Arsenal are again being linked with a move for winger, Ryan Fraser. But what can the Bournemouth star offer that Reiss Nelson cannot?
Depth is not Arsenal’s problem. Unlike in previous seasons, the squad is stocked full of young and improving players who can offer support in a variety of positions, even if they are not yet ready to start.
The following players would all currently be considered ‘second XI’ players: Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustaf, Sead Kolasinac, Joe Willock, Matteo Guendouzi, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, and Reiss Nelson. Depth is not a problem. Elite-level quality is.
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As such, Arsenal must be extremely careful about the investments they make in the summer transfer window. Whereas in years past signing a high number of players to bolster a paper-thin squad would be necessary, this year, that is not what provides the most value. Mikel Arteta needs high-level starting players, not just sheer numbers.
This brings me to the current links for winger, Ryan Fraser, who will be available on a free transfer this summer after his contract with Bournemouth expires. Per The Daily Mail, the Gunners confident they can sign him this summer.
Arsenal nearly signed Fraser last summer following a superb seven-goal, 14-assist season. However, once they discovered that they could structure a deal for either Wilfried Zaha or Nicolas Pepe, they very quickly moved on from Fraser, recognising that he was not the same calibre of player as the pair. In the end, they signed Pepe for £72 million.
This summer, Fraser will cost nothing. But that does not mean that he is any better a player. In fact, after just one goal and four assists, you could make an argument that he has regressed, proving that his 2018/19 season was a positive outlier. The same judgement that Arsenal made last summer, that Fraser is a useful but limited option who would only be a smart addition because of the finances, remains true.
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But if we put this discussion in regards to specific players, what can a 26-year-old Fraser provide that a 20-year-old Reiss Nelson cannot? Fraser has plenty more Premier League experience, yes, and his performances two years ago prove that he can contribute at a high level, but Nelson has been extremely bright in odd performances here and there.
Consistency is an issue, but he ran ragged Portsmouth ragged earlier this season and has been widely praised by Arteta. “Reiss [Nelson] is a special player and can eliminate players one on one,” Arteta said after that Portsmouth match. “He’s been out for a while but he’s back now and he showed what he’s capable of doing.”
If Fraser is not a massive upgrade over a player who has a far higher ceiling, which he isn’t, Arsenal should not sign him. They do not need to add quantity, but quality, and Fraser, as Nelson proves, represents the unneeded former.