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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Alexander Isak is a man in-demand. Where will he go next?

Alexander Isak has been an important piece in Real Sociedad’s form in recent seasons. Javier Etxezarreta/EPA.

Good goalscorers are hard to come by. It is therefore unsurprising that when one emerges, there is a battle for their signature. This is certainly the case with Erling Haaland, widely considered the game’s next great number nine who appears destined to join one of Europe’s super-clubs in the not-so-distant future – likely this summer.

Haaland isn’t the only young striker to have suitors. Alexander Isak is also highly rated across European soccer and has similarly been linked with a number of elite level clubs. Long linked with Arsenal, Manchester United have most recently been mentioned as admirers of the Swedish centre forward.

Isak’s career path to this point has been an interesting one. Billed as the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a teenager, he made the early move to Borussia Dortmund, yet he struggled to make much of an impression. Real Sociedad, however, have harnessed Isak and nurtured him into the player he is now.

That player would give both Arsenal and Manchester United something they are presently lacking. He would certainly be a good fit for Mikel Arteta’s team with the Gunners expected to be in the market for a new number nine this summer – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has already left the club while Alexandre Lacazette is out of contract at the end of the season.

Possessing excellent close control in tight spaces, Isak is also exceptional in quick transition. The 22-year-old is comfortable with both feet and has blistering acceleration. He is the sort of centre forward Arsenal need. Real Sociedad should brace themselves for an offer for their prize asset at some point.

It was only last summer that Manchester United re-signed Cristiano Ronaldo, giving them another centre forward alongside Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial. Since then, though, Martial has left to join Sevilla on loan with Cavani expected to leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.

On top of this, Ronaldo has become a burden for a team that needs a more mobile striker to lead the line. The Portuguese forward has managed to keep his scoring ratio high (15 goals in all competitions), but Ralf Rangnick needs more from Ronaldo to justify his place in the starting lineup.

Rangnick might therefore push for the signing of Isak in the belief that the Swede will make United a more proactive team in the attacking third both and off the ball. He would work well in either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation where he would link up with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho in the wide areas and Bruno Fernandes in and around the box.

Of course, without a solid midfield to support him Isak could find himself isolated, something that might put him off a switch to Old Trafford. Rangnick has still to find the right formula in the centre of the pitch. It’s the thing that has held him back more than anything else since his appointment.

Arsenal, however, have forged a strong midfield unit this season. While Granit Xhaka has been criticised for some of his rash decision-making, the Swiss international has formed a partnership with Thomas Partey. Most notable about this relationship is the way it gives a platform for Arsenal’s creators further forward.

Indeed, Isak would surely relish the opportunity to play ahead of Martin Odegaard, someone the Swede knows well. The two were a formidable attacking duo when the Odegaard spent the 2019/20 season on loan at Real Sociedad from Real Madrid. Arsenal could greatly benefit from the chemistry these two have when on the pitch together.

At 22, Isak looks ready to take the next step in his career. The Swede has allowed his goalscoring numbers to drop this season (four goals in 20 La Liga appearances), but many have suggested this could be due to his desire for a new challenge. A summer switch to the Premier League would surely reinvigorate Isak.

Whoever signs Isak is likely to be derided for supposedly winning the consolation prize to not signing Haaland. While Isak might not have the raw goal-scoring ability of Haaland, this is an overly simplistic way to look at the qualities of two exceptionally talented young strikers. After all, good goalscorers are hard to come by in soccer. Isak is one who could stay at the top of the game for years to come.

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