It’s a tough job being the head of Arsenal’s transfer department and having to plug huge holes in the team with a transfer budget of just 45 million pounds.
Unai Emery’s side is badly in need of a left-back, a centre-back, a box-to-box midfielder and a winger. It gets harder when transfer fees continue to sky-rocket and everyone around do not seem to give a hoot.
Tottenham have, yet again, shattered their transfer record. Manchester City have spent big to bring in Rodrigo from Spain and are still willing to cough out more to replace departed captain Vincent Kompany. Manchester United have had advanced talks with Leicester City to sign the Foxes’ defender Harry Maguire for more than 80 million.
Everyone else is spending big but not the limited-budget Arsenal.
The Gunners have specific targets they are after, mind you. There’s Wilfried Zaha who Crystal Palace wants to sell for almost twice the Arsenal’s total transfer budget. There’s Kieran Tierney, a left full-back for whom Celtic have rejected £25 million.
It’s a difficult situation.
There’s one solution, though: Arsenal can go for fine, quality African players who will not cost two arms and a leg.
And with the Africa Cup of Nations only recently concluded, there are countless to choose from. Soccernet Nigeria focuses on the top five players that played at AFCON that can solve Arsenal’s immediate problems.
The versatile Algerian full-back, until injury took him out in the quarterfinals, was one of the finest defenders at the AFCON, grabbing an assist and a man-of-the-match gong in just four appearances.
Although, originally a right full-back, the Nice man is adept as a winger and also can do a fine job as a left full-back. The 23-year-old is very strong defensively and has good ball interception numbers which would certainly help an Arsenal defence that shipped goals aplenty last season.
The Ajax forward was a revelation last season, tearing top-level oppositions apart, creating scoring chances and scoring goals for fun as the Dutch side romped to the Eredivisie title and surprisingly to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League.
🇲🇦 Name a player with a better left foot than Hakim Ziyech…
— Bet.co.za (@betcoza) June 22, 2019
Although the forward could not help Morocco beyond the second round of the AFCON, he had shown enough evidence over the past year or two that he’s better than anyone Arsenal has down the wings.
The 26-year-old is a better dribbler than Mesut Ozil and his 16 goals plus 13 assists clearly reveal he’s a better creator than the German midfielder who only contributed a miserly 5 goals and 2 assists throughout the season.
£26 million-rated Ziyech is a no-brainer for Arsenal.
The Nigerian youngster had a tournament to remember in Egypt and has been touted as a star for the future.
Samuel Chukwueze is the youngest goalscorer at the 2019 AFCON at the age of 20 years, 50 days. pic.twitter.com/BGneAV96KX
— Africa Facts Zone (@AfricaFactsZone) July 11, 2019
The Villarreal winger terrorised La Liga defenders endlessly last term and showed at the AFCON that he can produce the goods even on a larger stage.
Crucially for Arsenal, he would cost only half as much as Ziyech but with the potential to do better than Wilfried Zaha.
The Algerian did not just help his nation win the Africa Cup of Nations title for the second time ever and the first time in nearly three decades, he also helped himself to the Player of the Tournament Award.
Ismaël Bennacer’s AFCON by numbers:
16 fouls won
12 take-ons completed
10 tackles made
5 chances created
1 winners’ medal
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 22, 2019
That’s no mean feat. To emerge as the top performer at a competition that also had the likes of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, teammate Riyad Mahrez and Wilfried Zaha, speaks volume of the ability of a midfielder who is only 21 years old.
It should not pose any serious issue for the Gunners to bring back home one of their former trainees who could adequately replace Aaron Ramsey who left for Juventus.
The Empoli man created 3 goals for others from midfield and is one of Serie A’s most accomplished dribblers. Bennacer is as good offensively as he is defensively and would bring stability to the Arsenal team that few others can.
Senegal’s Kalidou Koulibaly was undoubtedly the best defender at the 32nd edition of the AFCON but not too far behind was Morocco’s Saiss.
The Wolves defender was immense during the group stages and it was through no fault of his that the Atlas Lions got knocked out on penalties by the Benin Republic in the Round of 16.
— bouchra ⚫️⚪️ 🇲🇦 (@sira162) June 25, 2019
The versatile centre-back, who can also do a decent job as a defensive midfielder, is a player who rarely loses an aerial duel, and is a tough tackler.
With the North Londoners preparing to lose their captain and long-time defence marshal, bringing Romain Saiss for less than 10 million will help plug that hole.