Arsene Wenger is known for his left-field transfers. On more than one occasion, he has confounded the press by swooping for a previously unheard-of player. Young striker Paul-Georges Ntep would be another name for the list of surprise Arsenal signings. Faced with the difficulties of the January market, Wenger might be about to gamble on a rough diamond.
Ntep plays for Auxerre in France's second division—the same club from which Arsenal signed Yaya Sanogo last summer. According to Alan Wilson of The Mirror, Ntep could soon be "on his way" to following in Sanogo's footsteps and cites reports in France Football suggesting that the Gunners are competing with German team Borussia Moenchengladbach for Ntep's signature.
The Independent's Samuel Stevens claims that Ntep could command an £8 million fee. In the last 24 hours, significant fuel has been poured onto this speculative fire.
First, Ntep posted an Instagram picture of himself catching the Eurostar to London for an unspecified purpose.
Then, in an intriguing twist, Rennes academy player Ousmane Dembele tweeted claiming that Ntep would sign for Arsenal before immediately joining Ligue 1 Rennes on loan.
While these pieces of evidence are hardly the most concrete, they have caused the rumours to spiral into a storm.
Perhaps the reason the story has so much momentum is that Ntep feels like a very typical Arsene Wenger signing. As mentioned, Wenger has an excellent relationship with Auxerre. In the past, he has signed the likes of Bacary Sagna, Abou Diaby and Sanogo from the Burgundy outfit.
Ntep also fits the profile of the sort of attacker Arsene Wenger loves working with. He is tall, powerful and lightning-quick. Like Thierry Henry, he has spent most of the early period of his career on the wing, but he appears to have the basic attributes required to play through the middle.
Wenger's admiration of Ntep is already a matter of public knowledge. According to The Metro, Wenger told French television: "Paul Georges Ntep has the potential to have a great future. It all depends on his mind, but he is a great prospect."
Wenger has also suggested that signing a young player might be Arsenal's best chance of recruiting in the January transfer market. After the FA Cup third-round victory over Tottenham, Wenger said to the Daily Mail (via Sky Sports), "If we find someone like Serge Gnabry at that age when no-one knows them, then maybe [we will sign them]."
Ntep would fit the bill. Although almost entirely unknown in England, he has the potential to become a household name in the years to come.
However, suggestions he could be allowed to remain in France on loan will temper any excitement among the Arsenal fans. Even if he were to move over to London, Ntep's relative inexperience raises question marks over his ability to contribute to Arsenal's 2013/14 title charge.
Acquiring Ntep would not eliminate the need for a striker who is ready to provide immediate support and competition for Olivier Giroud.
It's good to know that Wenger still has an eye on the future. However, Arsenal also need someone who is ready to contribute in the present.