Arsenal will experience a midfield overhaul in the months ahead, with the futures of Emile Smith Rowe, Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny all potentially lying away from Mikel Arteta’s club.
It is a position that the Gunners will, therefore, seek to recruit in once again, having signed Declan Rice from West Ham to bolster their ranks in the summer.
Flying high in the Premier League, recruiting high-quality options should pose Arsenal few problems yet title hopefuls must juggle financial constraints like any other club and must manage their budget smartly to get the most bang for their buck.
To that end, Arteta would be well advised to examine Celtic’s Matt O’Riley as a potential recruit either in January or next summer. Indeed, the 22-year-old would appear to be a relatively low-cost replacement for Smith-Rowe.
O’Riley’s rise has been atypical. A Denmark U21 international, he was born in London and played for Fulham before being released in the summer of 2020 spending six months as a free agent. He was ultimately picked up by MK Dons before being signed by the Hoops a year later.
In Scotland, he has gone from strength to strength, generating 12 league assists last season. This term, he is proving even more potent, with six goals and two decisive passes in just nine games.
Everyone was raving about his assists… but there was always the doubt about whether he could add goals. He’s doing that now.
– Kris Boyd
“Celtic have got this knack of bringing players in, giving them a platform to go and perform. They then go and move them on for big money,” Kris Boyd told Sky Sports.
“Matt O’Riley will be one of the next ones to go in terms of big money.
“Last season, everyone was raving about his assists, and rightly so, but there was always the doubt about whether he could add goals. He’s doing that now.”
O’Riley a calculated risk
With Fraser Forster, Virgil van Dijk and, of course, Kieran Tierney among those to successfully transition from Celtic to the Premier League in recent seasons, O’Riley is liable to be the next to go.
According to data analytics experts SciSports, Arsenal would offer a strong fit for the up-and-coming midfielder.
Playing time may prove a test, but if the Gunners gut their midfield as is expected this would surely open up possibilities.
🔥 “That is class, everything about it, the pass and the finish!
Celtic take an early lead against Hearts, a cool finish from Matt O’Riley! Watch the action live on Sky Sports now 👇 pic.twitter.com/XW7aWLZQQU
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) October 22, 2023
Otherwise, the Emirates club is an excellent fit in terms of playing style, formation and the player’s personal development.
What would Arsenal get in return? A rapidly improving box-to-box midfielder with bags of pace and stamina as well as a strong all-round game.
Sci Sports show that O’Riley is not yet up to the standard of a Smith Rowe or a Partey, but he has the capability to reach these heights to provide strength and depth in the squad. He is exactly the type of player the Gunners have shown they can develop to exceed their predicted limits.
Moreover, a move would make financial sense. With a valuation around the €10 million mark, Celtic will doubtless demand more for a player still under contract until 2027, yet Arsenal should be able to negotiate a deal worth considerably less than they receive for Smith Rowe, whose value at his peak was €40m.
O’Riley represents a relatively low-risk option for Arsenal, but as they discovered when signing Tierney from Celtic, the payoff could be substantial.