While Manchester United and Liverpool, and to an extent Manchester City, have been grabbing the transfer headlines in the Premier League this summer, Arsenal have been flying a little under the radar. Sure the £11m capture of Petr Cech from Chelsea got some attention, but with the 33-year-old the only signing through the door so far, Gunners fans are right to feel a little agitated.
The London side are not too far from being title contenders, and there’s the feeling that one or two additions could well push them on to that next level – although the fact this has been a recurring theme for years is an issue in itself.
While ‘marquee’ names such as Karim Benzema are getting Arsenal supporters excited, a new target has emerged in the shape of Barcelona’s Sergi Samper. ‘Who?’ some Emirates goers may cry, but this 20-year-old, with an appealing £8.4m release clause, is reportedly attracting Arsene Wenger’s attention.
We know the midfielder is yet anther youngster, but he’s really worth the effort, and here are FIVE reasons why Arsenal should move for him…
Even though Gunners fans have been clamouring for a big, burly, bruising enforcer of a defensive midfielder for some time, such a player would simply not fit in with the style Arsene Wenger has bred into the club. It’s very rare to find an affordable and ‘gettable’ player who combines physicality with the sort of technique needed to slot into the North Londoners’ approach, so players with a greater level of skill and vision are favoured over those who can dominate the engine room by sheer brute force.
Samper really is in tune with Arsenal’s way, with his game all about controlled passing, the harvesting of possession and attacking intent through patient, probing play. Barcelona’s philosophy has much in common with Wenger’s own approach, suggesting that the transition would not be a rocky one.
Although Samper is now 20-years-old, there is still a natural Fabregas comparison. The latter, of course, swapped Catalonia for London, albeit at the age of 16, and really rose to prominence with Arsenal. Although Fabregas and Samper are not in exactly the same mould and the ‘new kid on the block’ is a little older, the way in which the move worked out for the Gunners and the now Chelsea man is major positive ahead of a possible move.
As well as Fabregas, the likes of Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral have made the move from Barca to Arsenal in recent memory.
With an £8.4m release clause in place, Arsenal are able to remove Barcelona’s desire to keep their youngster. That’s one tricky obstacle negotiated, then. And it would appear logical that the Gunners would be able to persuade Samper to head for pastures new, with the 20-year-old’s future at the Nou Camp far from clear.
Currently the vice captain of the ‘B’ team, Samper is set for a season in the third tier of Spain’s domestic league ladder – the Catalan side finished bottom of the Segunda Division last term – with his route into Luis Enrique’s ranks firmly blocked. Even with the exit of the iconic Xavi, Samper is still behind the likes of Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Javier Mascherano and Sergi Roberto, and in January Arda Turan will be added to that list.
At 20, the young playmaker needs game time, which he may have more access to at Arsenal.
Although Arsenal’s financial situation is far better than it was when the Emirates Stadium bills were hindering their progress, the chance to bring in a player for a modest fee with a view to selling on in a few years’ time is always attractive. Unless the Gunners can push on and become certain title challengers with both Chelsea and Manchester City, then there will always be the danger that stars will leave in search of silverware – there is no shame in being in this niche, though.
The £8.4m needed for Samper could easily treble or quadruple in a couple of seasons’ time should he make a smooth adjustment and fulfil his potential in North London, and a huge cash injection is always handy in the transfer market.
A recent one-year extension looks to be Arteta’s last contract with the Gunners, with the Spaniard now 33. However, the skipper is, albeit a fading force in terms of physicality, still important in the way he pulls the strings in midfield, so a successor is needed if a smooth transition is to be made.
Samper is not dissimilar to his countryman in the way he operates – sitting deep, controlling the play – and with 13 years on Arteta, he is certainly a long-term option.