At first, news of Arsenal’s interest in Saint-Maximin might perplex. For all that the Gunners are in desperate need of a squad overhaul this summer, they are at their strongest in the wide attacking areas. On the left, they have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and on the right they have last summer’s club-record signing, Nicolas Pepe.
But there would be some logic behind Arsenal’s signing of the Newcastle United wide man. In fact, the signing of Saint-Maximin could be the key to persuading Aubameyang to stay and sign a new contract at the Emirates Stadium. There could be a knock-on effect that leads to that.
While Aubameyang has been extremely productive on the left wing, he has made it clear more than once that he views the centre forward role as his favoured position. This is where he wants to play and whether or not Mikel Arteta is willing to use him here could be a factor in the decision he makes over his future.
Arteta primarily uses Aubameyang on the left because of a lack of depth in that position. Bukayo Saka is capable of playing on that flank, but the teenager has shown himself to be more effective as a left full back or wing back this season. But with Saint-Maximin at the club Arteta could use the Frenchman in Aubameyang’s place on the wing, pushing the Gabon international into the centre. This could potentially push Alexandre Lacazette out, but if it means keeping Aubameyang the compromise would surely appease fans.
Saint-Maximin has demonstrated his potency at Newcastle this season, averaging a highly impressive 4.6 dribbles per match (as per WhoScored). He has also averaged 1.8 shots per game, scoring three times and assisting four in 22 Premier League appearances. And this is in the 23-year-old’s first season in England and for a club scrapping in the bottom half of the table.
The addition of Saint-Maximin would only add to Arsenal’s attacking threat, underlining their standing as one of the most dynamic and energetic sides in the Premier League. A frontline of Aubameyang, Pepe and Saint-Maximin would be capable of cutting most teams to shreds. There could be a winning formula there.
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And yet Saint-Maximin remains raw. He is far from the finished product and so there’s no guarantee he will fulfil his potential. Once regarded as one of the best finishing schools for young talent in Europe, Arsenal have lost that reputation in recent years. The environment at the Emirates Stadium right now isn’t exactly conducive to the growth of young players.
To stand any chance of turning the club around, Arteta must change this. In terms of his profile, Saint-Maximin is the sort of player Arsenal should be targeting. He is young with potential to grow and develop further. What’s more, the Gunners likely wouldn’t have to break the bank to prise him from Newcastle United. It’s at this level of the transfer market Arsenal must find value. That is their reality at this moment in time.
There would be pros and cons to Saint-Maximin’s signing, but the Frenchman has shown enough in his first Premier League season to suggest there is more to come from him. And there’s just about enough evidence to convince Arsenal that they should give him the chance to prove that as one of their own.