According to reports from The Times, Mikel Arteta is hoping to make Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot his first signing as Arsenal manager.
Arteta has thus far overseen just one game as Arsenal boss – a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth – but with the January transfer window just around the corner, the Gunners gaffer will need to make some decisions quickly.
And it appears he’s already decided he needs to bolster his midfield, which goes double following claims from Granit Xhaka’s agent, who says the Switzerland international has already agreed a move to Hertha Berlin.
Rabiot would be a direct replacement as another deep-sitting midfielder and he could well be interested in coming to the Premier League.
The former PSG star moved to Juventus in the summer but has gone on to make just five appearances in Serie A – so a loan until the end of the season, at which point all parties will be able to reflect on the situation, could appeal to both Rabiot and the Italian champions.
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Rabiot is no doubt a talented player. While he’s never made much headway with the French national team, amassing only six caps to date, his CV includes five Ligue 1 titles, having made over 200 appearances for the Parisians.
But what does he really bring to the Arsenal engine room that it doesn’t already have?
Although he perhaps offers greater control and composure in possession – he averaged just shy of 75 passes per match during his final league campaign with PSG, and a passing accuracy of 93% – he is first and foremost a defensive midfielder, someone who quietly breaks up attacks and keeps play ticking over.
Arsenal already have a number of players who can fulfil that duty. Mateo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and the aforementioned Xhaka are all midfielders of practically the same ilk. Rabiot would be a direct replacement for the latter, and he probably is an upgrade on the former duo.
But ultimately, signing Rabiot wouldn’t really leave Arsenal in a significantly better position than they are now; they’d still be reliant on Ozil as their only truly creative midfield outlet aside from loan man Dani Ceballos, who hasn’t contributed anything of note since assisting twice against Burnley back in August.
Arsenal’s midfield is crying out for some flair, dribbling ability and dynamism to support the forward line that has been relied upon far too heavily for moments of individual quality this season – essentially what they lost when Aaron Ramsey left last summer – but Rabiot isn’t a natural fit to provide it.
It feels like a sideways step for Arteta when really, his first Arsenal signing should be someone who moves the team in a different direction.