According to reports from The Telegraph, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is planning a ‘major investment in central midfield’ for the summer transfer window.
Indeed, the Gunners gaffer snapped up Mohamed Elneny from FC Basel in January, but Arsenal’s engine room still lacks balance, composed of far more offensive than defensive talent.
Likewise, Bosman-bound veterans Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky are expected to leave the Emirates upon their expiration of their contracts at the end of the season, whilst Santi Cazorla is now 31 years of age and Jack Wilshere – despite his ability – spends around two-thirds of every season sidelined through injury.
So the north Londoners need extra bodies in the middle of the park, preferably of the relatively young and defensive variety, and with that in mind, FootballFanCast have been running the rule over FIVE Arsenal targets who fit that criteria.
Can you see the Gunners spending bid on some of these FIVE in the coming transfer window?
If it’s long-term options Arsene Wenger craves, he’ll struggle to look past FC Porto prodigy Ruben Neves – one of many young Portuguese talents attracting interest from the Premier League’s top clubs.
Indeed, the midfielder is just 18 years of age but has already represented the Portugal national team twice and captained the Dragons in the Champions League, becoming the youngest skipper in the tournament’s history during a 2-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv in October.
Neves is a well-balanced midfielder who blends a good reading of the game with technical flair, but it’s the maturity, composure and control he brings to the engine room that has really stood out this season, especially considering his age.
Arsenal are one of the clubs believed to be scouting the Mozelos-born teenager, but the Primeira Liga outfit are unlikely to budge on his £29million release clause.
Dubbed ‘young Schweinsteiger’ by former manager Ottmar Hitzfeld due to his shared playing style with the German World Cup winner, Granit Xhaka could be the ideal signing to bridge between Arsenal’s tiki-taka-esque philosophy and their need for more steel in the middle of the park.
There are certainly more physical midfielders than the 6 foot 1 Borussia Monchengladbach star but he’s a consistent ball-winner with an aggressive edge to his game, this season averaging 2.5 tackles and 2.9 interceptions per match from 17 Bundesliga outings.
The Switzerland international has also averaged the seventh-most passes per match of any player involved in Europe’s five leading top flights this season and in that regard, would offer a similar kind of service to Mikel Arteta as an anchoring playmaker.
The 23-year-old has continually talked up a Premier League move over the last few months, describing it as his dream, and Gladbach seem likely to sell at the end of the season. Xhaka’s contract includes a £27million release clause for summer 2017, meaning the club are running out of time to secure a higher fee.
Arsene Wenger recently revealed that he’s tracked N’Golo Kante for some time and the French enforcer’s incredible displays this season could convince him to launch a summer bid.
Indeed, if the Leicester City midfielder isn’t the Premier League’s Player of the Season, he’s definitely the division’s signing of the season, arriving from Caen at a cost of just £6million last summer to help propel the Foxes to the table’s summit.
The 24-year-old has averaged 4.2 tackles and 4.2 interceptions per match but it’s ability to break from deep positions with surging runs and ranging passes that has really made him stand out against the rest of the Premier League’s top ball-winners
Likewise, Kante’s energy and work-rate is well within the region of world-class; one can only imagine how he’d dominate in a midfield three, rather than playing in a flat two with Danny Drinkwater.
Some have even compared him to Claude Makelele, but you’d fancy Leicester’s chances of holding onto Kante if they win the title this season.
A box-to-box midfielder famed for his mazy dribbles through the middle of the park, Borussia Dortmund star Ilkay Gundogan would add a new sense of dynamism to Arsenal’s midfield.
But the German international is also a fantastic technician who offers control in possession and creativity going forward, this season averaging 1.5 created chances, 2.3 successful dribbles and a whopping 87 passes per match, alongside relentless energy both with and without the ball.
He can perform a variety of roles in the middle of the park, ranging from anchorman to No.10, and is unquestionably one of the most talented midfielders not plying his trade at Champions League level this term, having previously reached a final and claimed a Bundesliga title with the Black-Yellows.
Dortmund seem set to sell this summer, with Gundogan reportedly unwilling to extend his contract past the end of next season. He’s perfect for Arsenal in terms of style but practically every major club in Europe, including Manchester City and Barcelona, will be in the hunt for his signature this summer.
Most Arsenal fans would like to see Arsene Wenger add – quite simply – a big lump to his midfield options this summer and Southampton star Victor Wanyama firmly falls into that category.
Indeed, the Nigerian international measures in at 6 foot 2 (and about four foot wide) and has used his physicality to great effect since signing for Southampton from Celtic in summer 2013, where he’d previously featured in their Champions League heroics against Barcelona.
Disciplinary issues are a concern, picking up three red cards already this term, but the 24-year-old’s up there with the best ball-winners in the Premier League, averaging 3.1 tackles, 2.5 interceptions and 2.2 successful aerial duels per match at the moment, and seems ready to test himself at a higher level.
Wanyama’s simple-yet-effective play-breaking style could provide the basis for Arsenal’s more offensive talents to flourish and most appealingly, his contract is set to expire in 2017 – making the summer transfer window Southampton’s last chance to cash-in and probably at a rather low fee.
Recent reports, however, have suggested the Saints are in talks over a contract extension.