Unai Emery set to make midfielder his first summer signing

Arsenal could be set to move for France international, Steven N’zonzi.

There are still doubts about the futures of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, although the latter has been offered a new five-year deal. In any case, depth will be needed with another Europa League campaign meaning a season of at least 46 games and – in the most extreme possible scenario – as many as 70.

Emery will be aware of the solidity that N’Zonzi brings to midfields having worked with him at Sevilla. Reports from the Mirror suggest that Emery has won over the club hierarchy and more specifically, head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, who voted against the move in January when he wanted the club to sign Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure instead.

N’Zonzi will need no time to adapt to the Premier League, having played for Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City. Since leaving the Potteries, his old club have regressed hugely without the necessary tenacity in midfield while he has become one of the best midfielders in Spain.

The 29-year-old has made 131 appearances for Sevilla since joining them in 2015, chipping in with eight goals. More importantly in terms of his position though, he has won this season 102 aerial duels – the second-most for a central midfielder in La Liga. He has won an impressive 39 (80%) of the 49 tackles he has attempted, whereas the vast majority of players in similar positions are only able to win between around 60% and 70% of their challenges.

By contrast, Arsenal didn’t have a single midfielder last season who won more aerial duels that Ramsey’s eight while Granit Xhaka, who attempted 121 tackles, only won 64% of them and therefore left the centre-backs exposed when they were miscalculated.

N’Zonzi would therefore add some much-needed presence to the midfield and his simplistic use of the ball – top nine in La Liga for accurate short passes – will help the construction of quick attacks that more advanced players can take further.

The ex-Amiens man is currently with the France squad and will be hoping to conclude a deal quickly, so that he can focus solely on challenging Blaise Matuidi and N’Golo Kante to start the opener against Australia on 16th June.

N’Zonzi would certainly bring unique qualities to Arsenal’s midfield and for Emery, signing him this summer is a major priority.


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