Paul Merson has selected two Premier League midfielders who can ‘transform’ Arsenal next season under manager Mikel Arteta.
The players in question are Ruben Neves and James Ward-Prowse. Wolves expect Neves to leave this summer amid interest from Arsenal and Manchester United.
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The Portugal international is valued at £36m per transfer market, while Ward-Prowse is worth £28.8m (£64.8m combined). Both players have been in great form this season in their own right.
The Gunners have done well this season as they currently sit fourth in the Premier League.
They are two points clear of arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Despite this, Merson argued that Arsenal needed a ‘genuine playmaker’:
“Mikel Arteta needs a player in the same mold he was to transform Arsenal next season,” Merson wrote for The star of the day.
“I think they still need a midfielder who can sit in front of the four defenders and choose a pass. Arteta did it beautifully. But they don’t have anyone like that anymore. Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey don’t have those kind of skills; someone who will get on the ball and start vaporizing it.
“Xhaka and Partey are doing a great job in there, but they won’t take you to the next level. I don’t think they have a real passer in the team; a real playmaker from deeper positions And if anyone can find that type of player, it should be Arteta because he played in that position himself.
“Sometimes you have to be able to hit that diagonal ball over the top. With Arsenal, everything is short, short, short. Martin Odegaard does a great job of that, playing one-twos and trying to slip players. But you also need someone with good passing range behind him. Someone who keeps it simple but can also hit your attackers with a long ball or two.
“Ruben Neves is doing it for Wolves. James Ward-Prowse does it for Southampton. I have no idea how he is still at the Saints. It must be the sea air! Both take free kicks and also give you extra dimension from set pieces in my opinion.
Merson then suggested that Arsenal could be “delayed for five years” if they miss out on the top four this season:
“If you don’t get into the Champions League this season it could set you back five years. Missing out could leave you a million miles away because they just won’t be able to bring in that type of player.
“And then you start worrying about how long your own players hang around. Arsenal were not in Europe this season. They had no distractions. It’s a huge advantage and they need to make sure they make it count by the end of the season.