With their hopes dwindling, and the hazard of missing Champions League play for the first time since 1996 becoming dangerously plausible, Arsenal have, unsurprisingly, been linked to a myriad of players in this year's transfer window.
Midfielders are currently all the rage for Arsene Wenger and Co., with numerous reports detailing their interest in Yoann Gourcuff and Victor Wanyama (via The Daily Mail). But it's another, slightly less sought after midfield commodity that Arsenal should be targeting this January.
West Ham United's Mohamed Diame.
Per The Daily Mail, Arsenal scouted the 25-year-old midfielder in the past week, David Kent continuing on to say:
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has long been an admirer and Rafa Benitez also likes the 25-year-old, a view reinforced by Diame's goal and game-changing appearance from the bench when West Ham beat Chelsea 3-1 in the Premier League last month.
In yesterday's column, I explored Arsenal's interest in defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Saying that they should also pursue Diame is not a way to hedge that bet—it's an extension of my point.
Arsenal is, and will continue to be, hard-pressed to keep scoring with the likes of Manchester and Chelsea. They can, and have, come close, but they can't bank on that as a tenable solution. If they want to ensure consistent finishes in the top fifth of the table, they need to make defense their identity.
Mikel Arteta, a smooth-stroking Spaniard, has presently taken over as the Gunners' "destroyer," but ultimately has the wrong mien to handle that position. He's a sponge where Diame is a brick wall, which makes his game aesthetically pleasing, but he doesn't posses the requisite skills for guiding a Premier League defensive midfield.
It's a point Ewan Roberts argued deftly on Goal.com, as part of a discussion on how Diame fits in at Arsenal:
Diame is an uber-physical, ground-gobbling whirlwind, far removed from the often passive Arteta. The Spaniard’s football ability resides in his head, not his body. He is a footballer first and an athlete second (and at 30 years old, he is no spring chicken) – the opposite is true of Diame, though the former Wigan player is deceptively elegant on the ball.
The Senegalese midfielder has engaged in ground duels almost twice as often as Arteta, and attempted a tackle every 19 minutes (compared to 25 minutes for the Spaniard). While Arteta has been dribbled past 22 times, Diame has only been beaten on seven occasions.
Don't be fooled into thinking Diame would only help the Gunners on defense, though. It would, surely, be the area he most lends a hand to, but he could assist the Gunners' attack as well. Roberts continues:
Additionally, 36% of Diame’s passes are forward, and he has completed 33 of 58 dribbles – a significant improvement on Arteta’s 12 attempted dribbles. Diame is a player who could provide more forward impetus, driving towards goal, breaching the midfield bank and removing them from the next stage of construction.
Relieving Arteta of his post as "destroyer" would furthermore allow him to play in other, more-suitable-to-his-skillset areas. They'd be gaining a strong defender while simultaneously unleashing a recently stifled attacker.
Whereas other purported Arsenal targets would help in one particular area—typically attack—Diame is a threat on both sides of half. He's a rough-and-tumble defender first and foremost, though, which is exactly what Arsenal need. He wouldn't just introduce a new, dynamic presence to the pitch; he'd also represent a sea-change shift of focus toward the defensive side of the ball.
With the bargain price of £3.5m on his release clause, it's hard to see why the Gunners wouldn't make a move.