With the international break in full swing, Premier League clubs have been provided with a rare opportunity to take a break from the hectic league schedule to start planning for the up and coming summer transfer window.
One area Mikel Arteta will probably be keen to strengthen is his forward line, with his two main striking options, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, now entering the twilight of their careers.
Club captain Aubameyang turns 32 this year whilst French international Lacazette turns 30 in May. Furthermore, the latter may still leave in the summer with ongoing uncertainty still lingering about his contract situation.
The Gunners do of course have young and exciting frontmen coming through the ranks, with Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah both set for bright futures at the club. However, there’s another former Gunner whose scintillating form abroad has caught the attention of not only his former club but also a number of top Premier League sides.
In the summer of 2017, Donyell Malen left Arsenal to join PSV in a deal worth just £5.5million. Since then, he’s developed into a top young talent. Across all competitions this season, he’s scored 23 goals whilst also registering a further six assists. That goal tally breaks down to an impressive average of 0.65 goals per 90 and is slightly better than his xG average of 0.59 – which is good.
He tends to feature as a centre forward within Roger Schmidt’s favoured 4222 formation, although he can also play out on the left of an attack, as he did for the Netherlands in midweek.
The Dutchman is predominantly right-footed, therefore playing on the left naturally opens up more opportunities for him to cut inside onto his favoured foot in order to get shots off on goal, similar to how Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang operates when playing in that position for Arsenal.
Yet, what’s clear when you watch the player is that he also exhibits comfort in using his weaker left when required to do so, taking on shots or threading passes into the feet of teammates. This is one of the reasons why he operates more than adequately in a central role as well as out wide.
Due to the fact he plays for one of the more domineering teams in the Eredivisie, he’s usually presented with plenty of shooting opportunities and across all competitions this season, he has averaged 3.85 efforts per 90.
This is quite high, particularly when you consider that Aubameyang takes roughly just 2.13 in the league with Arsenal.
Questions do then naturally arise about how fewer shots would impact Malen’s goal return if he did join Arsenal, especially given the increase in quality of opposition in the Premier League when compared to Holland’s top tier.
It’s a risk that would have to be weighed up by the recruitment team if any move was made by the Gunners.
Away from the scoring side of things, Malen has plenty of likeable physical attributes. He stands at 5ft10in and is quick in a foot race and unpredictable on the ball. He’s averaged 5.76 dribbles per 90 this season, with over 42% proving successful.
PSV are the third most aggressive side in the league in terms of PPDA, a metric widely used to gauge pressing high up the field without the ball. Therefore you can assume with some certainty that Malen is a strong contributor to his side’s pressing out of possession.
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It’s not yet clear how concrete the rumours linking the 22-year-old to the Premier League are. Yet his profile ticks plenty of boxes from an Arsenal point of view in terms of being a versatile young forward who can score, create, take players on and offer a presence in pressing situations.
A transfer would carry the usual risks in terms of uncertainty about how the player’s skill set would translate into a tougher league, yet these questions can only usually be answered after a move has happened.
But based on all of the above, it’s easy to see why Arsenal might be tempted to bring Malen back to North London this summer.