Transfer Talk: Why the Gunners are so Inter free-scoring Martinez
Arsenal supporters are expecting plenty of business at the Emirates Stadium before the transfer window slams shut — but few would have considered Lautaro Martinez a realistic target.
The Gunners are in the market for a striker and the Inter Milan star has reportedly emerged as a potential option.
As Mikel Arteta plots a challenge for the European places this season, we turn the spotlight on how Martinez could transform Arsenal into genuine Champions League contenders.
Though a new frontman is on Arsenal’s summer shopping list, there are more pressing positions for technical director Edu to target before the window slams shut.
An attacking midfielder is the top priority, while a right-back and a central midfielder are also seen as key.
But the situation is fluid and reports suggest the Gunners are ready to offer Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin new contracts, with prospective buyers unwilling to meet their demands.
That would reduce the need to sign players in those positions — paving the way for a new recruit up front.
A deal to be done
Inter do not want to lose Martinez, 23, after he helped fire the Nerazzurri to their first Scudetto in 11 years.
But the Italian side are in dire financial straits, as vice-president Javier Zanetti explained at the end of last season.
He said: "The financial problems remain and it could take a couple of years to rediscover that balance.
"We need people back in the stadium to make the sponsors happy. Basically, a return to normality."
It has been reported that Inter need to end the transfer window with a £68million net profit. Following Achraf Hakimi's switch to Paris Saint-Germain for a reported £51m, selling Martinez would get Inter over the line.
Arsenal, who face arch-rivals Tottenham this afternoon, would be keen to include Bellerin or Alexandre Lacazette in part-exchange offering — but that is unlikely to appeal to the cash-strapped Serie A outfit.
Where would Martinez fit in at Arsenal?
Arsenal are well stocked in the striking department, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli and Folarin Balogun all capable of leading the line.
But it will come as no surprise that Arteta would put Martinez front and centre of his attacking unit if he joins the club.
The Inter No10 played up front in Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 system last season, dropping slightly deeper than prolific strike partner Romelu Lukaku while still managing to contribute 17 league goals and six assists across the campaign.
The Gunners boss is unlikely to play two strikers but could set up with Martinez flanked by Aubameyang on the left and Bukayo Saka on the right.
With £72m man Nicolas Pepe an alternative on either wing, competition for places in the front three would be fierce going into 2021-22.
A broad skill set
Martinez’s average of 0.59 goals scored per 90 minutes is impressive enough but there is far more to the 29-cap Argentine international than his strike rate.
He is consistently able to get into shooting positions and managed 3.81 shots per 90 in Serie A last season, which was the eighth-most in Italy’s top flight.
The 2021 Copa America winner is just 5ft 9in but do not be fooled by his diminutive stature — only Juventus icon Cristiano Ronaldo (seven) scored more headed goals than Martinez (four) last term.
Not content with being a potent finisher, he is just as effective at pressing defenders and winning the ball back for his team-mates.
The former Racing Club forward’s 1.12 possession regains in the final third per 90 minutes was only beaten by six other players in Serie A, cementing his status as one of the division’s most well-rounded strikers.
A game changer
Arsenal did not envisage Martinez being a realistic target this summer but find themselves with an opportunity to sign an elite forward when they are not in Europe.
Securing the Inter Milan goal machine would be a game-changing move from the Gunners, both on the pitch and as a wider statement of intent.
If Edu is able to add creativity to a side that scored just 55 times last season, an attacker of Martinez’s calibre will be an invaluable addition.
The North London club should break the bank to get the Argentina international through the door — it could be the difference between Champions League qualification and another campaign in the wilderness.