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Osimhen to Arsenal: The case for and against a potential transfer

19:54 GMT+3 09/03/2022
Napoli and Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen.
Will the in demand Napoli marksman be a good fit for Mikel Arteta’s side?

We are far from the summer transfer window but the rumours are already developing, and Victor Osimhen has not been left out.

Despite failing to score in yet another big game on Sunday, observers were broadly impressed with the Nigeria centre-forward, who had to be double-teamed by Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu in AC Milan’s 1-0 win in Napoli.

The England centre-back subsequently alluded to the difficulty of playing against the Azzurri frontman.

“There are many strong forwards in Serie A, obviously Victor [Osimhen], tonight’s opponent, is very strong: fast and difficult to mark,” Tomori stressed “but there are also Beto, Lautaro, Dzeko, and many other strikers in this league. All very strong. But both when I play with Pierre and Alessio we play our game to avoid threats.”

Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash in Serie A understandably garnered a huge following and social media was awash with comments on Osimhen’s performance.

Several Arsenal supporters seemed to suggest the tenacious young striker will fit right in under Mikel Arteta’s management, with some criticising the perceived selfishness of several Napoli attackers in not finding their central striker.

Osimhen, 23, fits the profile of player Arsenal have looked to build their squad around in the last few windows, with the previous summer signalling this new direction. None of the arrivals last summer was above the age of 23, and this has subsequently seen a drop in the average age of the squad.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang departing in January and Alexandre Lacazette’s expiring contract yet to be renewed, the North London club have to make signings in that position.

The Nigerian’s age suits the Gunners’ direction, although Napoli’s potential asking price may not. Aurelio De Laurentiis drives a hard bargain and tends to be uncompromising regarding outgoings, potentially representing a potential stumbling block for any sale.

While Arsenal were supposedly keen on doing a big-money deal for Dusan Vlahovic, the length of the Serbian’s contract at Fiorentina (18 months to run) meant the Viola were, by and large, open to selling their prized asset when it became obvious he was not going to renew in Florence.

The Partenopei, on the other hand, may show some resistance especially if they do not receive an offer befitting for a player who has three years left on his contract. Furthermore, finishing in the Champions League positions could complicate any potential sale as a top-four finish reduces any need to cash in on potential saleable assets.

Having said that, if any move to Arsenal somehow materialises, it is likely to bring about changes to how the London giants play and prompt Osimhen to evolve.

While the Nigerian will put in the hard yards in recovering possession and is also an undoubted threat in behind when running onto the ball, he lacks the composure and playmaking of Lacazette, who knits the Gunners attack.

The Nigerian’s predisposition to run with the ball and preference for through-balls has been evident in Italy, often causing some frustration to Luciano Spalletti at times.

“We have quality in attack. Victor [Osimhen] is really strong, he lacks quality in tight spaces, but it’s hard to catch him in open spaces,” the Napoli boss noted after a 4-0 win over Udinese in September.

Interestingly, after Napoli’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in February, the Azzurri boss admonished the frontman for constantly running offside.

“Osimhen gives us these incredible changes of pace,” Spalletti stated, “he still needs to learn about the right movements, as in the second half he was caught offside four or five times when he really should’ve been following the line.”

Arsenal’s attacking game has come together since Aubameyang lost his place and was ultimately sold, with a more refined Lacazette combining better with the team’s younger band of wide attackers and attacking midfielders.

While Osimhen is largely as selfless as the Frenchman, he is not quite at the level of the ex-Olympique Lyon man for combination play in constricted spaces.

This undoubtedly raises questions over how well the Nigerian fits into the Arsenal team. But the 23-year-old packs a punch and the Gunners could still be beneficiaries of the Super Eagles star's battling qualities, even though adaptation will be needed to foster a smooth integration into Arteta’s set up in North London.