For as much as Gabriel Jesus has electrified and tantalised by turns, he hasn’t found the back of the net as often as we may have liked, and it’s with that shortcoming in mind that thoughts turn to the exploits of another deft and diminutive Brazilian who apparently can’t stop finding the back of the net even from a more withdrawn position. Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz, more a midfielder than a striker, has now scored in eight successive top-flight home games. Perhaps Arsenal should enquire as to his availability in January?
Way back in September 2022, we went in with a low-ball offer of £25m, which Aston Villa quite rightly rejected. He’d go on to chip in six goals and six assists in the ensuing season—a haul he’s already set to overtake having scoring five goals after just nine matches. Maths rarely ever work out this cleanly, but he’s on a pace to score something on the order of 35 goals. On the other hand, he won’t register a single assist. More’s the pity. Tsk.
At the moment, such a transfer would seem all but impossible. VIlla are flying high, just two points off of Man City for top spot, and they’re well-positioned to advance in the Europa Conference League, a competition that shouldn’t drain them all that much and one that Emery should have no trouble navigating, given his Europa League CV. Still, should the Villans falter in either competition, they may see the value in selling Luiz in order to reload and reinvest.
As for the man himself, could Arteta convert him to a more-advanced role? He’s played as more of a 6 and an 8, but could he adapt to play as a false nine, starting high but dropping deep to receive the ball? Could he play as an actual striker/centre-forward? In either case, the mouth does have to water at the prospect of a midfielder who’s scored five goals in nine matches playing closer to goal and getting more chances. Luiz is clinical. According to Squawka’s comparison matrix, he’s converted an astounding 45% of his shots compared to Jesus’s 14%. Yes, that’s after just nine matches, so it doesn’t tell us all that much…or does it? For the 2022-23 season, Luiz converted on 27% of his shots compared to Jesus’s 19%.
GIven that Luiz was likely taking many of his shots further from goal than Jesus was, that conversion rate should raise some eyebrows. How would he fare in a more-advanced role, closer to goal? To be clear, there would be a learning curve. A player doesn’t just get better at scoring because he starts off closer to goal. Were that the case, we’d see Shkrodan Mustafi leading the line.
A lot would have to pan out before we’d see Douglas Luiz making the move. Villa would have to stumble, Emery would have to sanction the move, we’d have to make a offer somewhat less derisively lowball than that £25m… What would it take to convince the player and the club to sanction the move? Luiz did just sign a new contract after our initial approach. On one hand, that would seem to commit his immediate future to Aston Villa. On the other, those £75k weekly wages could stand to be improved.
Something tells me that the right bid (£60m?) might be enough to prise the player away. By January, we’ll know quite a lot more about Villa’s progress in the Prem and that Europa Conference League, and we’ll know quite a lot more about our own progress in the Prem and the Champions League. Twixt the two, there might just be enough room to negotiate.
In addition to those enticements, there’s the notion that Arteta is turning into quite the talisman himself, with various promising players reaching levels few had predicted. Yes, there’s Saka and Ødegaard, but they were always going to be something special. No, instead, I’m looking at Saliba, Martinelli, and Magalhães, among others, as relatively unheralded players who have each blossomed into being among the best in the Prem at their positions. Without making too much of the connection, Luiz might look at (and be talking to) Martinelli and Magalhães about their development under Arteta.
Again, this is all a bit pie-in-the-sky, but wouldn’t it be something to see us sign Luiz in January?