Arsenal began their European campaign in Austria this week, with a narrow 2-1 win over Rapid Vienna, the country’s most historic club. This marks the fourth season in a row Arsenal have competed in the Europa League.
One night earlier, and approximately 200 miles east, Red Bull Salzburg began their own European adventure in the Champions League. It is their second successive campaign in Europe’s premium continental competition and it is in no small part down to the roster of exciting young players at their disposal.
Erling Haaland set Salzburg on the way to qualification at the beginning of last season, before moving to Borussia Dortmund. Their season was finished with a flurry by Hungarian highlight-reel footballer Dominik Szoboszlai, who registered a handful of goals and assists, punctuated by some spectacular free-kicks.
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Arsenal could take a leaf out of the Red Bull playbook and target players in lesser leagues to catapult them back into the Champions League they enjoyed participating in for much of the last 20 years.
One player the Gunners could sign is Patson Daka, the Zambian forward who has been excellent in front of goal throughout 2020. The 22-year-old started this season strongly, scoring four times in the first half of Salzburg’s opening OFB-Cup tie.
He followed that up with goals against Wolfsberger, Altach, and braces against Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Hartberg, to bring his tally for the season to 11. With Alexandre Lacazette’s long-term future at Arsenal uncertain, Daka would be a ready-made replacement to slot into the central striker’s role at the Emirates Stadium.
He is a one-touch finisher, and has to improvise for a lot of his goals, twisting and contorting his body in order to get a decisive touch on the ball, poking it past an onrushing goalkeeper.
Salzburg have form when it comes to selling burgeoning…