Predictably, there has been a lot of buzz during this World Cup about Arsenal signing any number of notable, high-priced players who have shone on the globe's biggest stage. But the Gunners have a very specific set of criteria they need to satisfy when making their summer signings.
Everyone who followed Arsenal closely last season can see that there are only three areas in which the team absolutely needs reinforcement: striker, right-back and defensive midfielder.
In each case, the rationale for addition is plain to see.
Olivier Giroud clearly could not handle the unfair burden of playing almost every meaningful game up front for the entire season with virtually no back-up. He is quite good when on form, but the Gunners need a measurable injection of quality to both relieve the Frenchman's burden and improve the team.
The deficit at right-back is fairly obvious. Bacary Sagna, who has been an utter stalwart on that flank for several years and was one of the only bastions of stability in an often fragile team, is off to Manchester City and Carl Jenkinson is the only senior player left who can play the position.
Yet Arsenal's need for a new defensive midfielder is, while clear, a bit more nuanced than the other two holes in the squad.
In fact, unlike those, there are already two players in the squad who can play the holding role in the 4-3-3 formation that the Gunners usually play.
Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini can both do the job, though in diametrically opposite ways. The former is a relatively small but tactically adroit metronome and distributor who is a master at retaining possession and keeping play moving.
Flamini takes a completely different approach and has an entirely dissimilar skill set. The Frenchman is a pure bulldozer and battering ram, using brawn and grit to muscle opponents off the ball. His technical skill is marginalized by the brute force that Arsenal otherwise lack.
Arsenal's problem is that they do not have a single player who combines the best attributes of Arteta and Flamini. Moreover, all their title rivals do.
Chelsea have two in John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic, who is a rising star at Stamford Bridge. Manchester City have Yaya Toure and Fernandinho. Manchester United have Michael Carrick. Liverpool don't have a single player quite that versatile but Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson can work in various pairs to fill the role.
Thus, the press' links with one World Cup star seem justified. And if they are not, they should be.
Since Southampton's promotion to the Premier League a couple seasons ago, Morgan Schneiderlin has been one of the linchpins in a side that has consistently over-performed. Along with Adam Lallana, the Frenchman has been an essential part of one of the most surprisingly successful midfields in the Premier League.
One of Schneiderlin's most valuable attributes (to Arsenal, at least) is obvious simply by looking at him: He's big, at 5'11", and strong. Unlike many other defensive midfielders Arsenal may sign this summer, he has a proven record of success in the Premier League, the most physically demanding in the world.
Most importantly, Schneiderlin has that most coveted and rare trait in a defensive midfielder that Arsenal do not have and their English and European rivals do: the marrying of brawn with technical skill.
Arsene Wenger plays Arteta—who is beginning to slow down and get a little long in the tooth at 32—in almost every game because the Spaniard is excellent at finding the best simple pass to play and keeping the attack moving. Schneiderlin does the exact same thing for Southampton.
And he is just 24 years old. Wenger has ample time to nurture his talent and make him one of the most dynamic and versatile defensive midfielders in the Premier League. His best years are ahead of him, and he will bound to get better under Le Professeur's tutelage and while playing in a superior team.
Southampton will no doubt fight Schneiderlin's sale to another English team, especially in a summer that looks to be tumultuous for them. But Arsenal have all summer to wear down the Saints' defenses, and a £20-25 million fee is certainly not out of the Gunners' financial reach.
Javi Martinez, Sami Khedira and Lars Bender are all very talented and expensive, but none present as much value or as much upside as Morgan Schneiderlin.
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