It was widely reported last week that Arsenal had clinched the loan signing of Real Madrid midfielder Nuri Sahin, but bearing in mind the options already available to manager Arsene Wenger, should he really be top of the agenda?
Wenger has shown a preference for a 4-3-3 formation the past couple of years or so, which helps the side dominate possession against lesser opponents in the middle of the park, and Sahin would appear to fit in with that style having played in a similar system during his hugely successful six-year spell at Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund.
The 23 year-old Turkish international was instrumental in the club’s title triumph in 2010-11, dictating the tempo from deep, controlling the ball and instigating attacks and he helped create alongside Sebastian Kehl the perfect counterbalance to the more attacking stylings of Mario Gotze and Shinji Kagawa further forward.
It was thought that the midfielder was going to be used as a makeweight in any deal that saw Luka Modric go to Real Madrid this summer and he’s undoubtedly a very good player of continental class. However, is he really needed to the same extent at the Emirates as he would be at White Hart Lane?
If Modric were to leave Tottenham, there’s no ready-made replacement within their ranks and they’ll certainly need to shop around, with Joao Moutinho at the top of the list alongside Sahin, but at Arsenal, they already have a pretty well-stocked central midfield department and they need a capable holding man as opposed to another deep-lying playmaker.
Alex Song had an excellent campaign last term, with the Cameroon international growing more and more into a creative role, breaking free of the positional shackles that a disciplined defensive midfielder often finds himself in, finishing the season with 14 assists across all competitions. He’s far better on the ball than most give him credit for and deserves to be pushed further forward, with someone to do with dirty stuff coming in behind him, which not only frees him up to do what he does best, but also adds a degree of steel to the team’s engine room.
Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta settled superbly into the side in his first full season at the club, going on to become a hugely important and integral member of the side, and the team’s form noticeably fell away slightly in his absence as they lost that degree of control in midfield. Arteta recorded a 90% pass completion rate over the whole of last season, one of the best records in the entire league.
Any move for Sahin could potentially disrupt both of these players’ rhythm going into the new season. You could certainly argue in favour of the purchase of Santi Cazorla, as Arsenal could still do with more threat out wide and through the middle at the tip of the trio, and you definitely could say the same over the issue of acquiring a midfield anchor, but signing Sahin while you’ve already got Arteta seems a bit of a needless indulgence.
Considering the nature of the player’s reputation and the club that he came from, there will of course be some hefty wages to consider and a loan fee, which when you don’t have infinite resources, seems a strange approach to take, reinforcing areas which are already your strongest.
Any move has obviously been predicated on the news that Jack Wilshere has suffered yet another setback and will be out until October, but when you factor in the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin, and the fact that Sahin struggled with injury for most of last season, any proposed deal starts to look like a gamble. It’s welcoming that Arsenal are being linked with the players of Sahin’s calibre again, but despite Wenger’s cryptic response which hinted at a move, you have to analyse where the player will fit in and if there is even a need for him.
The side coped very well without Wilshere for all of last season, and even though his return will have to be tempered without the sort of expectation that followed him around prior to his long-term injury lay-off, he could still play a part in the second half of the season. Dominating the ball and creating chances wasn’t the problem for Arsenal last term, it was putting pressure on the opposition when they didn’t have it, and even though a loan move is less of a gamble than signing him, Sahin, for all of his strengths, is far from the energetic player that the side currently need to disrupt other teams’ style of play.
Every fan wants good players to arrive in the summer and Sahin certainly falls into that category, but unless there’s another departure or long-term injury concern, they may be better turning their attentions to more pressing areas of the squad as opposed to a position where they are seemingly well set in already, as they head into the new campaign with a potentially exciting side.
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