James Maddison, Ianis Hagi, Mikel Arteta

WHY THE GUNNERS' PURSUIT FOR A NUMBER 10 SHOULD LEAD THEM TO A ROMANIAN IN SCOTLAND

It has been a funny old transfer window for and Mikel Arteta. They brought two quality youngsters from abroad in Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga. The main acquisition was of course Ben White from Brighton who joined for 50 million after a terrific season with the Seagulls that culminated in a place for the Euros squad. However, they also failed to sign Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United while the search for an attacking midfielder to fill the ‘number 10’ role goes on.

 

They have had contacts with Martin Odegaard and James Maddison with the former having had a loan spell last season. Real Madrid have not given any indication so far of selling him and Leicester City are firm in their bid to keep Maddison or ask for an exorbitant fee. Despite giving Emile Smith-Rowe the number 10 and securing his future long-term, he is very much a player for the future and needs proper game time.

 

If the Gunners were to look at their Scottish neighbours, they could find a nice option amongst the ranks of . A certain Romanian creative force who has a legendary surname.

IT IS IN THE NAME

Ianis Hagi, the 22-year-old attacker and son of the great Gheorghe Hagi, is just coming off the back of a career year with Steven Gerrard’s side who absolutely stormed the league. Hagi scored eight goals and had 12 assists across all competitions in his first full season in Scotland which led to him being voted Rangers’ Young Player of the Year.

 

That is his best return since the 2017-18 season playing in the Romanian top-flight. What was even more impressive was how he outperformed expectations all throughout the course of the campaign. He had a passing accuracy of 83% along with completing 50% of his dribbles. Those are some strong numbers coming from a young player and when it comes to his threat on goal, it gets even more impressive. Hagi is most often used on the right wing but can also play in the position just behind the main striker.

 

He takes 2.71 shots P90 with 30.5% of them on target. Furthermore, in the UEFA Europa League, Hagi five of his nine shots on target during the tournament with 1.26 shots on target P90. His seven goals in the league came from 59 shots all of which indicate that he is a player who does like to have a crack at goal whenever a feasible opportunity arises. That can be an incredibly handy thing for Arsenal who are in dire need of goal scorers, especially given how worrisome Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s poor form was last term.

 

Hagi also has a great positive effect on the entire team performance whenever he is on pitch as evidenced by the 64 goals Rangers scored with him in the 11. He created 45 chances and played 34 key passes which does suggest that he wants his team to score quickly and efficiently. One has to remember that he is still on the younger side of the game and potential to develop is massive.

 

 

Hagi has also appeared 18 times for the national team already and is set to become a major star following in the footsteps of his father. The impending departure of Joe Willock is sure to make Arteta’s job even tougher of demanding consistent performances. However, the fact remains that how will he fit in at Arsenal and can the Spaniard bring out the best in him?

 

NOT YOUR AVERAGE NO. 10

Hagi’s 11 assists in the league were the highest in the league, earning him the Playmaker of the Season award, which immediately makes it clear that the frontline of the Gunners will get service. This is something that Arteta knows will have to improve for his side. Willian has not panned out like the expectation was; Odegaard is back with Madrid and Saka needs help.

 

The 19-year-old will be a key offensive piece in the upcoming season playing in advanced roles. If one were to compare between Hagi and Smith-Rowe for the role behind Lacazette/ Aubameyang, history does favour the Rangers man. However, one deficit in Hagi’s game has to be that he is of not much help defensively. He likes to stay up and tracking back may be something that his overall game needs to add, having only two clearances and eight interceptions in 2020-21.

 

Arteta can give him a free role to drift wide or stay central depending on how the attack develops over time. His lean frame and low centre of gravity allows him to wriggle past big opposing defenders into dangerous areas. Hagi will certainly be an exciting addition to this team who do need to beef up as many fans feel.

 

THE FEASIBILITY FACTOR

Hagi signed a “long-term” deal in 2020 with the Ibrox club and has already appeared twice this season, scoring the first goal of Rangers’ 2021-22 season. It will not be easy to prise him away but a bid of around 15 million will be a good starting point. Arsenal are spending on players finally with the Kroenkes clearly eager to mend fences with the fans after the European Super League debacle.

 

However, Rangers will be no pushover and this can devolve into an interesting transfer battle. One thing is for certain that Hagi will cost less than both Odegaard and Maddison given his relatively low profile and the league he plays in. If Arsenal are serious about their interest in getting a player of that mould, they can do a lot worse than the Romanian.

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