Serie A talents for Arsenal to consider
We are once again lucky enough to have Matt Statto guest posting on CoA, after his excellent ‘My Perfect Player’ contribution. He is part of the excellent and new Four Added On, and also runs Juversation. Can you guess what it’s about? All yours, Matt.
To many who possess a rather naive view, Serie A is a poor league in decline where the standard of players is quite inferior to the other top leagues in Europe. Poor performances in European competitions has led to a misconception that Italian football is in a state of no return, however one could certainly argue the league is again on the up, after an excellent and unpredictable season to rival that of the Bundesliga in Germany.
With Serie A receiving less exposure than in recent years, there’s a small likelihood that some potential talents may have escaped the attention of Arsenal fans and whilst Arsenal don’t have a recent history of signing talented players directly from the Italian league, they have in the not too distant past, with club legends Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry joining the club from Inter, Milan and Juventus respectively. So with that said, here are five talented players who I feel Arsenal should have on their transfer radar this summer.
As someone who is in frequent discussion with Arsenal supporters, it’s certainly been brought to my attention that Gael Clichy is not a favourite amongst the fans. His poor defending, coupled with an inability to accurately cross the ball, has led to increasing frustration amongst Gooners everywhere.
Udinese in 2010-11 were one of the most entertaining sides in Europe. Being heralded by fans and pundits alike for playing a modern, high tempo style play, with an exceptional amount of fluidity to rival the likes of Barcelona and Arsenal. A key component of this system was the Wing Backs in their 3-5-2 formation, with the two men being required to play as wingers when the team went forward and then to become full backs when the team had to defend.
Pablo Armero was the Left Wing Back in that side and he had an exceptional breakout campaign in his first season playing in Europe after joining Udinese from Brazilian giants Palmeiras. He was instrumental in their success with his positive, bombing runs up the flank, really proving himself to be too hot to handle on a regular basis for full backs across the league. Even capable of scoring goes such as this one vs Fiorentina http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VToAYGsA3bk . That’s not to say he’s all attack however, as his defending has been solid and dependable too. He would certainly satisfy Arsenal fans’ desire for an exciting attacking full back to provide width down the left hand side and would relish the prospect of lining up in a system as fluid and expansive as Arsenal’s, that’s for sure.
Another area where Arsenal could do to strengthen is in the midfield. Too often last season, strength in depth was an issue, with the likes of Denilson and Diaby proving they weren’t up to the task at hand during the crunch time of the season. With at least one of those two expected to leave the club this summer, replacements are going to be needed if Arsenal are to improve on their performance during the 2010-11 campaign.
A personal favourite of mine is my club Juventus’ very own Felipe Melo, a man who has been linked extensively with a move to Arsenal over the past few seasons, even before the man joined the Italian giants. In an ideal situation, Felipe Melo wouldn’t be going to London for anything other than a holiday. However, given how his mentor and the man who resurrected his career last season, Luigi Del Neri was sacked at the end of last season, there have been murmurs of discontent, with the player being very vocal about how he doesn’t feel loved or valued after his excellent campaign.
Melo is an excellent defensive midfielder, a true destroyer who can be relied upon to stifle even the highest quality of player, as demonstrated against Wesley Sneijder on two occasions last season. Marking the Dutch superstar out of the game with ample amounts of intelligence, tenacity and aggression. Melo can do more than just defend though, with him being very good at retaining possession and even capable of Xabi Alonso-esque cross field passes when confident and on song.
The one blemish against him is his temperament, which has been very questionable, particularly during the past couple of seasons. In his first season in Turin, he was a nightmare, often making rash challenges, losing his head in crucial moments and even insulting the supporters of the club and it culminated in him almost single-handedly destroying any chance Brazil had of reaching the World Cup semi-final, by stamping wildly on Arjen Robben. Last season he was not so bad, however we did see the ugly side of his game against Parma, as the “bad brother”, as Felipe likes to call him (look that up, an example of Melo’s bizarre, yet amusing personality), reared his ugly head, as he kicked a Parma player in the face, leading to a red card as Juve slumped to an embarrassing loss.
Felipe Melo can be a handful, but he’s also arguably one of the top five defensive midfielders in the world if you can bring the best out of him. Ideally he’ll be staying in Turin, however if he were to leave the club, Arsenal should be one of the first on the phone enquiring about his services. He won’t come cheap though, as Juve will be keen to recoup as much of the fee they paid for him as possible.
Of course, if Felipe Melo doesn’t take your fancy and you’d prefer someone who’s perhaps a bit less of a risk and inevitably, cheaper. Then you could always look at Palermo’s Antonio Nocerino.
Nocerino is a player who in my opinion is highly underrated, mainly due to the job he does on the field being one which can go unnoticed if not paid attention to. He’s probably not a typical defensive midfielder in the sense that he isn’t wholly natural as the one who sits just in front of the defence, as evident by the position he plays for Palermo, playing just to the left of the holding man in a the midfield three.
He is however, a very dynamic player, with an abundance of stamina, determination and solid technical ability, making him very able in more of a ball winning midfielder/box to box role. In fact, I’d probably say he’s not too dissimilar to the way Mathieu Flamini played at Arsenal, therefore this could make him quite appealing to Arsenal supporters who feel he was never truly replaced after he forced through his move to Milan. Nocerino would provide a great amount of balance to a very attacking Arsenal side, either as a first team player, or as a rotational player to be used off the bench.
Now that we’ve covered the options in the midfield, how about a couple of players to wet your appetite? Given the lacklustre displays of Arshavin, the poor performances of Bendtner and the potential departure of Samir Nasri, replacements are going to be needed in order for Arsenal to push for the title next season and after all, who doesn’t love an attacking player with an abundance of pace, flair and invention?
First of all, here’s a player who has really grown in stature (figuratively, not in height) over the course of the past season and that is Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi. Lavezzi is a player who possesses a great amount of talent, including excellent close control, great first touch and a blistering turn of pace which isn’t matched by many players. Last season was somewhat of a breakthrough campaign after a few years of teasing us with his talent.
Statistically, for a player typically classed as a forward, his goal tally isn’t all that impressive, notching up only 6 goals. However, what makes this man such a good player is his ability to work tirelessly for the team, as demonstrated by the impressive tally of 12 assists he chalked on the board, arguably being as important to the fabric of the side as the heralded Edinson Cavani. This has not gone unnoticed either, with the player being called up into the Argentinian national side for his first major international tournament, the Copa America. Where he is expected to hold off the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Diego Milito for a place in the starting lineup.
Positionally, he’s equally adept playing on either flank, as he is at playing off a striker, therefore he would be a very useful tool at Arsene’s disposal. Allowing him to play in a number of positions depending on the scenario in the game and/or the system. Lavezzi is a very direct player therefore he would be a refreshing addition to Arsenal’s starting lineup, with him always aiming in one direction, forwards.
Whilst all of the above on Lavezzi sounds excellent, given his quality, his improvement over others currently at the club in those wide positions, there is one problem. The problem being that Napoli’s president, Aurelio De Laurentiis is a bit of a nutcase, who is sure to demand a very large fee for Lavezzi’s services, given Lavezzi’s key player status at the club. Of course, with it being De Laurentiis, there’s always the chance he could get up on the wrong (right in your case) side of the bed and just decide to sell him for something very reasonable. But it’s very difficult to say.
If Lavezzi does prove to be too costly and Arsenal find themselves having to look for an alternative, then a player who could prove to be a very good signing is ex-Birmingham City and current Lazio forward, Mauro Zarate.
Zarate’s situation is interesting really. His quality is there for all to see and nobody doubts his talent, however, his career at Lazio really has gone stale and he’s not reached the heights at the club which were predicted for him just a few years ago, where only back in 2009, he was being talked about as a player who could reach the levels of Lionel Messi. Now, it’s unlikely that given the player is now 24 years old, he will reach those astronomical levels, but if someone could harness his talent and provide him with the quality around him in order to succeed (like Arsenal can), then there is a very good chance that he could still develop into an exceptional player. A lot of that is down to the man himself though, where by he has often let his hot-headedness get the better of him, but if he can channel his aggression positively, then he’ll be back on the right track in no time.
Like Lavezzi, Zarate is capable of playing either as a player just off the front man, or as a wide forward providing a direct attacking threat from the channels and wide areas. Therefore he would suit Arsenal’s needs and his price may be more within the budget than that of Lavezzi, where I believe he would cost around the £15m mark, which is very reasonable for a player of his gifts and especially so, given that £15m doesn’t buy you Jordan Henderson these days.
And so there we are, my five excellent talents who I believe could improve and add quality to this current Arsenal squad. Congratulations to all of you who made it to the end with me… I know, it was quite a long read.