Merson picks out £64.8m-rated Premier League duo who can ‘transform Arsenal next season’

Date published: Friday 29th April 2022 9:06 - Lewis Oldham

Merson advises Arsenal

Paul Merson has picked out two Premier League midfielders who are capable of ‘transforming’ Arsenal next season under their manager Mikel Arteta.

The players in question are Ruben Neves and James Ward-Prowse. Wolves are expecting Neves to leave this summer amid interest from the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United. 

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The Portugal international is valued at £36m by transfermarkt, while Ward-Prowse has a value of £28.8m (£64.8m combined). Both players have been in great form this season in their own right.

The Gunners have fared well this term as they currently sit fourth in the Premier League.

They are two points clear of their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Despite this, Merson has argued that Arsenal are in need of a deep-lying “genuine playmaker”:

“Mikel Arteta needs a player in the same mould he was to transform Arsenal next season,” Merson wrote for The Daily Star.

“I think they still need a midfield player who can sit in front of the back four and pick a pass. Arteta did that beautifully. But they don’t have anyone like that any more. Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey don’t have those kind of skills; someone who’s going to get on the ball and start spraying it around.

“Xhaka and Partey do a great job in there but they’re not going to take you to the next level. I don’t think they’ve got a genuine passer in the team; a genuine playmaker from deeper positions like that. And if anyone can find that type of player it should be Arteta because he’s played 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 in. But you need someone with a good passing range in behind him too. Someone who keeps it simple but can hit your forwards with a long ball or two as well.

“Ruben Neves does it for Wolves. James Ward-Prowse does it for Southampton. I have no idea how he’s still at Saints. It must be the sea air! Both of them take free-kicks and give you an extra dimension from set-pieces in my opinion as well.”

Merson went onto suggest that Arsenal could be “set back 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 off because they just won’t be able to bring that sort of player in.

“And then you start fearing how long your own players hang around for. Arsenal were not in Europe this season. They had no distractions. That’s a massive advantage and they need to make sure they have made it count by the end of the season.”


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