Arsenal’s chase for Emi Buendia is over, with the tricky Norwich midfielder agreeing to join Aston Villa for a fee in the region of £33m according to reports.
He was said to be one of top summer targets for the Gunners; the club will now have to look elsewhere to add a player with his qualities, but which players fit the bill?
Buendia proved himself to be a very creative talent for the Canaries, having generated plenty of scoring opportunities for his teammates since his arrival from Getafe in 2018.
He registered 34 assists in league competition for Norwich, with 24 goals scored along the way, and he was also an avenue for Daniel Farke’s men to enter the valuable areas of the pitch, with plenty of passes made into the penalty box.
Any alternative for Arsenal will have to tick those boxes, but who fits the mould?
Hakan Calhanoglu (AC Milan)
A free agent this summer once his deal with AC Milan expires, Hakan Calhanoglu could be an interesting option for Mikel Arteta.
The Turkish midfielder finished top of Europe’s top five leagues for key passes this season, with a key pass defined as one that directly leads to a shot.
He was the only player to hit the 100 mark in that department across England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany, with Buendia finishing sixth in the Premier League two years ago with a total of 79.
Calhanoglu certainly profited from taking set-pieces, but his specialist skill around those moments could be harnessed by Arteta at the Emirates.
Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese)
Rodrigo De Paul seems destined to drift under the radar given that he’s now 27 years-old.
His age could be deemed as a problem for Arsenal, but he’s also experiencing his peak, should cost less and he should be able to deliver immediately upon his arrival.
De Paul has been one of the top performers in Serie A this season, posting six non-penalty goals and nine assists for Udinese; he finished seventh for key passes in Europe ahead of Jack Grealish in eighth, although the Argentine did play more minutes than anyone inside the top 20.
However, his availability could be deemed as a positive as his injury history is virtually flawless. Ultimately, as an inventive carrier of the ball who can essentially do it all when it comes to passing, dribbling, shooting and creating for others, De Paul could do a lot for Arteta’s side.
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Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig)
Since being allowed to leave Paris by PSG, Christopher Nkunku has reached new heights in the Bundesliga.
The forward – who is still just 23 years-old – placed 17th in Europe for total key passes this season, having accumulated as many as 71, despite playing fewer minutes overall than any player inside the top 20.
Nkunku is a keen presser without the ball, he’s versatile across different positions but crucially, he offers very similar threats to Buendia, although it remains to be seen how much the German club would charge for his services given the recent Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate departures.
He was linked with Arsenal under former boss Unai Emery, but a deal could not be finalised and he move to Leipzig instead.