Arsenal Transfers: Assessing How Youri Tielemans Fits With the Gunners
While the 2022-23 Premier League soccer campaign has already begun, the summer transfer window is still open. If we take the likes of David Ornstein at their word, that reality isn’t lost on Arsenal. The Gunners have done plenty of business this summer, but they’re reportedly still interested in making at least one more move before the window slams shut. That could mean bringing Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans to the Emirates.
Although no official approaches have been made, Arsenal have been linked to the Belgian for most of the summer, and Leicester are reportedly prepared to sell him at a reasonable price. But what would Tielemans even bring to the table? How would he fit into the Gunners’ plans?
Let’s break it all down.
Arsenal have been linked to Youri Tielemans for essentially the entire summer
As the cliche says, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If that’s true, then Youri Tielemans should be moving to North London sooner rather than later.
To recap, Arsenal have been linked to the midfielder for virtually the entire transfer window. Leicester are also reportedly willing to sell the Belgian for somewhere in the neighborhood of £25 million (h/t Simon Collins of the Evening Standard). Despite those realities, though, nothing has moved forward yet.
During an appearance on NBC Sports during the first week of the Premier League campaign, David Ornstein reported that there hadn’t been any movement between the two clubs and speculated that Arsenal might need to move a player before completing a deal. Since then, though, the trail has gone somewhat cold. As far as we know, the Gunners are interested, Leicester are willing to sell, and the player is open to move; everyone, it seems, is waiting for the first domino to fall.
Making the case for Youri Tielemans’ move to Arsenal
No transfer is going to be 100% perfect. Bringing Youri Tielemans to North London, however, would check most of the boxes.
The most obvious factor working in the Belgian’s favor is that he’s a capable and Premier League-prove midfielder. Arsenal are largely reliant on Thomas Partey in the middle of the park, and while Tielemans can’t directly replace the Ghanaian in the event of injury or absence, he does provide more depth. Theoretically, he’d replace Mohamed Elneny alongside Granit Xhaka in the second-choice double pivot, which is a more pleasant pill to swallow.
Beyond that, Tielemans does seem to be capable of wearing multiple hats across the midfield. As seen in some stats pulled by Reddit user Billy_Carpenter, the Belgian has posted reasonable number on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Given the way Arsenal have been playing — Xhaka sits alongside Partey in defense but then pushes forward into the left half-space as somewhat of an attacking 8 in possession — that versatility could be key. The current Leicester man is more comfortable in the attacking third than the Swiss midfielder but can still pull strings from deeper when required.
And, as mentioned above, Tielemans has plenty of Premier League experience and, due to his contract expiring after this season, an affordable price tag. That (theoretically) means he could hit the ground running and wouldn’t break the bank.
Despite those realities, the Belgian isn’t perfect
If you’ve read the previous subhead, then you’re probably thinking that it’s time for Arsenal to snatch Tielemans up. There are still some negative factors to note, however.
One of the biggest potential worries is the amount of wear on Tielemans’ metaphorical tires. The midfielder burst onto the scene at a young age and has consequently played a great deal of football. Since the 2013-14 season, he’s been on the pitch for more than 2,000 minutes on seven of 10 campaigns. If you also factor in his work with the Belgian national team, Tielemans being 25 years old could be misleading; he’s done plenty of running, and given Arsenal’s injury luck, that could come back to bite him.
Beyond that, you could also contend that Tielemans doesn’t really fit the North London club’s needs. While it’s virtually impossible to find a one-for-one Thomas Partey replacement, the Belgian doesn’t even fit the same mold as Arsenal’s top midfielder. He profiles as more of a Granit Xhaka upgrade which, while important, doesn’t exactly address the biggest concern.
As mentioned above, Arsenal can’t really replace Partey. Their best Plan B would be fielding a double-pivot of Xhaka and Elneny or, should he arrive, Xhaka and Tielemans. While the latter option does have more talent, both players have similar shortcomings in terms of conventional defensive fortitude and overall athleticism.
Through that lens, it’s reasonable to argue that, even if you can’t replace Partey, Arsenal has to pursue someone more in his mold. Alternatively, the Gunners could target a more attacking midfielder (or lean into the options already at their disposal) if the priority is having that fifth runner arriving in the box. In this situation, perhaps Tielemans is a case of trying to have your cake and eat it, too.
At this point, though, Tielemans’ positives seem to outweigh the concerns
As with any transfer, there are plenty of pros and cons for the power brokers to consider. When push comes to shove, though, Youri Tielemans does seem like a reasonable fit for Arsenal.
While the midfielder isn’t perfect, he does represent a ready-made player who can slot right into Mikel Arteta’s squad. Tielemans could also be an eventual Xhaka replacement — despite the fact that he’s always available and has been picked by multiple managers, the Swiss won’t be around forever — and buying him now could set the stage for a proper transition next summer.
The price tag also can’t be ignored. While wages can always make a deal less affordable, Tielemans’ transfer fee would be rather reasonable. Even if he struggles with (hypothetical) injuries from overuse, £25 million would be easier to swallow than spending £60 on a player from Ligue 1, who could fail to transition to the English game.
At this point, the Tielemans situation has a similar feel to Partey’s, when Arsenal knew they could pay the release clause and activated it at the end of the transfer window. While there’s no such lever in the Belgian’s contract, it’s reasonable to believe that the Gunners know they can get the deal done with relative haste. If nothing else, Leicester probably won’t want to hand the Gunners a gift right before they meet on the pitch.
Will Youri Tielemans ever become an Arsenal player? As of now, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Stats courtesy of Football-Reference