Arsene Wenger has admitted that Arsenal are still looking at Brazilian holding midfield player Felipe Melo. Arsenal attempted to sign the player from Fiorentina last summer, only to become priced out of a move by Juventus, who took Melo to Turin for around £20m. With Aaron Ramsey set to spend eight months on the sidelines after the double fracture of his right leg, Wenger is looking to increase his options in the centre of midfield.
Wenger told the Guardian;
“We were interested in Melo during the summer, then he went to Juventus… certainly he has not had the season that everyone predicted he would. We still think he is a very talented player and with Gilberto Silva, Brazil have a very useful pair in midfield. We are still looking at Melo.”
Melo has had a disappointing season in Turin, with supporters turning on him and the clubs other three Brazilian players Amauri and Diego, owing to their poor form in Serie A. The tensions heightened on Sunday following an altercation between Melo and the supporters after Juve surrendered a three goal lead to draw 3-3 with Sienna. Melo immediately apologised via the club’s official website;
‘I apologise to our supporters, I was uspet for how the match was going and, in a moment full of tension, I said something I shouldn’t have said. I’m sorry about my behaviour.’
Melo is thought to be keen to win over his critics at The Old Lady, but Juventus may prefer to cut their losses, and sell Melo at a loss. With Wenger going public on his interest in the player, a deal could be on the cards this summer.
Wenger’s interest in the Brazilian defensive midfielder increased after the injury to Ramsey, but Ramsey’s absence is not necessarily the catalyst behind Wenger’s interest. Arsenal are perceived to be a soft touch in midfield, and Melo’s game is characterised by his tough tackling and no nonsense approach. Despite a quite appalling disciplinary record (in just one season with Fiorentina, he amassed 17 yellow and three red cards), Melo could add the steeliness and defensive cover in midfield that Arsenal lost after selling Gilberto Silva, and that they lack when Alex Song is unavailable.
Perhaps the biggest threat Melo’s signing may carry, is to Denilson’s position in the Arsenal squad. At 22 years old, Denilson is still young enough to be considered a work in progress, but many Arsenal fans have already seen enough of the Brazilian midfield player. Some would argue his best position is not in defensive midfield, and that he is more of a box to box player. Wenger for example compared his style to somewhere between ‘Tomáš Rosický and Gilberto’. However, some Arsenal fans would add that this is true only in that he has the attacking prowess of Gilberto, and the defensive capabilities of Rosický.
Denilson clearly cuts a divisive figure at Arsenal. Opinion varies between the belief that Denilson was one of Arsenal’s best players last year, breaking up play and performing consistently for the side, and the conviction that he is often caught out of position, is too weak in the tackle and is poor in possession.
This term, whilst Denilson has had his injury problems, and is still feeling his way back to full fitness, there is a chance that Arsene Wenger’s pursuit of Felipe Melo will be the straw to break the camel’s back, so to speak. With Fabregas, Nasri, Ramsey, Diaby and Song et al all competing for places in the centre of midfield, an expensive summer acquisition may mean Denilson has to move on if he desires first team football…
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