Under Arsene Wenger Arsenal’s transfer policy has ebbed and flowed. When he first arrived he signed players in their early 20’s that he could develop on from where they were. This saw him mould the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires from really good to world class. Next, he began the phase that has seen him maligned, by signing mostly very young players that weren’t ready for immediate deployment in the first team. Although some of those, like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie came good, the list of those that didn’t is much longer. He has recently stumbled in to a half way house situation where he has grabbed ready-made players to cover to dearth of young quality with much less frequent young signings. He most commonly signs from France and likes the £8-15m price range. With this all in mind, here’s who he should be looking at;
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – St. Etienne
Scout Report Aubameyang is an able striker who has already scored 16 goals in Ligue 1 this season leading a relatively unfancied Verts to the fringes of the Champions League spots. His main assets are strength, pace and finishing, a heady mix for a striker. He is well-balanced and very direct carrying more than a hint of the only man ahead of him in the goalscoring charts, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Where does he fit? Arsenal have twice previously signed strikers from France but unlike Marouane Chamakh and Olivier Giroud, Aubameyang has already logged one excellent goal scoring season before this one so he has shown consistency. Also unlike those two, he brings an added physical dimension, adding some much needed pace and power to a fairly lightweight Arsenal front line.
How much? St Etienne have already turned down bids in the £10m region for him so it would take at least that, if not £15m which is right on the edge of Wenger’s historical high watermark.
Stefan De Vrij – Feyenoord
Scout Report De Vrij is already captain of Feyenoord at just 21. A big, strong and elegant central defender, De Vrij is an elite prospect who has already received caps for the Dutch national side. Comfortable with the ball at his feet and battling in the air, De Vrij is a calm player in the best Dutch traditions of the ball-playing centre half.
Where does he fit? The Arsenal central defence needs a make over. Per Mertesacker just isn’t quick enough to play in England and Thomas Vermaelen has regressed over the last year or so. One criticism regularly levelled at those two is that they don’t seem to be able to tough things out. Well, De Vrij is a tough boy from a tough town and you don’t get made captain of Feyenoord unless you put everything on the line. Arsenal fans would lap that up.
How much? Again, right on Wenger’s spending boundary of about £15m.
Kevin Strootman – PSV Eindhoven
Scout Report Strootman is an imposing all-action central midfielder. He is is 6’1′, strong and very tough. He ranges around the midfield asserting his will onto proceedings. He is comfortable with the ball at his feet but his main strength is a driving force, a dynamo. He is also capable of popping up with goals and assists, totals of which are increasing every year.
Where does he fit? Arsenal haven’t had his like since Vieira and he would bring something very different to the middle of the park. Bullied by no one and capable of standing toe to toe with the likes of Yaya Toure or Sandro, he would add some much needed bite and leadership to the midfield. His presence would free up Jack Wilshere to continue to play further forwards. He is the same sort of age as Vieira was when he arrived from Milan, and that worked out pretty well.
How much? This might depend on PSV winning the title but likely to be in the £15m range again.
Steve Mandanda – Marseille
Scout Report An athletic and agile shot stopping goalkeeper, at 27 he is reaching prime form. One of the best shot stoppers in Europe and is currently in the form of his career having shaken off his reputation for big mistakes. The captain of Marseille, he would bring a vocal presence and passion to win.
Where does he fit? Arsenal need a goalkeeper, because the incumbent Szczęsny just isn’t good enough. He’s shown flashes but no more. Mandanda is a commanding influence from his goal and would not be shy about organising the sometimes shambolic defence.
How much? Around about the magic £15m mark once more.
Dusan Basta – Udinese
Scout Report A ferociously relentless right back, Basta gets up and down his wing with insatiable endeavour. He is strong and quick enough, but his prime asset is his mentality. He really is a never give-in, never stop running type and is also capable of putting in quality crosses.
Where does he fit? Bacary Sagna is not the player he once was and I’m not convinced Carl Jenkinson ever will be. Basta has that quality that Arsenal fans desire so much; work rate. He would make up for whatever lack of protection he gets further forward with sheer force of will. Arsenal need grit, and Basta would add that in abundance.
How much? Udinese are always willing to make a deal, and a bid of £7-8m would be hard for them to turn down.