Amid the rumours of Real Madrid centre-forward Alvaro Morata joining Arsenal, per Guillem Balague at Bleacher Report, could Reims winger Floyd Ayite be the Gunners' surprise summer transfer signing? Here is a scouting report on Ayite, a 25-year-old Togolese international.
Why Ayite To Arsenal Could Happen
Ayite has yet to extend his expiring contract with Reims and is on course to exercise his Bosman rights in the summer transfer window, when he will be able to sign with any club on a Bosman (free) transfer.
Reims manager Hubert Fournier believes that attacker Floyd Ayité will leave the club at the end of the season. #SDR— Get French Football (@GFN_France) February 15, 2014
One consistent theme in Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's transfer philosophy is taking advantage of the landmark Jean-Marc Bosman ruling, in particular, targeting free agents from French clubs.
Remi Garde, signed on the same day as Patrick Vieira in 1996, was Arsenal's first-ever free transfer in a post-Bosman era in (signed from Strasbourg), per Arsenal's official website.
Garde was riddled with guilt as his body betrayed him during his stint with the Gunners.
"I was so fed up of the treatment table," Garde said, per Patrick Barclay at the Telegraph. "You feel [culpability] when you cannot give something to the team."
Garde's bittersweet experience convinced him to retire and step into management.
He is currently the manager of Lyon.
Four years later, Nimes management caused a kerfuffle when Wenger convinced Nimes' 19-year-old prospect, Guy Demel, to sign with Arsenal on a free transfer.
Nimes likened Arsenal's act to "kidnapping" while lamenting Demel's short-sighted decision.
"I'll eat a horse if Demel plays in the [Arsenal] first team or in the [UEFA] Champions League in the next two years," then Nimes football director Pierre Mosca said, per OneFootball.com (h/t BBC Sport). "We'll see in a year or two but I'm sceptical."
In 2003, Lens stalwart Guillaume Warmuz, who had played over 300 games for the French club, was in a contractual standoff.
Wenger stepped in and signed Warmuz for free on a short-term basis to back up David Seaman, per the Times.
Warmuz was only a squad player and moved to Dortmund that same year as Jens Lehmann signed with the Gunners from Dortmund.
Marseille took Arsenal to court when 20-year-old midfielder Mathieu Flamini enforced his Bosman right to sign with Arsenal in 2004.
FIFA ratified the transfer, and Marseille appealed, but the the Court of Arbitration dismissed the appeal, per BBC Sport.
Flamini left Arsenal on a free transfer to AC Milan before leaving the Rossoneri to rejoin the Gunners on a free transfer.
In 2010, after a protracted transfer saga, Bordeaux centre-forward Marouane Chamakh signed with Arsenal on a free transfer.
Bordeaux could have received £7 million, as West Ham United had lodged that amount for Chamakh, per Jason Burt at the Telegraph.
Arsenal could have easily stumped up £5 to £7 million, and it is another example of Wenger being prophetic in evaluating a player's true transfer stock.
Chamakh scored eight Premier League goals from 60 shots during his time with the Gunners. He now plays for Crystal Palace.
Yaya Sanogo, an athletic 6'4" No. 9 signed from Auxerre in 2013, is a low-risk, high-reward free transfer.
His quality is not the issue, as the million dollar question is: Can Sanogo's body hold up to the rigours of Premier League football? He has never played 25 league games or more in a season.
The reason why it is a low risk is because he is not expected to be playing week in, week out.
So considering these previous examples of Wenger targeting free agents from French clubs, it is possible that the mercurial Ayite might be a summer transfer target for Arsenal.
What Ayite Does Well
Ayite, whose career has been revamped by Reims manager Hubert Fournier, has played on both flanks.
What makes Ayite worthy of being an Arsenal player is his all-round attacking playing style.
My, oh my. That control by Floyd Ayite after a 40 yard pass… Beautiful— FFW (@FrenchFtWeekly) September 29, 2013
He averages more dribbles per game (1.7) than Monaco's James Rodriguez (1.5) and registers more key passes per game (1.8; pass that leads to a shot) than Paris Saint-Germain's €45 million man, Lucas Moura (1.6).
|Ligue 1 Only||Ayite||League Rank|
|Key Passes Per Game||1.8||12|
|Dribbles Per Game||1.7||6|
Ayite can turn on a dime, and his moment of individual skill during Reims' 2-1 win exposed Guingamp centre-back Gregory Cerdan.
Ayite's speed, combined with a neat finish, turned out to be the winning goal.
It is not the first time that he has conjured up a sublime match-turning act: Last season, he exquisitely curled a ball past Nancy goalkeeper Damien Gregorini.
Another element to Ayite's game is his elite crossing ability from corners.
In a 4-1 win over Ajaccio, right-back Aissa Mandi made a late run into the box, dragging two Ajaccio players with him, which left a gap.
Reims centre-forward Gaetan Charbonnier made a curled run to get to the vacant spot.
Ayite delivered a corner with enough hang time and the right amount of velocity to reach Charbonnier, who hit an outstanding volley past Ajaccio goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
During a 3-2 win over Marseille, Ayite slipped in a precise low corner to Mads Alback, who rocketed a shot with minimal back-lift past Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda.
Reims central midfielder Prince Oniangue was the benefactor of another excellent corner from Ayite in a 1-1 draw against Valenciennes.
Ayite has not scored or created a goal in four combined Ligue 1 games against Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco and Lille this season, so he needs to show up in big games.
He went through a six-game stretch when he did not register a goal or an assist in Ligue 1, which is a sign of inconsistency.
Prior to this season, Ayite was under the radar—he did not make an impression at Nancy, was a bit-part player at Bordeaux and only scored two goals in 23 league games for Reims last season.
Though, this time period coincided with him still trying to move on from the terrorist attack on the Togo team bus, which killed assistant manager Amelete Abalo, press officer Stanislas Ocloo and bus driver Mario Adjoua, per ESPN FC.
Ayite's teammate, goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale, was forced into retirement and largely abandoned by the suits controlling African football, per Piers Edwards at BBC Sport.
Togo GK Obilale wheel-chair bound after CAN attack in Angola. Little financial help from Togo FA. Adebayor paying his medical bills.— Gabriele Marcotti (@Marcotti) September 24, 2010
The tragic circumstances may have affected Ayite's performances
"As soon as I doze off I hear again the shots, the machine guns, the rockets," Ayite said in 2010, per France Bleu (h/t Sky Sports). "I will never be able to forget this tragedy but I have to manage to live with it better."
Four years on, Ayite is showing glimpses that he can make the payroll of a top European club.
Bottom Line: In the scenario that Arsenal sign Ayite on a free transfer, he would be a handy squad player.
Statistics via WhoScored.