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5 free transfers Arsenal could target in the summer window

The smattering of journalists ambling into Arsenal’s press room in July 2001 were waiting for Richard Wright when Arsene Wenger strolled in beside a very different figure.

The arrival of Ipswich Town’s goalkeeper would have to wait as Arsenal unveiled one of the greatest transfer coups of the modern age. Not only had they lured Sol Campbell away from their fierce rivals Tottenham, but the Gunners had secured the England international’s signature without paying a transfer fee.

Two decades on, a move for any of Tottenham’s free agents wouldn’t provide the same seismic shock (apologies Lucas Moura). However, there are other clubs around Europe that could have their stars snagged by Arsenal this summer.

Here are some of the most inviting free agent options for the Gunners.

Daichi Kamada

Daichi Kamada enjoyed the best goalscoring season of his Bundesliga career last term (nine goals) / Koji Watanabe/GettyImages

Previous/current club: Eintracht Frankfurt

With Marcus Thuram bound for Inter, Milan Skriniar on his way to PSG and Roberto Firmino chasing the Saudi shekels, Daichi Kamada is arguably the most talented free transfer still available.

The ephemeral forward’s Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner gushed: “I’ve only rarely encountered such an intelligent player out on the pitch. Daichi’s sense of anticipation for where dangerous spaces will open up is excellent.”

More comfortable in a central role – or drifting in from the left if Kieran Tierney provides the width from full-back – Kamada serves as an economical alternative to some of Arsenal’s pricey targets.

Joel Veltman

Joel Veltman played in a Champions League semi-final for Ajax / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Previous/current club: Brighton

Roberto De Zerbi is desperate to keep Joel Veltman at Brighton. “I want him next season for sure,” the manager said at the end of last season – but no extension to the defender’s contract has been agreed just yet.

If Arsenal can tempt the 31-year-old defender away from the south coast, it would represent a shrewd piece of business. A regular in De Zerbi’s complex system and with an appearance in a Champions League semi-final under his belt, the Gunners would be adding a tactically astute and experienced figure to a backline that doesn’t have one starter over the age of 25.

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Stefan de Vrij

Stefan de Vrij was on Inter’s bench for the Champions League final against Manchester City / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages

Previous/current club: Inter

“There were three or four injuries to important players and from then on, everything got complicated,” Mikel Arteta reflected when dissecting Arsenal’s failed title bid. “When we had the full team, we were consistent. As soon as problems came, it wasn’t enough for us.”

One of the key injuries was to centre-back William Saliba. Ultimately the drop-off to Rob Holding – coupled with Gabriel’s unease without the Frenchman – outweighed the strength of Arsenal’s frontline.

At 31, Stefan de Vrij may not be at his peak anymore, but he could offer an extra layer of calm and composure should Arsenal encounter more fitness concerns.

Jonathan Bamba

Jonathan Bamba is on his way out of Lille after five years with Les Dogues / Sylvain Lefevre/GettyImages

Previous/current club: Lille

When Lille won Ligue 1 in 2021, Jonathan Bamba was the only outfield player to feature in every single match. After a dip in form the following season, Bamba has rediscovered the attacking flair that makes him one of the French top flight’s hidden gems.

Still just 27, Bamba has not yet reached his ceiling and could offer the likes of Gabriel Martinelli or Bukayo Saka some much-needed respite if Arteta can bring himself to rotate his first-choice wingers.

Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League

Wilfried Zaha may leave Crystal Palace but stay in London this summer / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Previous/current club: Crystal Palace

The way Wilfried Zaha relays the story of his negotiations with Arsenal’s manager Unai Emery in the summer of 2019 makes it sound so simple. “He was like: ‘Yeah we’d love to have you,’ and I was just like: ‘Yeah I’d love to come.'”

The deal ultimately fell through as Arsenal opted to splash £72m on Nicolas Pepe instead. Four years on, Zaha is dribbling less than he ever has but shooting more.

Zaha may not command a transfer fee this summer but Arsenal would still have to compete with the eye-watering salaries offered by Saudi Pro League sides interested in the 30-year-old.

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