As Aaron Ramsey is set to depart Arsenal after 11 seasons in north London, the Gunners will have a significant hole to fill. The Wales star has been an important figure in the squad during his time at the club. He was instrumental in ending Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought in 2014 and helped guide the team to three FA Cups in four years.
The reigning Arsenal Player of the Season, however, fell out of favor for much of the current campaign by new boss Unai Emery. Despite this, Ramsey has continued to make an impact from the bench. Now that the 28-year-old midfielder is on his way to Juventus in the summer, the Arsenal brass is reportedly already targeting players to replace the outgoing Ramsey.
1. Christopher Nkunku
Most Arsenal fans will be somewhat familiar with Nkunku by now. After all, the 21-year-old Frenchman was a January target by the Gunners. Although talks previously occurred between Arsenal and PSG, a deal for the versatile Nkunku ultimately fell through. Despite this, it has been reported that Head of Football Raul Sanllehi will return to the French club in the summer to negotiate further for Nkunku.
Versatility is certainly one of Nkunku’s best attributes. Able to play on the flanks, in midfield, and even at right back, the youngster would be a solid addition to the club. Following Arsenal’s interest in the player, PSG boss Thomas Tuchel has given Nkunku five additional starts in Ligue 1 (four out wide and one in midfield). The France youth international scored two goals and added an assist in these matches. Nkunku could reportedly cost the Gunners more than £25 million.
2. Nicolo Barella
Perhaps the most logical, but expensive choice, Barella is a highly-rated midfielder. Positionally speaking, he is somewhat similar to Ramsey. Barella is a prototypical box-to-box midfielder that has positive offensive and defensive attributes. Just 22, he has even captained his club at times this season.
Barella does not necessarily rack up goals and assists from the middle of pitch, but he does just about everything else. Statistically, he ranks very high in passing and tackling (specifically winning possession in attacking areas). However, the youngster does need to improve in certain areas. Unsuccessful touches and dispossessions are an issue compared to other players in his position. The Cagliari player reportedly has a £40million price tag, with Chelsea and Napoli supposedly heavily interested as well.
3. Joe Aribo
Available on a free this summer, Aribo is garnering interest from a few significant clubs in Europe. The 22-year-old Charlton Athletic central midfielder has recently been compared to Dele Alli, who previously made the leap from a League One club to the Premier League. Strong and solid going forward, Aribo has managed to score six league goals for Charlton during the current campaign.
Arsenal reportedly sent scouts to a Charlton match recently to check on Aribo. While it may appear a bit odd to go after a League One player, the Gunners did pluck Matteo Guendouzi from Ligue 2 just last summer. Benfica and Eintracht Frankfurt are also reportedly interested in the player.
4. Joe Willock
The Gunners could opt to stay in-house if they choose. Willock is the closest player to Ramsey that Arsenal currently have in their youth ranks. The 19-year-old central midfielder could also have the upper hand over other targets. He has been with the club since he was a child and would seemingly not need much time to adjust to his surroundings.
In fact, Willock has already made three Premier League appearances and played seven Europa League matches with the Arsenal senior team. The midfielder has scored 11 goals in 16 total appearances across six different competitions this season. This includes scoring against Vorskla in the Europa League and netting a brace against Blackpool in the FA Cup. The Gunners could save a bit of money and give Willock more chances with the senior club. He certainly appears ready for the challenge.