Arsenal must be front of the queue to sign James Maddison this summer

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The Gunners will be up against the Leicester City star on Saturday, and should be thinking about adding him to their squad when the window next opens

James Maddison’s plan this Saturday will be to put a serious dent in Arsenal’s title hopes when Mikel Arteta’s side travel to Leicester City. His long-term thinking, however, is far less clear.

The 26-year-old will have just 12 months left on his contract in the summer, and despite talks about an extension being opened recently, it looks increasingly likely that he will be on the move.

Newcastle and Tottenham have been heavily linked as potential destinations for Maddison, but Arsenal have shown interest in the past.

They seriously considered signing him in 2021 when they were on the hunt for a new playmaker, but ultimately turned to Martin Odegaard when Real Madrid made it known they were ready to do business.

Clearly, that has proven to be a wise move, given Odegaard’s superb performances since swapping Santiago Bernabeu for the Emirates Stadium.

The Norway international is now Arsenal’s captain and has been the driving force behind their superb season up to this point, but that doesn’t mean that Maddison should be overlooked this summer.

  1. "I'm not a No.10"

    "I'm not a No.10"

    Maddison would fit perfectly into Arteta’s 4-3-3 system, providing competition for Granit Xhaka in the left sided No.8 role.

    He has even admitted himself that he is far more comfortable operating in that position, rather than just behind the striker.

    “I’m not a number 10,” he said. “When the gaffer [Brendan Rodgers] came in, I transitioned into a number eight, and sometimes I play off the left.

    “Being a number eight has made me add that defensive side to my game. I’m never going to be a big tackler, I’m never going to go around smashing people. It’s that awareness and that responsibility of getting little toes in, little interceptions, because as a number eight you find yourself deeper a lot, so I’ve had to add that.”

    Xhaka has been a revelation for Arsenal this season and his transformation from villain to hero has been one of the most uplifting stories of the Gunners’ incredible campaign.

    But he is now in his 30s, and when you look at where Arsenal will need to improve over the next few years as they continue to build under Arteta, that left sided No.8 role is an obvious position.

  2. Nine goals and counting
    Getty Images

    Nine goals and counting

    Arsenal do already have Emile Smith Rowe, who will have his eyes on Xhaka’s role, but Maddison feels like the perfect candidate to come in and boost a squad that should, barring a dramatic late collapse, have Champions League football to contend with in 2023-24.

    Maddison’s numbers this season speak for themselves. He has scored nine Premier League goals to Xhaka’s three, while both players have contributed five assists.

    On average, the England midfielder creates 2.5 chances per 90 minutes, compared to Xhaka’s 1.7, and has 3.4 shots compared to Xhaka’s 1.2.

    Clearly he would be a more attacking option in that No.8 role than the Switzerland international, but defensively he has come on impressively of late.

    He averages more tackles per 90 minutes (1.8) than either Xhaka (0.9) or Odegaard (1) and also makes more interceptions (0.6 compared to 0.5 and 0.1, respectively).

  3. "I won’t be begging for a player to stay”

    "I won’t be begging for a player to stay”

    To build on Arsenal's progress this season, Arteta needs different high-quality options in his squad. 

    Over the past year, the starting XI has been improved dramatically thanks to the club’s smart work in the transfer market. But while the squad depth has got better, there is still more to be done, and improving that will be one of the key priorities in the summer window.

    Maddison has proven himself as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League over the past two seasons, and it’s clear that he feels the time is right to make the next step in his career.

    “Players' careers are short and they always have to think about the future,” Rodgers said last week, while discussing Maddison’s situation.

    “It’d be great (if Maddison signed a new contract). He’s a top player in the league. He’s shown that in his time here, but I won’t be begging for a player to stay.”

  4. Arsenal should be at the front of the queue

    Arsenal should be at the front of the queue

    Arsenal will get a close up look at Maddison’s talents on Saturday and they will know that if they can keep him quiet, then they will go a long way to stifling Leicester’s attack.

    But as the ex-Norwich City man has shown this season, even in a side that has been drastically under-performing, keeping him out of the game is far from easy.

    Nine goals and five assists in 17 Premier League appearances is an exceptional return, especially for a team sitting 14th in the table.

    It’s clear that Maddison is ready to take the next step in his career, and there will be a long line of clubs queuing up to try and take advantage of his contract situation come the summer.

    If Arsenal are not at the front of that queue, then they really should be.