Arsenal's La Liga transfer options with Dusan Vlahovic alternative and Granit Xhaka replacement

By David Alexander Hughes & Will Freeman

Arsenal have been slowly building what looks to be an accomplished squad through the combined efforts of technical director, Edu and head coach, Mikel Arteta.

The Gunners sit inside the Premier League top four following five wins from their last six games and were unfortunate to fall to an injury time defeat at home to Man City in their last outing on New Year's Day.

This uplift in form can be put down to strong academy players such as Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka coming through as well as shrewd decisions from the club's recruitment and analysis departments.

Once such decision has been the signing of right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu from Bologna, the Japan international has become a fan favourite in North London despite having a relatively low profile prior to his move from Serie A.

Europe's top five leagues are full of hidden gems and a bargain can often be found. With that in mind, we've put together a list of five players from La Liga that Arsenal could target this month

Luis Maximiano - Granada - 22 - GK

Maximiano joined Granada in the summer from Sporting for a fee in the region of €4million, somewhat of a bargain based on his first six months in Spain’s top tier.

His team have an unremarkable defensive record on paper, conceding 26 goals in 19 matches, 20 of which came whilst Maximiano was in between the sticks.

However his side’s Expected Goals against (xGA) number for the matches he started in is noticeable higher (22.07) this season, indicating that he’s conceded fewer goals than would have been expected, based on the shots he has faced.

He’s still just 22 but at 6ft3in, boasts the sort of imposing profile you want from a keeper.

Jose Gimenez - Atletico Madrid - 26 - CB

It takes some doing to stand out in a robust unit such as Atletico Madrid’s, yet that’s just what Gimenez manages to do on a regular basis.

Within Diego Simeone’s favoured back three set up, he’s the key central pillar and tends to come out on top in most duels both on the floor and in the air.

In terms of La Liga central defenders this season, he has the fourth-best aerial duel success rate (72.92%) and sixth-best defensive duel success rate (69.77%).

Manu Sanchez - Osasuna (Atletico Madrid) - 21 - LWB

Although still in the infancy of his career, Sanchez looks like a player capable of going to the very top. He came through at Atletico Madrid however is currently plying his trade at Osasuna on loan, but only until the end of the season.

The left wing-back is not the most physically striking player standing at just 5ft7in, but he’s a tenacious defender who boasts a solid duel success rate of 65% so far this season.

He's also crucially an ever-present attacking threat, capable of driving into dangerous areas inside the final third and swinging in lethal crosses. He has two assists already this season, three short of his tally of five from the last campaign - that was the second-highest of any left back across La Liga.

Mikel Merino - Real Sociedad - 25 - CM

Merino has already played in the Premier League having spent an unremarkable year on loan at Newcastle United from Borussia Dortmund in 2018. That summer, Sociedad signed him permanently and he’s since evolved into a very impressive midfielder.

He usually plays within a double pivot in Sociedad’s 4-2-3-1 formation and, according to data experts Statsbomb via FBref, is stylistically most similar to top European midfielders such as Youri Tielemans, Manuel Locatelli and Franck Kessie.

His aptitude with the ball at his feet is highlighted by the fact that across the Sociedad squad, he boasts the highest average number of attempted through passes into the opposition’s penalty box this season (2.51 per 90), despite playing in a deeper role on the pitch.

Alexander Isak - Real Sociedad - 22 - FW

Borussia Dortmund are often revered for their astute work in the transfer market, but Isak is a rare example of them perhaps getting one wrong.

He managed just five appearances with the German side across a fruitless two-year spell before being loaned out to Willem II in early 2019. His impact was immediate scoring 13 goals in just 16 Eredivisie matches which was accompanied by a solid combined xG of 10.6.

All the signals were good, yet Dortmund remained unconvinced and was happy to allow Real Sociedad to swoop in for a fee in the region of just £6.4m at the end of his loan deal with Willem II.

It’s was a move that massively paid off for Sociedad. The dangerous Swedish international has netted 40 goals in just over two years with the Spanish side since.


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