All posts by Rory Chester

What Will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Bring to Arsenal?

Arsenal look set to continue to add to their squad this month with chief executive Ivan Gazidis and new head scout Sven Mislintat currently in Germany negotiating a potential deal for Borussia Dortmund front man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but what would the Gabonese striker bring to the Gunners?

As Arsenal officials continue to negotiate with the German side this month, it seems that a potential deal between £55.4 and £60 million is close to being agreed which would see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang make the switch to North London this January.  Arsenal are hopeful of completing the deal before the transfer deadline at 11pm on Wednesday.

With the deal looking highly likely at this stage, Arsenal fans all over social media are beginning to get excited about a potentially deadly reunion between Aubameyang and new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, whom together directly contributed to over 100 goals for Dortmund in all competitions in the 2015/16 season.

Individually however, Aubameyang would, if anything bring goals to Arsenal.  £52 million summer signing Alexandre Lacazette has struggled so far in his first season in England and has had a lot of pressure on his shoulders to bag the goals, with Olivier Giroud having been injured over the busy Christmas period and the turmoil surrounding the future of Alexis Sanchez.  But the signing of Aubameyang would undoubtedly lift some of that pressure off the Frenchman’s shoulders.

Aubameyang is prolific in front of goal, with a record over the last few seasons to fully back up that statement.  He scored 39 goals in all competitions in the 15/16 season and 40 goals the following year as he thrived with the responsibility of replacing Robert Lewandowski as Dortmund’s main goal scorer.

Along with his blistering pace, Aubameyang is naturally right footed, but can be just as deadly on his left, and at 6’2 inches tall, can be a threat in the air also.  The Gabonese striker really defines the ‘complete forward’ and at £55 million, in today’s market where defenders are being signed for £50+ million, the signing of Aubameyang could turn out to be a bargain for Arsenal.

On the other hand, something else Aubameyang may bring the Emirates, is potentially a difficult attitude to handle for Arsène Wenger and his coaching staff.  Aubameyang’s temperament and attitude has recently been questioned by German football pundit Marc Behrenbeck.  He recently stated in an article written by The Express, that “It has been a problem since day one” (his attitude).  He also talked about how Dortmund’s previous 3 coaches have all had to suspend Aubameyang at some point over the last 4 years.  This could potentially be an issue for Arsène Wenger should Aubameyang sign, although the Arsenal manager has been no stranger to dealing with difficult players in the past, Nicholas Anelka and William Gallas to name a few.

However, this new look Arsenal strike force, plus a reunion with old friend Henrikh Mkhitaryan, should prompt the striker to forget his poor disciplinary record and focus on what he does best, scoring goals.  In my opinion, Aubameyang would be a perfect fit for Arsenal alongside the likes of Mesut Özil and Alexandre Lacazette.  He will bring goals, assists, pace and power to the Arsenal Attack going into the business end of the season, with Arsenal still competing in the Europa League, fighting for the top 4, and a trip to Wembley in the Carabao Cup Final vs Manchester City next month.

Advertisements

What do we know about Manchester City and Liverpool target Faouzi Ghoulam?

Looking ahead to the upcoming January transfer window, managers will be keen to strengthen their squads where necessary.  One player who has been interesting a number of Premier League clubs is Napoli and Algeria left-back Faouzi Ghoulam.  But what do we know about him?

Ghoulam is a 26-year-old, French born – Algerian international who started his career at French side Saint Étienne and moved to Napoli in January 2014 and since then he has fast become Napoli’s number one in this position.  Ghoulam has 2 goals and 3 assists to his name already this season in the Italian Serie A.  He has good pace, is powerful, loves to get forward and is strong all-round defensively.

The Algerian has attracted a lot of interest over the past few years, with Manchester City and Liverpool being two of the big names linked with the Napoli man by The Express.

The move would appear to be a good one for both of these clubs, particularly for Manchester City, having recently lost £50 million left back Benjamin Mendy to potentially a season-ending knee injury.  Liverpool would also fancy a move for Ghoulam, as they have struggled to find a consistent left back to fit into their team for these past few years, with James Milner or young Andy Robertson recently filling in for the unreliable Alberto Moreno.

Ghoulam is out of contract at the end of the season and talks over a new contract with Napoli have recently broken down, which means he could potentially be available at a cut-price fee in the January window if Napoli do not want to risk losing their number one left-back on a free transfer next summer.

With his contract running down and a potential deal looking close, we could see Ghoulam playing in the Premier League very soon.

Is Kevin De Bruyne the best midfielder in the Premier League?

Manchester City completed a £55 million deal for Wolfsburg and former Chelsea playmaker Kevin De Bruyne back in August 2015.  Questions were immediately asked on whether José Mourinho had made a mistake when he let the young Belgium international leave Stamford Bridge in January 2014.

 

De Bruyne scored 10 goals and provided 20 assists in his only full season at the German club in the 14/15 season, at the time Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini clearly saw a player that could take his side to the next level and help them compete with Europe’s top clubs.  Now with De Bruyne back in the Premier League and settled at Manchester City, he only seems to be getting better and better each season.

 

The Belgian had a promising first season at Manchester City, scoring 7 goals and assisting 9 in the League.  He then stepped up another level the following season, finishing top in the league for assists with 18 and scoring 6 goals himself under the new management of Pep Guardiola.  De Bruyne has become a key player for Man City and Belgium over the past 2 years and he has shown that he has all the attributes to become one of the world’s best midfielders.

 

In fact, it could be argued that De Bruyne is now the best central midfielder in the Premier League because of his all-round ability.  He has the shooting, passing and dribbling skills that are vital for any creative midfielder in world football. He can put in a wicked cross and is lethal from a dead-ball situation, whether that be a direct or in-direct free-kick.

 

With such a vast array of talent available to Pep Guardiola, De Bruyne has recently been deployed in a deeper role in the midfield for Manchester City alongside the often unnoticed Fernandinho, to allow the likes of David Silva, Leroy Sané etc to get forward.  De Bruyne played in this deeper role on Saturday, scoring a superb winning goal in a 1-0 away win against his old side Chelsea.

 

It appears that De Bruyne is determined to win his first Premier League title with Manchester City and with him pulling the strings in midfield, it is likely that he will soon be well known as the best midfielder in the League, and that a Premier League winners medal is not far away for the talented Belgian.

How much do Arsenal miss Santi Cazorla?

When Arsenal completed a £15m deal for Malaga play-maker Santi Cazorla back in the summer of 2012, it was fair to say that there was a lot of hype among Arsenal fans surrounding his arrival at the club. Arsène Wenger spoke very highly of the Spanish midfielder, saying that he is “technically gifted and will be a huge asset to Arsenal Football Club.”

The Spaniard scored his first Arsenal goal in a 2-0 win at Anfield in September of the 2012/13 season and in the early years of his Arsenal career, he was certainly a vital part of the first XI.

In fact, Cazorla went on to score 12 goals and provide 12 assists in the Premier League in his first season at Arsenal, only Eden Hazard and Juan Mata of Chelsea assisted more (13).  Arsenal secured another Champions league qualification that season, finishing 4th in the league, with Cazorla influential to their style of play.  He has also scored arguably one of the most important goals of Arsenals recent history, a 30-yard free-kick in a 3-2 comeback win vs Hull City in the FA Cup final 2014, ending Arsenals nine-year wait for a trophy.

Cazorla put in another superb performance the following year with a man of the match display vs Aston Villa in the FA Cup final, this time in a dominant 4-0 win, as Arsenal retained the trophy and became the most successful team in the History of the competition.

However, in recent years, it has not been such an easy ride for Cazorla in terms of injuries and Arsenals form has clearly dipped because of this.  In November 2015, he suffered a knee injury, followed by an Achilles injury that would keep him out until April the following year.  Cazorla made a brief return to action until he limped out of a Champions League group stage match against Ludogorets in October 2016 and has not made a single appearance since.

His absence has had a huge effect on Arsenal’s recent form, as they failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 21 years at the end of the 2016/17 season.  In fact, from August 2014 to December 2016, Arsenal have a win percentage of 65% when Cazorla is playing, compared to 39% when he is not.

This statistic goes to show that Arsenals recent struggles and Cazorla’s extensive Injury record is not just a coincidence.  Certain Arsenal players, particularly Mesut Özil undoubtedly miss Cazorla’s vision and technical skills.  His link-up play, movement off the ball and ability to run the midfield is exceptional and often goes under the radar.  But with Cazorla now on the wrong side of his 30’s and yet to make a return to the pitch, could his time as an Arsenal player be coming to an end?