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Arsenal: Mikel Arteta makes contact for Manuel Locatelli

Arsenal are interested in a deal to bring Manuel Locatelli to The Emirates this winter.

What’s the talk?

That’s according to Italian media outlet CalcioMercato, who claim that, despite turning down an offer for the midfielder from Manchester United in the summer transfer window, Juventus could still be tempted into parting with the 24-year-old this January, should they receive an offer too good to turn down – with his asking price reported to be in the region of €40m (£35m).

The report goes on to state that, having been linked with Locatelli in the past, Arsenal have now made contact with the Italy international and Juventus in order to determine whether or not the player would be interested in a move to north London this winter, although negotiations between the Serie A side and the Gunners are not believed to have started just yet.

Fabregas 2.0

With holding midfield being something of a weak point in Mikel Arteta’s first team squad – as Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka are the Spaniard’s only available options in the position at present – it is not difficult to understand why the 40-year-old would be interested in a deal to bring Locatelli to The Emirates this winter.

Indeed, the £52m-rated playmaker looks to be a player very much in the mould of Arteta’s particular brand of football, with WhoScored listing two of the 24-year-old’s primary strengths as his blocking of the ball – demonstrating his ability to win possession back for his side – and his range of passing – proving his ability to help his side control the tempo of games.

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These traits are evident in the breakdown of his statistics, with FBref ranking the Italian in the top 14% of midfielders in Europe’s big five leagues and European competitions for progressive passes per 90, in addition to the top 16% for passes completed, the top 30% for passes attempted and the top 16% for blocks over the last 365 days.

Furthermore, the £96k-per-week earner has earned praise for his ability to play line-breaking passes, with journalist Raj Chohan stating of the midfielder following his display in a 2-1 victory over Belgium in October of last year:

“Italy played Locatelli at the base instead of Jorginho vs Belgium in the Nations League third-place play-off and looked unreal. He’s got way more line-breaking passes in his locker.”

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Starting off with an easy one...

And, with Arsenal having lacked a player in the mould of a true deep-lying playmaker ever since their £35m sale of Cesc Fabregas back in 2011 – who was known for his ability to “dictate the tempo” and get his team “dominating games through the middle” – the signing of a player with the capability to perform such a role could well prove transformative for Arteta’s side.

As such, not only would Locatelli appear to be a prime candidate to take up this mantle, but should the Italian go on to seal a move to north London this winter, he could well become the Gunners’ next Fabregas-esque dictator in the middle of the park – a prospect that is sure to be an incredibly tantalising one for both Arteta and supporters of the club alike.