Arsenal and Liverpool have tussled for top spot in the Premier League this season, but now a new battle is emerging between the two clubs for Anderlecht defender Cheikhou Kouyate.
The agent of Kouyate, 24, says talks have been held with both Premier League clubs for the player’s signature.
Colin Harvey of the Daily Star quotes Saffet Balkan saying:
I have been in talks with representatives from Liverpool and Arsenal over Cheikhou Kouyate.
Arsenal are very interested in Kouyate. It’s very likely that he’ll be joining a Premier League club soon.
Reading between the lines, Balkan appears to hint Arsenal are favourites for Kouyate’s signature. With the January transfer window now open, it is entirely realistic to think a deal will be struck by the end of the month.
Certainly a move to Arsenal, rather than Liverpool, would make most sense for the player. The Gunners are short on defensive cover, whereas Liverpool have a plethora of central options.
Thomas Vermaelen is the only natural cover for Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker at Emirates Stadium.
|Arsenal vs. Liverpool centre-back options|
|Laurent Koscielny||Martin Skrtel|
|Per Mertesacker||Daniel Agger|
|Thomas Vermaelen||Mamadou Sakho|
|Bacary Sagna||Kolo Toure|
By contrast, Liverpool have lost Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Agger to injury, yet still have the likes of Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Tiago Ilori and Martin Kelly as first-team options.
According to a November report from Metro’s Jamie Sanderson, Kouyate has been told he can leave Anderlecht this winter:
It appears it could be third time lucky for (Arsene) Wenger with Anderlecht now admitting that they will sell the imposing centre back when the transfer window re-opens.
'We expect to keep our star players, but Kouyate could leave,' said boss Herman Van Holsbeeck.
Physically impressive at 6’ 4”, Kouyate is the type of defender Wenger both likes and needs.
In the past, the Arsenal boss has opted for domineering figures in the likes of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure at the heart of his defence, and Kouyate would bring similar qualities.
A Senegal international of five caps, Kouyate has made 25 appearances across the Belgian top flight and Champions League this term, per WhoScored.com.
He has picked up one red card and two bookings during that time, but rarely gets beaten by an opponent, allowing forwards to dribble past him at an average of 0.3 times per game this term.
His Champions League involvement means Kouyate would only be limited to domestic action, but that would allow Wenger to rest his other centre-backs, particularly in the FA Cup.
Should Kouyate choose Liverpool, it would represent Brendan Rodgers’ continued intent to raise standards at the club as the Reds pursue a top-four spot this season.
It appears Kouyate has a choice, and based on form he can select from two clubs very much on the rise. But if he wants first-team football quickly, Arsenal should be his pick.