2006 should have been the pinnacle of Arsene Wenger’s career. His club had made it to the Champions League final, only to be pipped by Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona. His squad, meanwhile, was splattered with youthful prospects who seemed ready to usurp the Invincibles. Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb were at the vanguard of his latest revolution, ready to lead the club into a stadium that he had a hand in forging.
The same year, Sven Mislintat was appointed as Head Scout for Borussia Dortmund. The man known as ‘Diamond Eye’ could never have predicted, merely a decade later, he would be charged with rejuvenating Wenger’s broken legacy. Overseen diligently by Ivan Gazidis, the dishevelled talent spotter has a busy few months ahead, as he rebuilds a playing squad that has failed to win away from home in 2018. With that in mind, here are five possible targets he could land in the summer.
REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen
A graduate of the famed Altinordu academy in Turkey, Caglar Soyuncu has had a riveting year in the Bundesliga with Freiburg. Despite his young age of 21, the Turkish international has proven himself as one of the most adept centre backs in the German league, and his all-action style is reminiscent of a certain Carles Puyol.
Soyuncu has already attracted overtures from Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich, but Arsenal should go all-out for his signature. A partnership with Konstantinos Mavropanos, another youthful Mislintat signing, could finally plug the holes in the Gunners’ gaping defence.
Regular viewers of the Premier League will be well-acquainted with Wilfred Ndidi. Chances are, the Nigerian has crashed into one of your clubs’ players with a succulent tackle, or nipped in ahead of your team’s playmaker to nab possession.
The 21-year-old has flourished in lieu of N’Golo Kante, regularly appearing at the top of the tackles made statistics in England. He is too good to slug it out in Leicester’s battle royale for a mid-table finish, however, and Arsenal could do far worse than him if they wish to add some much-needed balance to their midfield.
Julian Nagelsmann is a magnet for acclaim, but it’s often to the detriment of a talented Hoffenheim squad. The club’s prized asset is Kerem Demirbay, the German international midfielder who boasts a technique and vision that few can better in the Bundesliga. Despite his slight frame, Demirbay possess a potent shot and an excoriating pass. His contract might recently have been extended until 2022, but make no mistake, Demirbay will be departing Sinsheim before long.
If Arsenal can get in ahead of the pro-German Liverpool, the 24-year-old would offer an instant upgrade on Granit Xhaka. What’s more, the competition for a place should enliven the complacent Swiss, whose drifting performances have been allowed to go unpunished for far too long.
Bernd Leno might be the name on Mislintat’s radar, but the German goalkeeper is decidedly error-prone and would present somewhat of a risk for a club that has a tradition with errant stoppers. Venezuela’s Wuilker Farinez, however, would offer a far more interesting bet.
A forward for much of his young career, he was his country’s star performer at the most recent Under 20s World Cup. He is impressively agile and proactive, capable of dominating the box despite his comparative lack of height. With David Ospina likely to depart in search of first team football, Farinez would represent smart money in the longer term.
Napoli almost did it. A last-gasp win over Juventus looked to send the race for the Serie A title down to the wire, but poor results against Fiorentina and Torino finally put paid to their hopes. After such a bitter disappointment, the club is sure to change. Maurizio Sarri is almost certain to depart in the summer, but several clubs will be sniffing around right back Elseid Hysaj too.
The Albanian is a raucous presence going forward, whilst he is iron-cast defensively in comparison to show pony Hector Bellerin. A fee in excess of £40 million might be impractical for a club with a limited transfer budget, but Arsenal’s weakness on the right flank cannot be overestimated. Hysaj would be an immediate and lasting fix to the club's most glaring problem.
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