Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is keeping his cards close to his chest in the current transfer window, but there is increased speculation that he could be about to plunder the Bundesliga yet again. Reports in England via The Metro and Germany via Bild are rife that Mainz striker Adam Szalai is set to be the subject of a bid from the Gunners.
Mainz have been one of the surprise packages of this season’s Bundesliga, and currently occupy a Europa League spot ahead of more illustrious names such as Schalke and Monchengladbach. The form of Szalai has been instrumental in their success, scoring 9 of their 24 League goals.
This has alerted Arsenal as well as several German sides to the 25-year-old Hungarian who has long been regarded as a precocious talent. Real Madrid spotted this and signed Szalai at 19, but he failed to progress past their ‘B’ team. After a successful loan spell at Mainz, the German club paid less than £500,000 for him. It would appear they are likely to make a healthy profit on that figure soon.
What could Arsenal fans expect from Szalai? An immediate comparison will be Olivier Giroud. At 6ft 4″, Szalai would appear to be a carbon copy; but he certainly possesses a deft touch, two good feet, a quick turn, and has a poacher’s instinct in front of goal.
On the other hand, he does not have the pace of Walcott or the pedigree of Podolski. Szalai’s promising start to the season is encouraging, but he has never played more than 20 top flight games in a season. A cruciate ligament injury in 2011 may also concern supporters of his long-term suitability for English football.
Szalai could prove to be another example of a player who thrives at a smaller club, but fails to impress at a big name. At Mainz he is the star man – at Arsenal he would struggle to feature on the club calendar. It would certainly be a gamble from Wenger, who will be keen to avoid another signing like Chamakh.
Arsenal fans will be expecting a bigger name, but January is a difficult window for marquee signings. Szalai would provide another option, but with Walcott’s emergence in the centre and Giroud starting to settle after a dubious beginning, I am not sure he is the striker they need right now.