Arsene Wenger's selection during the FA Cup semifinal win over Wigan highlighted Arsenal's shortcomings in attack, but despite a desperate need for offensive reinforcements, a summer move for Benfica's Rodrigo mustn't hold the Gunners to ransom.
Alan Nixon of The Sunday People reports Wenger's potential interest and the kind of figure he will need to settle on, via the Mirror:
The Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger is keen on the 23-year-old Spanish striker, who played in the Premier League for Bolton on loan as a teenager, and would pay the £28million fee.
But the Lisbon giants expect Inter to match the price and whisk Rodrigo to Serie A instead.
Rodrigo has the potential to be an excellent signing for Wenger. He is someone who fits into the Arsenal ethos—speedy, intelligent on the ball and clever at making runs—but £28 million is an extortionate price for an individual who is just beginning to make good on the promise shown as a youngster.
Is Rodrigo worth £28 million?
Cousin to Thiago and Rafinha Alcantara, Rodrigo's pedigree is undeniable. His natural confidence on the ball has really come to the fore this season as the improving striker has appeared increasingly willing to take control of games. He is a smart dribbler, someone who can bypass challenges with a clever flick or turn, but also needs his teammates to provide quick support if he is to work diligently.
Wenger would be brave to start Rodrigo as a lone striker in the Premier League. This is not a player who regularly completes an entire match—having lasted 90 minutes just seven times from 31 appearances this season, per WhoScored.com—but he is able to lead the line with energy and verve.
Rodrigo may struggle with the consistent physicality of England's top flight. He netted just one goal during a 2010-11 loan spell with Bolton, a team built to outmuscle its opponents, and isn't the type of forward to continually excel when holding the ball up against powerful centre-backs.
This was evident during Spain Under-21's European Championship victory in the summer. Despite starting most matches, he was often sacrificed for Alvaro Morata, who is able to dominate defenders with his bulky frame. Morata finished top scorer, per Sam Adams of UEFA.com, and would be a better option if Wenger is looking for a lone striker.
Morata is also said to be on Arsenal's radar and could be available for £25 million, per Jamie Sanderson of the Metro. In terms of addressing what the North London club need—a player who can finish from all situations, hold the ball up for support and command in the air—Morata is a more natural fit if Wenger is only aiming to sign one forward.
Amy Lawrence of The Guardian, who witnessed Arsenal's FA Cup win over Wigan, also notes the need for an individual who can maintain possession:
"All in all it tended to fizzle out at the feet of the day's chosen front man, Yaya Sanogo, who played as if the ball took him by surprise," wrote Lawrence.
Rodrigo is not this player. Instead he is most lethal when making smart runs and feeding off through balls, something Arsenal can provide in abundance. His 15 goals across Liga Sagres and Benfica's European stint are largely the product of Jorge Jesus' free-flowing, incisive attack.
The former Real Madrid trainee needs a team that plays quick passes to feet and instantly bursts forward to support, something the Gunners must exert with greater enthusiasm. As English fans witnessed during Benfica's Europa League tie with Tottenham, Rodrigo only needs a sniff to coolly finish.
While there's no doubt he can be a useful signing, he is not worth £28 million for Arsenal. Rodrigo's physical limitations ensure this sum is too lofty and outlines a player in Morata's ilk as a better acquisition. Although Rodrigo is steadily improving, a deal in the region of £15 million is much more acceptable.
Wenger cannot afford to get his summer signings wrong. Despite great potential, he should look beyond Rodrigo, unless the striker can be landed for half the reported price.