Arsenal have reportedly identified Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser as one of their top targets this summer.
The diminutive Scotland international has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence at Dean Court this season, so far registering the joint-most assists of any player in the Premier League (13), while netting seven goals in the process.
As such, The Times are reporting that Fraser is firmly in Unai Emery’s crosshairs, as the Spanish tactician will look to strengthen his flanks come the end of the season and inject some much-needed pace and precision.
With the Gunners set to lose Aaron Ramsey to Juventus in June, and also unlikely to pay Barcelona the £18m fee required to trigger their permanent option to buy Denis Suarez thanks to his season-ending injury and lack of mintues, the club will need to remedy those impending departures with one or two shrewd acquisitions.
Couple that with the inconsistency of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the injury proneness of Danny Welbeck, and well, Emery has something of a dilemma in the wide areas, with only one out-and-out, traditional winger at his disposal in Alex Iwobi – step up Fraser.
The 25-year-old will see his present contract on the south coast expire in the summer of 2020, and so, with one-year remaining on his current deal this summer, Eddie Howe may very well be tempted to cash in should Arsenal come knocking.
Furthermore, Football.London report his contract talks with the club have stalled, while Fraser himself hasn’t been shy to admit his flattery at links to Arsenal.
“They are a huge club, a massive club,” he said of Arsenal’s interest. “When you see your name thrown around you always think to yourself that you are a Bournemouth player and you try to do well.
“I’m not going to lie, you do feel good, especially when it’s a massive club.”
Emery is unlikely to be handed huge funds in the coming window and therefore he will need to be resourceful in the market, a factor that could make Fraser a more feasible target.
But what exactly would the pint-sized winger have to offer for Emery? A workaholic wide man, Fraser not only possesses a refined end product as well as virtuosic dribbling skills, but also a tenacity and dogged approach that is a manager’s dream.
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Not averse to tracking back, Fraser is happy to do the dirty work and fight for the team; but with a low centre of gravity and innate technical qualities, he offers much more of a threat in the final third than in his own half.
In fact, such is his natural propensity to take on players, former Aberdeen manager Craig Brown previously expressed his concern that opposition players were targeting the winger with some rough and over-the-top challenges during his time at Pittodrie Stadium. And that statement rings true this season as only seven players have won more fouls in the Premier League than Fraser (64).
“There have been a few young players come through here over the years but in terms of an out-and-out winger with the pace and trickery to take players on, he’s excellent.
“It’s a testament to him that he’s getting fouled so many times in games and a lot of it is not intentional. He’s just too quick, I know that from training.”
– Former Aberdeen teammate and captain, Russell Anderson, on Fraser
To put into perspective just how influential Fraser has been for Bournemouth this season; he has created more big chances for his teammates than any player in the Premier League (25), nine ahead of second-placed Eden Hazard and 10 ahead of Mohamed Salah.
He has also created the third-most chances (81), as well as registering the third-most successful crosses and corners combined (65), showing just how invaluable he is from a dead-ball scenario as well as from the byline.
Ryan Fraser has created 21 Big Chances in the Premier League this season, at least eight more than any other player.
Wee man, BIG numbers. ? pic.twitter.com/f8XyMXPTMw
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 2, 2019
With that raw ability to unlock doors and whip in dangerous crosses into the corridor of uncertainty, the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette would flourish under such service.
Compare Arsenal’s top creators with Fraser and there could be some signs for concern for Emery: Fraser has created a massive 81 chances in the league; Mesut Ozil leads the way for Arsenal with 42, despite playing under 50% of all available minutes. And so, with Emery seemingly unwilling to trust his chief creator – despite a recent resurgence – Fraser could offer the necessary skillset to bring a more consistent outlook to Arsenal’s attack.
Looking at chances created per 90, and Fraser just edges Ozil at 2.44 to 2.29, showing the Scottish marvel has the capacity to keep speed with the league’s best creative outlets.
Mesut Özil has created more chances (36) in the Premier League this season than any other Arsenal player.
He's played 1,352 out of the 2,790 available minutes. 〽️ pic.twitter.com/ZNdO7sKu1J
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 1, 2019
Elsewhere, Sead Kolasinac has created 10 big chances for Arsenal – a commendable feat for a left-wing back – to Fraser’s 25 and Granit Xhaka has made only 28 successful crosses and corners combined to Fraser’s 65.
The need for a more creative outlet, hence, enhances threefold, especially on closer inspection of just how vital Fraser has been for Howe and the Cherries this season; particularly Callum Wilson, who has scored 14 goals this term. Alongside Fraser, the pair have created 12 goals for each other, more than any other duo in the Premier League this season.
Emery has also had a marked penchant for boasting a range of wingers across his career; at Valencia, Joaquin, Vicente and Pablo Hernandez made up a deadly trio that wreaked havoc from the flanks, while at Sevilla the likes of Jose Antonio Reyes, Denis Cheryshev, Gerard Deulofeu, Aleix Vidal, Marko Marin and Yevhen Konoplyanka all passed through the door – in the long-term he will likely adopt this approach in north London.
And so, with Arsenal already identifying Joan Jordan as one player to potentially alleviate the Ramsey void, the Gunners will need to add significantly more firepower if they are to reduce the chasm that has emerged between Man City and Liverpool in recent seasons.