Connect in the back of the net

With 100 million in the kitty and Wenger stating he is willing to sign players, who would be a possible transfer target for the Gunners?

When weighing up the strengths and weaknesses in the Arsenal side based on positions, offensively they are sound, perhaps room for a striker. However, their main weakness would be that holding and defensive midfield role.

Over the years there have been many centre defensive midfielders for Arsenal who have tried to take the Premier League by storm dubbed as the ‘next Vieira’, such as Abou Diaby and Alexandre Song are some of a few. However, more recently with the acquisition of former Basel player and Swiss international star Granit Xhaka.

Xhaka had been recruited from Borussia Mönchengladbach to become a significant building block in that department, but a stuttering start had critics scratching their heads.

Shouldn’t a £35m player make a more rewarding impact in the hotly contested midfield heartlands of the Premier League? The main issues appeared difficult to overcome: his sluggish pace; his reckless tackling; his discipline was under the microscope.

Wenger has been juggling his midfield throughout the season, trying to find the correct combination that would be suited to potentially challenge for the league.

Initially it was Cazorla with Xhaka, but since the little wizard succumbed to injury in the middle of October, the desperate effort to find a complementary mix has seen just about every duo imaginable permed from Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi.

Balance and consistency has been a constant issue in the midfield.

 

Injury worries – who can fill the gap?

With Santi Cazorla absent for most the season with an Achilles injury, Coquelin with a hamstring injury in January and Xhaka nursing a calf injury towards the latter stages of the season – which non-injury prone holding midfielder player could they bring in?

A season ago Arsenal was linked with Sporting Lisbon young starlet William Carvalho, the 23-year-old, was one of the Portuguese Liga’s top performer throughout the season despite his raw age.

Now 23, he was touted as a possible long-term replacement for Mikel Arteta in the centre of midfield at Arsenal. He revealed his affection for the Gunners back in October last year but indicated that he was not planning to leave Portugal soon.

So, where would Carvalho fit at Arsenal? Many would say that he’s an upgrade on Coquelin and that would probably be true, but would Wenger be willing to part with the whopping lump of cash required to land him?

The answer unfortunately was no, as Carvalho signed a 3-year contract extension with Sporting Lisbon with a £35 million buyout clause. Personally, if I was in Wenger’s footsteps and in this market, I feel that £35 million for a player like Carvalho is an absolute steal as he is a gem of a player.

Other holding midfielders have been thrown into the mixer, such as the names Leon Goretzka from Schalke and Nabil Keita is a name that has been whispered about from RB Leipzig – a vital player who aided their 2nd place position in the Bundesliga.

 

Who is Leon Goretzka?

Goretzka started off with local club Werner sv Bochum, but was soon discovered and moved to the main club in the city, German second division side Vfl Bochum.

At Vfl Bochum, Goretzka quickly rose through the ranks, and was so highly thought of, that he earned a call up to the German U-16 national team in October of 2010.

After that, Goretzka would subsequently earn a call up to the German U-17 team in August of 2011, and by May of 2012, he would captain the German U-17 team in the U-17 European Championship in which, despite a goal from Goretzka, Germany lost the final to the Netherlands.

A few months later, in August of 2012, Goretzka made his Vfl Bochum debut in the German second division against Dynamo Dresden.

Later in that August Goretzka would earn a Germany U-19 call up, and after a standout season for Bochum, Goretzka signed for FC Schalke in June of 2013.

After some outstanding performances for Schalke, which allowed them to reach the Champions League once again, Goretzka earned a German senior team call up and made his debut against Poland, but later suffered a muscle injury and sat out the 2014 World Cup.

Goretzka in the 2014-15 season sat out for 7 months because of the muscle injury he suffered with Germany, but once again starred for Schalke at the end of the season.

This season, Goretzka has maintained a regular spot in the Schalke first team making 37 appearances and scoring 7 goals.

A very versatile player, Goretzka can operate either as a defensive midfielder, a central midfielder or a right midfielder.

Leon Goretzka is also a player whose playing style is well beyond someone of his age, as he is a physical presence in the midfield that is so rare in today’s game. He is also very calm and good on the ball, and willing to run up the pitch for a shot on goal.

Because he stands at 6’2, his height allows Goretzka to be terrific at winning the ball in the air, which allows him to score goals with his head, and keep possession for Schalke.

Goretzka’s size also makes him ideal at blocking the ball, and he has become an ideal shot and cross blocker, a great trait for any defensive midfielder.

 

Is Naby Keita the next Kante? Is he worth the hype?

The 22-year-old played an integral role in Leipzig’s surprise challenge for the German title, with the club finishing second behind Bayern Munich – qualifying for next season’s Champions League in the process.

Keita made 31 appearances in the 2016-17 Bundesliga campaign, scoring eight goals and assisting seven following his summer move from sister-club RB Salzburg last year.

Keita is worth the hype he is receiving. You can compare Keita to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante and we all know how good Kante has been in his first season with them.

Keita ended the season with an overall rating of 7.60, per whoscored.com, ranking him fifth in the Bundesliga – behind Thiago Alcantara (8.28), Arjen Robben (7.82), Emil Forsberg (7.75) and Robert Lewandowski (7.74).

Only Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele made more dribbles per game (3.2) than Keita (2.7), putting him ahead of Bayern duo Robben (2.7) and Douglas Costa (2.5).

Among midfielders, Keita is eighth (38) in terms of key passes during the 2016-17 campaign, while his seven assists were bettered only by team-mate Forsberg (17) and Hoffenheim’s Kerem Demirbay (8).

Naby Keita should be our most important priority this summer transfer window. He can come in and positively improve our team, especially the midfield core.

Arsenal cannot let a player of Keita’s age (22) and talent slip through to teams such as Chelsea or Liverpool. Keita is absolutely a necessity to our team and if we do not jump to sign him this summer, it will be something that we will regret for a long, long time.

 

Written by Giovan Hayer

Follow Giovan on Twitter @GiovanH

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