Transfer News: Arsenal set sight on Sporting's goal machine

15 Apr 2024

The rise of the Swede from Coventry City to Sporting CP signals a remarkable ascent in European football. Viktor Gyokeres' success this season may inspire other members of the Sky Blues squad to pursue similar moves in the upcoming summer transfer window.
Breaking with conventional wisdom, Gyokeres opted for Portugal over the Premier League at the end of last season. However, rumors suggest that he may soon return to England, but not to the Championship.

With an impressive goal-scoring record at Sporting, Gyokeres is attracting interest from top English clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea, signaling a potential move to the highest echelons of English football.

Gyokeres won't be a budget option, though. Sporting acknowledges the value of a top-quality striker in today's market, evident from his current release clause of €100 million (£86m/$109m). However, reports suggest Sporting aims to raise this to €120 million (£103m/$130m) by extending his contract.

Undoubtedly, these figures are astronomical. But is Gyokeres truly worth such a significant investment? GOAL has conducted an in-depth analysis of his career to provide insights.

Where it all began

Born on June 4, 1998, in Stockholm, Gyokeres embarked on his footballing journey at IFK Aspudden-Tellus before catching the eye of IF Brommapojkarna, Europe's largest football club in terms of all-age participants. His ascent through the ranks was rapid, making his senior debut at 18 against Ostersunds, then managed by Graham Potter. Gyokeres solidified his place in the senior squad after prolific performances for the Under-19s and Under-21s, particularly shining in the 2015-16 season.
However, it was the following year that marked his breakout, attracting the attention of Brighton. He bid farewell to IF Brommapojkarna with a hat-trick on the final day, sealing the second-tier title before joining Brighton.

Initially expecting to start in the U23s, Gyokeres remained focused on his development despite his success at the 2017 European U19 Championship. His time at Brighton saw limited first-team action, with just eight appearances in cup competitions over four years. Loan spells at St Pauli, Swansea, and Coventry further aided his development, ultimately leading to a permanent move to Coventry City.

The big break

Joining Coventry proved to be a pivotal moment for Gyokeres, offering him a platform where he could thrive as the main focal point of the team. Manager Mark Robins expressed confidence in Gyokeres's talent and attitude upon his arrival, and the Swede wasted no time in making an impact.

In his first full season at Coventry, Gyokeres showcased his goal-scoring prowess with nine goals in his first 11 Championship appearances, ultimately tallying 18 goals across all competitions. His stellar performances earned him recognition at the club's end-of-season awards.

The following season saw Gyokeres elevate his scoring rate, playing a crucial role in Coventry's unexpected top-six finish. He continued his magic in the play-offs, providing key contributions in both the semi-finals and final. Despite Wembley heartbreak, Gyokeres demonstrated his readiness to progress to the next level, showcasing resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

Biggest strengths

Gyokeres's physical attributes make him stand out on the pitch. Despite his initial appearance of slight awkwardness due to his 6'1 frame, he surprises opponents with his impressive speed and agility. Additionally, his height and jumping ability make him a formidable target man, providing Coventry with a valuable asset during his time with the club.

Technically, Gyokeres excels as a natural finisher, as evidenced by his impressive goal-scoring record. He thrives on receiving high-quality crosses and through balls, consistently converting chances with a high conversion rate. His efficiency in front of goal is highlighted by his ability to score with fewer than five shots on average and outperforming his expected goals by nearly seven. Moreover, his flawless penalty record contributes to his goal tally.

Beyond his goal-scoring prowess, Gyokeres demonstrates creativity on the field. Despite typically playing centrally in Sporting's 3-4-2-1 formation, he actively seeks opportunities to move into wide channels and half-spaces to showcase his passing abilities. With an impressive tally of 15 assists, Gyokeres averages over a goal contribution per game for his team this season.

Room for improvement

Identifying weaknesses in Gyokeres' game proves challenging given his multifaceted skills as a modern-day No.9. Yet, the looming uncertainty centers on his ability to maintain his performance under heightened pressure, against tougher opponents, and with greater stakes—especially as he eyes a potential move this summer.

There are glimpses suggesting Gyokeres thrives in high-pressure situations. Notably, he shone in Coventry's playoff matches last season and made significant contributions in Sporting's Europa League clashes against formidable opponents like Young Boys and Benfica, as well as in a memorable league victory over Porto.

However, his blank performances in Sporting's European exit against Atalanta and a modest goal tally for Sweden raise doubts. Moving to the Premier League would undoubtedly magnify expectations to a level he's yet to encounter in his career.

Therefore, while Gyokeres has undoubtedly attracted attention for a lucrative transfer, any club pursuing him must acknowledge the gamble involved, considering his untested adaptability at the highest levels.

The next... Erling Haaland?

After Gyokeres delivered a goal and an assist in Coventry's Championship win over Sunderland in February 2023, Black Cats manager Tony Mowbray drew a striking comparison. Mowbray praised Gyokeres' exceptional physical attributes and confidence, likening him to top-tier strikers like Haaland in the Premier League.

At first, such a comparison might have seemed exaggerated, but Mowbray's experience in football lends weight to his words, which now appear prescient. The parallels between Gyokeres and Haaland are evident, from their robust builds to their lightning-fast pace and predatory instincts in the box. Surprisingly, Gyokeres has even outscored Haaland this season.

If the club that secures Gyokeres' signature this summer can match the level of performance Haaland has shown since arriving in England, they'll have made a highly satisfying acquisition.

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