Can Salzburg’s Dominik Szoboszlai be the player to change Arsenal and unlock Mikel Arteta’s master plan?

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SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - JULY 1: Dominik Szoboszlai of Salzburg celebrates after scoring during the tipico Bundesliga match between Red Bull Salzburg and SK Sturm Graz at Red Bull Arena on July 1, 2020 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

No holding onto Hungary

Dominik Szoboszlai has been gradually gaining momentum throughout the Arsenal fan base as links to the Hungarian increase by the day. Red Bull Salzburg head coach Jesse Marsch has already said he ‘expects’ Szoboszlai to be snapped up in the January window.

The issue for Arsenal has been their creativity. Defensively, Mikel Arteta has plugged a lot of holes however that has come at a cost. With more players behind the ball the Gunners have found it difficult to break down low blocks. When chances are created a lack of clinical finishing has led to just 9 goals from their 8 games.

The question will be if Szoboszlai is signed can he change the club’s fortunes dramatically?

The key is context

Whilst the impressive free kicks and long-range efforts make the headlines, these are not what will change Arsenal’s fortunes. Szoboszlai has just turned 20-years-old and has played for the most dominant side in the Austrian division, winning the title in their last 7 seasons.

Szoboszlai has 13 goals and 24 assists in 51 Austrian Bundesliga showings. 4 goals and 6 assists in 10 Austrian Cup outings. The return is quite frankly astonishing for someone who has gone under the mainstream radar for the majority of his time at Salzburg.

No doubt the quality of the league is progressing with the likes of Strum Graz and LASK improving greatly. Rapid Wein continuing to push Salzburg as much as possible also. However, not to take the Bulls’ staggering domination into account when evaluating Szoboszlai would be naïve.

The sample size against higher quality opposition comes in the European competition. As of the time of writing, Szoboszlai has 2 goals in the Champions League scoring against Lokomotiv Moscow and Atletico Madrid.

In 2019/20, a goal and assist across the two matches against Belgian side Genk. When RBS dropped into the Europa League the Hungarian got a single assist in the 2-2 home draw against Frankfurt.

Szoboszlai’s debut into European competition was in his breakthrough season. Against Napoli, a spirited try to turnaround a 3-0 away deficit resulted in the Hungarian assisting in the 3-1 win in Salzburg. It wasn’t enough to take down the Italian giants but Szoboszlai’s first showing was impressive.

8 UCL games, 3 goals and a single assist. Not awe-inspiring however context must again take precedence. Taking into account Szoboszlai was an 18-20 year old midfielder, playing in a side full of players of a similar age and experience against some of Europe’s best and then you can start to understand the hype.

 The next level

Whilst the raving of the Austrian Bundesliga’s progression is admirable, the difference between it and the quality of the Premier League is night and day. Were Arsenal to sign Szoboszlai he would need to hit the ground running at a consistent level. The Gunners have forked out plenty of money on the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette amongst others and it has taken, or is still taking, time for them to pay back those fees.

The reported fee for Szoboszlai is a meagre €25 million – courtesy of a release clause The Bulls will be painfully ruing they ever crafted. Arsenal need whoever they add to join the likes of Bukayo Saka, Kieran Tierney, Thomas Partey and Gabriel Magalhaes as players who are producing consistently when in the red and white. They cannot afford to bring in a player who can be replaced by another Chelsea cast-off or usurped by players once thought would be out the door long ago.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Gabriel Magalhaes of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on September 19, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The advantage with Szoboszlai is his age and output. At his confident 20 years and with his style of play being so direct the impact could be instantaneous. Averaging a 62.1% pass accuracy (according to Wyscout 2020/21) for balls into the box, of which nearly 3 are made per game, shows the lethal deliverance.

A set-piece specialist whom would concern any goalkeeper. A corner taker who, to the relief of many Gunners fans, can beat the first man with ease, whilst landing the ball into dangerous areas. And a versatile player who’s play is skewed to the left but with all the attributes to command a freer central attacking midfield role.

Releasing Bukayo Saka into a threatening advanced left-wing role with Szoboszlai occupying a left-sided number 8 position which becomes more akin to a 10 or second striker when fluid. The kid has the potential, the quality and the front to carry his rise through Austria and Europe into the Premier League.

If Arsenal can indeed secure the services of Hungary’s most exciting player for several generations, it would be a coup Europe should take note of.

If you would like to find out more about Dominik Szoboszlai from a tactical standpoint, with expert insight and background history click here.

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Player Team Goals
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Vardy, Jamie Leicester City FC 8
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Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 8
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur FC 7
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Watkins, Ollie Aston Villa FC 6
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United FC 5
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Grealish, Jack Aston Villa FC 4
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 4
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Maupay, Neal Brighton & Hove Albion FC 4
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Source: 101greatgoals.com