Unai Emery’s reign has started promisingly when it comes to the transfer market. Keeper Bernd Leno and Swiss defender Stephan Lichtsteiner have checked in at the Emirates, with midfielder Lucas Torreira and defender Sokratis also set to join the Spaniard’s new-look line-up.
Yet the hunt for new talent continues – especially with the departing Per Mertesacker, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Joel Campbell freeing up space in the squad for fresh talent.
Nothing quite beats a World Cup for unearthing new stars. It’s a festival of football featuring the best players from across the globe and Emery and the club hierarchy will undoubtedly be watching closely. While the budget is unlikely to stretch to a superstar who might win the player of the tournament crown, Emery’s transfer war chest would surely allow him to look at some of the World Cup’s impressive performers.
So, who should Arsenal have their eye on?
If you believe the transfer rumour mill, Morocco’s Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia is already a target for Unai Emery. It seems apparent that the former Sevilla boss wants to rebuild his defence and 31-year-old Benatia has the experience and pedigree required to make the Gunners back line more solid, while rumours suggest Benatia is looking for a move away from The Old Lady too. Benatia’s Morocco side has played better than results suggest – and might’ve sprung a surprise had they had a more reliable finisher.
If Emery would prefer a younger defender who can grow in an Arsenal shirt, then Serbia centre back Nikola Milenkovic fits the bill. Once picked as one of the world’s top 30 young talents by Gazzetta dello Sport, the Fiorentina 20-year-old has looked at home at the world’s biggest stage and was unlucky to be on the losing side in Serbia’s fascinating clash with Switzerland. At 6ft 5in, he looks to have all the attributes required to be a top class commanding defender.
Colombia provided the break-out star of the 2014 World Cup with James Rodriguez – and there’s every chance that his team mate Juan Quintero could follow suit this time around. As one of a tantalisingly talented trio behind Radamel Falcao – with James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado – Quintero is a player who can unlock defences with dynamic dribbling and a classy left foot. His clever free kick against Japan was surely the tournament’s most underrated goal and showed class, vision and a little bit of cheek too. Currently at River Plate on loan from Porto, it might be tough to tie up a deal for Quintero – but plenty of teams will surely be testing the water when the tournament is over.
One of Russia’s biggest stars in the tournament, Aleksander Golovin was already on Arsenal’s radar before the World Cup. Indeed, it’s thought that Unai Emery had sanctioned a bid for the CSKA Moscow man based on scouting reports conducted for Arsene Wenger last season. The only block to getting the deal done might be Wenger himself, with Golovin’s agent suggesting that the ex Gunners boss would be interested in taking him to a new club if and when he gets a managerial post. Golovin set the tone for a better-than-expected Russian performance at the tournament, with two assists and a free kick goal in the win against Saudi Arabia. He impressed by dictating play in the game and looked every bit the Arsenal player.
No-one would expect Mexico’s Hirving Lozano to still be plying his trade for PSV next season. Lozano has played a starring role for El Tri, scoring the winning goal against Germany in a memorable 1-0 win and providing an assist in his side’s victory over South Korea. His electric World Cup heroics come after 17 goals and eight assists in an impressive Eredivisie campaign. Big clubs are already circling ‘Chucky’, however, and competition from Barcelona would make Lozano a tough transfer to pull off for Arsenal.