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After a rather inauspicious start when it looked as if Arsenal were going to acquiesce yet again and allow Alexis Sanchez to leave the club and move to Manchester City, it seemed as though the club have enjoyed one of their more productive summer transfer windows in recent memory.
Alexandre Lacazette had arrived and will certainly improve Arsenal’s attack with a guarantee of goals and in Sead Kolasinac; Arsene Wenger appears to have finally found what could be the long required successor to Ashley Cole. The Bosnian international had been the club’s standout performer in pre-season and has also stood out this current campaign due to his rather noticeable build.
Wenger firmly believed that the current squad he has at the Emirates Stadium is fully capable of seriously challenging for the Premier League title and whilst you may or may not agree with the sense of such statements, they certainly have improved their squad from last term.
“No matter what happens, I’m convinced this group will win the Premier League, next year or in the future. If you keep them together they will be a force next year.”
Or so it seemed.
Since that summer, Arsenal have continued where they left off last summer with poor performances all-around, particularly their defence along with midfielder Granit Xhaka glaringly underwhelming in the anchor role. The Gunners are once again in a battle for a top four spot miles off the title picture.
With the January transfer window on the horizon, are there any players available that can strengthen this stagnant Arsenal squad?
The perfect answer
However as always is the case with Arsenal since the move to the Emirates they remain a player short, so close but agonisingly far away, although in the form of Nice’s all-action midfielder Jean-Michaël Seri there could be a perfect answer to their midfield issues.
Plus he would be a rather reasonably priced one at that.
Under the guidance of the rejuvenated Lucien Favre, OGC Nice took the French top flight by storm in the 2016/17 season with the club playing a wonderfully attractive, yet determined, brand of football en route to a third placed finish, 11 points ahead of nearest placed Lyon.
Their success was built upon a foundation of young, talented players hungry to make their mark in a good division and propel themselves into the crosshairs of Europe’s biggest clubs, somewhat similar to Monaco but on a smaller scale.
Mario Balotelli arrived and found a home where he contributed on the pitch once again with only minor issues off it; however it was not the Italian who was the star of the team but rather a 26-year-old Ivorian midfielder who had been at the club since 2015.
All-action is the perfect way to describe his playing style because he is not as solely defensive as Kante but isn’t as flamboyant and effective in attack like Paul Pogba. If you think of the kind of player Arturo Vidal was in his prime years with Juventus, Seri comes very close indeed.
He carried Nice’s midfield into the Champions League and looks set to continue to do so with the French club seeing off Dutch giants Ajax on Wednesday evening in an entertaining play-off tie.
Interest in Seri is significant with Roma having tried to secure his signature early on in the window however a mixture of factors killed such a move, mainly the price and the fact Radja Nainggolan unsurprisingly ignored the overtures from Old Trafford and penned a contract extension in the Eternal City.
Now whilst the aforementioned price was too rich for the Giallorossi’s blood it is certainly within Arsenal’s price range with club president Jean-Pierre Rivere confirming that the midfielder has a set release-clause.
“He has a release clause of 40 million euros (£36m), everyone laughed when we put that into his contract,” he explained.
Such a figure is easily affordable by almost all Premier League teams, especially the Gunners, and it makes perfect sense that they should go for him before the window closes.
Jack Wilshere’s fitness cannot be relied upon; Santi Cazorla is facing another lengthy spell on the sidelines whilst Francis Coquelin is heading into the season battling ankle trouble.
Xhaka would benefit
The indication from the North London club is that Wilshere is on the market if there is a club that can tempt him to take a reduced salary. There is also the small matter of Granit Xhaka’s performances in his debut season in England.
At times he was brilliant and drove the team forward but at others it was clear he was struggling and his abysmal disciplinary record became a running joke amongst supporters.
He needs help; he cannot run a midfield totally on his own, especially when the players around him are almost all given carte blanche by the coach to attack.
Seri’s arrival would help him significantly, an energetic box-to-box presence with the technique to match.
Worth the wait
As has been the case with Nice’s outgoing business last summer there was a sense that the in-demand players will be allowed to leave once the club has completely concluded their Champions League play-off matches.
Dalbert had an agreement with Internazionale but a deal had been put on the backburner until Nice’s participation is over. Such is the fiscal importance in getting in the group stage of the tournament, Nice are determined to give themselves the best possible chance.
You can only assume this is the same for Seri, especially when his contributions against Ajax have almost single-handedly dragged the team to the next round.
Arsenal may have to play the waiting game but it will be worthwhile. They haven’t had a commanding presence in midfield for so many years now it is frightening.
Arsenal in need of player of his style
Patrick Vieira was the ultimate box-to-box player in his prime and whilst Seri isn’t at this level, he plays in a somewhat similar style.
Wenger has been resistant to using a natural holding midfielder for a number of years and that is understandable. For a short period European football became completely focused on attacking and filling your front-four with quality and blasting opposing teams away.
In England this doesn’t work given the difficulties every single match provides and whilst Arsenal need to utilise their vast attacking talent, having a player who can essentially work within two roles would be a major boost.
Seri’s qualities on paper seem like they would instantly attract Arsene Wenger. For starters he is not an expensive signing, especially not in the current market, and whilst he adds determination and power to a midfield, it isn’t his sole focus.
He is technically gifted enough to get forward and provide assists, something we see regularly with Nice. Seri is the archetypal Wenger central-midfielder in that he can do the dirty work but not exclusively so.
Potential boost to their title ambitions
If Arsenal can keep Sanchez at the club for this upcoming season then they have a real chance of success in the Europa League. The Premier League title is officially off the table but the veteran coach certainly believes they have it in them to challenge.
Teams around Arsenal have strengthened and whilst it hasn’t been their style for a number of years, another signing in midfield could perhaps tip the Gunners past the ‘one player short’ threshold and actually give them the depth and quality they need in all positions.
In Jean-Michaël Seri, there is the perfect candidate.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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