entirely down to the head coach, but Arteta has more hits than misses since coming in and will point towards Havertz, Declan Rice, and others in the past few years as success stories that he has made from those signed. Rewarding Arteta and listening to him when it comes to the recruitment conversation is key.

A holistic approach that combines data with demand, scouting, and a pinch of gut feel is best. Arteta has so far managed to pretty much nail the market and his use of it; Edu will need to continue working alongside him to get the best out of everyone involved.

If Arteta says that it's a priority to have a priority to have a new striker, then it's wise to deliver what he wants.

Decide on Declan

He has been one of the top performers since coming in last summer, but once again, Arsenal still have a Rice dilemma. Namely, what is his best role?

As both a blessing and a curse, Rice is able to do anything. He can, as was the case initially after coming in, sit deep and shield the defence as a main responsibility. However, he is also good enough to surge from deep, make up plenty of ground on the ball, and have an impact in the final third.

Doing both is possible, but not without cover. That isn't something - Partey's fitness and future pending - that they have access to. It's why another midfielder is among the key spots being targeted. But Arsenal can't just go for anyone. There has to be clarity around just what the shape and plans will be.

How this plays out will also impact Havertz further forward, and therefore the new striker. Solving this puzzle and being consistent with it is one of the tasks for the summer.