As one of Serie A’s more impressive midfielders right now, Radja Nainggolan was always likely to attract some attention this month. And sure enough, Arsenal are among a host of clubs, including Liverpool, chasing the Belgian ace ahead of a potential move before the looming transfer deadline passes.
The Roma man is understood to be valued at around £26m, with both Roma and Cagliari – who own a share of his rights – demanding £13m to part with the tenacious enforcer. So, would Arsenal make a move for the 26-year-old? We think so, and here are FIVE reasons why…
Although the numbers are slightly hampered by Francis Coquelin’s lack of game time – he’s only been back at Arsenal since mid January – Nainggolan outshines the Gunners’ current crop of players. In terms of duels won and tackles made per 90 minutes, the Belgian tops the records of Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta and is not too far adrift of Coquelin, despite playing over three times the amount of minutes as the Frenchman in league action this term.
Where Nainggolan is undisputed king, though, is going forward. The Roma man registers more shots, goals, key pass and chances created-per-game, showing his abilities heading up the pitch are as good as back down it.
Coquelin is young at 23, while Arteta, 32, and Flamini, 30, are edging towards the closing stages of their careers. Nainggolan, however, is, at 26, very much in the peak years for a midfielder. This is reflected by his gutsy showings and tireless playing style, with the ‘mohawked’ enforcer clearly in prime physical condition.
Arsenal need someone for the ‘here and now’ as they look to get their season back on track, with their top four hopes already in the balance after a stuttering start to the season.
Arsenal have been famed for their slick playing style for some time. Easy on the eye and entertaining, when the Gunners are on form, they’re irresistible. Yet, if clever opposition cut their creative influences out of the game and press well, Wenger’s sides tend to struggle. A soft underbelly contributes to this, with few Emirates Stadium stars in recent seasons possessing the ‘backbone’ to go with their technical skills.
Nainggolan, however, has this fight and fire in his game. His willingness to get stuck in could help the Gunners to move away from their lightweight tag.
As mentioned before, Arsenal lack a ‘battler’ in the middle of the park. Although impressive of late, Coquelin is not yet proven at the highest level – the fact Wenger allowed him to go to Charlton on loan earlier this season suggests he may have some doubts about his ability at the top level – while Arteta is known more for his passing than his ability to destroy. Flamini, however, is more willing to get stuck in, yet the criticism he’s faced from Gooners – one has to merely glance at Twitter on a match day to see that – hints that he’s not up to the job.
Although signing a player just to prove a point – the addition of Mesut Ozil in 2013 appeared to have a whiff of that about it – is now always wise, getting Nainggolan in now as the Gunners look to kick on from their recent resurgence and break back into the top four could send out a message to their rivals. Addressing a major weakness at a critical point of the season would surely strike fear into the hearts of Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs – who are yet to make a notable addition this month.