Nothing is official as of yet, but it sure feels as though Aaron Ramsey’s time at Arsenal is about to come to an end. Ramsey, who initially arrived in North London as a 16-year-old, has reportedly been in contact with the club over a potential contract extension.
The player’s current deal is set to expire at the end of the season, though, and the club has reportedly been reluctant to meet his wage demands. Ramsey reportedly wants £300,000 per week, but Arsenal are balking at that figure.
Ramsey’s playing time has been spotty under new manager Unai Emery, which is further indication that he could be on the way out of the Emirates. Ramsey was the heart of the club’s central midfield for years under Arsene Wenger, but Emery has different demands of those playing in the role. So, Ramsey has largely found himself on the outside looking in.
Through 16 matches, the Gunners are fifth in the Premier League on 34 points. These top sites don’t give the Gunners much of a chance at catching Manchester City or Liverpool atop the league this season, but the results have been generally positive under the first-year manager. Navigating the Ramsey situation will be one of his biggest challenges as the season progresses.
The Gunners are not expected to be in the market for any expensive, big-name players to come in and replace Ramsey. The team’s chief talent evaluator, Sven Mislintat, will likely have to get creative in order to find a player that fits the role without having to break the bank.
Below are 5 options Arsenal should consider if they want to replace Ramsey.
Youri Tielemans (AS Monaco)
Youri Tielemans arrived in Monaco to much fanfare after emerging as one of the most high-energy youngsters in Europe during his time with RSC Anderlecht. Tielemans is a player that can do everything Emery demands from a chief playmaker in the middle part of the pitch. The Belgian has a seemingly tireless engine that makes him a particularly useful asset defensively. With the ball at his feet, he’s also able to ping long and short passes with precision while orchestrating his side’s attack moving forward.
However, things have gotten a bit rocky for Tielemans since making the high-profile £25 million move to Monaco in 2017. The Ligue 1 side have had to sell off a number of key players since winning the league a couple of years ago, and they have struggled to find much continuity since.
Tielemans doesn’t have the eye for goal that Ramsey might, but he would be a massive upgrade in terms of both passing and individual defensive quality. With Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira doing much of the dirty work centrally, Tielemans could prove to be the perfect third wheel in the Arsenal midfield. Still only 21, the Belgian would be the perfect addition to Emery’s side. We know that Monaco are certainly a selling club if the price is right, so one would imagine the Gunners would be able to pry him away for the right price.
Pablo Fornals (Villarreal)
While Tielemans may struggle at times to find the back of the net, Villarreal’s Pablo Fornals is a player that has shown a knack for getting himself into the right goal scoring places. Fornals offers similar passing quality to Tielemans, as evidenced by his assist numbers.
The 22-year-old Spaniard is a willing presser defensively, which is definitely something Ramsey doesn’t have much interest in doing at this more advanced stage of his career. Fornals is dynamic with the ball at his feet, and he has shown a flair for the dramatic. Fornals has displayed the traditional smart passing qualities of most Spanish midfielders, which would be a welcome sight in the middle of the pitch for the Gunners.
Villarreal purchased the rights to the player for £12 from Malaga, and Villarreal may be willing to sell him for no more than £40 million if Arsenal were to come calling. He has shown more consistency than Tielemans to this point in their respective careers, so the bright lights of the Emirates may affect Fornals less.
Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United)
Some in England may scoff at the notion that Arsenal could look to Major League Soccer for a potential Ramsey replacement, but Miguel Almiron is the real deal. The 24-year-old just completed his second season with Atlanta United and all he did was score 12 goals in 32 appearances on his way to leading his side to the MLS Cup title.
The Paraguay international previously plied his craft with Cerro Porteno and Lanus in the Argentine top flight, but his rapid rise to the top of MLS has some in Europe eyeing him. Soon-to-be former Atlanta head coach Tata Martino rates the player highly. He recently said, “The moment when Miguel Almiron leaves and goes to your country then I think there will be a different view of MLS.”
Securing the rights to Almiron would be a cheaper alternative for the Gunners. Atlanta would reportedly be willing to part ways with the player for about £15 million, which would make Almiron one of the more cost-efficient options if Arsenal’s brass are to look his way. He would bring some stability to the midfield with more of a goalscoring flair than some of the other options available.
Adrien Rabiot (Paris St. Germain)
Adrien Rabiot is currently finding himself in a similar position to Ramsey. The France international has reportedly reached a contract impasse with Paris St. Germain, and there have been rumors that he could be on the way out before long. He has rejected the club’s overtures, which has led many to believe that he will be elsewhere next season.
Of course, Emery and Rabiot will be familiar with one another as the manager spent a season at PSG before being sacked earlier this year. Rabiot was previously linked with a high-profile move to Barcelona, but nothing came of it prior to the end of the summer transfer window. Rabiot will be available on a free transfer at season’s end, which may make him a more appealing target for a club like Arsenal that are not looking to spend big bucks.
Arsenal will not be the only side looking to land Rabiot’s signature, but if the player had a positive experience under Emery at PSG, perhaps that could be something that puts Arsenal among the favorites. PSG are still reportedly optimistic that they can bring him back, but nothing looks certain at this point.
Rabiot made some waves over the summer when he refused to be a part of France’s standby list for the World Cup, but there is no doubting his quality on the pitch. Still only 23, Barcelona were reportedly willing to pay as much as £45 million to pry him out of the Parc de Princes earlier this year. Juventus have also registered interest. When clubs like Barcelona and Juve are sniffing around on a player, it’s likely because he’s quality.
Piotr Zielinski (Napoli)
Piotr Zielinski was previously linked with a move to the Premier League when Liverpool were reportedly interested in the Polish midfielder, but no deal ever came to fruition. He wound up going to Italy after signing with Napoli instead, and he has gone on to help the Serie A side become one of the better teams in Italy.
The 24-year-old has shown qualities of a more experienced player with the ball at his feet. Zielinski rarely panics and his calmness on the ball makes him an ideal fit for a team in need of a central midfielder that can pull the strings. Zielinski is a smart passer that often finds himself at the right place in the right time, which Arsenal supporters know is one of Ramsey’s finest qualities as a footballer.
One potential hang-up here could be the price tag. Zielinski would be a hot commodity if Napoli were to make him available, so Arsenal would have to battle it out with a number of other potential suitors. The line would form to the left if it became known that Zielinski was ready to leave Napoli. He would also be potentially the most expensive Ramsey replacement among the players on this list.
Still, if Arsenal want a like-for-like kind of fit, they would be hard-pressed to find anyone more suitable than Zielinski.