Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has opted to spend the month commentating on the World Cup for French television. It’s not just a cushy summer job; from his spot in the gantry, he is able to cast his eye over a variety of matches and potential transfer targets.
As part of his contractual obligations, Wenger was enlisted to offer his opinion on France’s second-round victory over Nigeria. As he did so, he couldn’t have failed to notice the impressive performance of substitute Antoine Griezmann.
Griezmann was introduced at the expense of current Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud around the hour-mark. His impact was almost immediate. His mobility and intelligent runs were in stark contrast to the turgid performance offered by Giroud.
Griezmann introduced variety and unpredictability to the French attack, persistently dragging Nigerian defenders across the width of the pitch. A France side that had looked a little one-dimensional suddenly exploded into life.
Those who’ve watched Griezmann throughout 2013/14 could not have been surprised. That kind of devious running was the hallmark of his electric performances for Real Sociedad. WhoScored.com shows that he notched 16 La Liga goals in 35 appearances. For a player who is not a conventional striker, that is a remarkable record.
A left-winger is not top of Arsenal’s requirement list this summer. Having released Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna and Nicklas Bendtner, they need a right-back and a goalkeeper as well as a centre-forward. However, Lukas Podolski has never quite convinced on the left side of the Arsenal attack. It’s not impossible that Wenger could consider jettisoning the German in order to recruit Griezmann.
The Arsenal boss is a confirmed admirer of the 23-year-old. Speaking in March, Wenger is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying:
"We are following him [Griezmann] in great detail. He attracts other clubs as well but we follow him, he is a known commodity."
Earlier this summer, Arsenal agreed a deal to give up their option on Real Sociedad’s Carlos Vela. The Spanish side now own the Mexican forward outright. It would be a huge surprise if, during those discussions, the subject of Griezmann did not come up.
Although Griezmann replaced Giroud against Nigeria, it’s easy enough to imagine how they might play together. Giroud is a traditional No. 9, capable of playing with his back to goal and bringing others into play. Griezmann would flourish playing off such a pivot, drifting infield to meet Giroud’s neat lay-offs and smart flicks.
Wenger may even have designs on converting Griezmann into a modern centre-forward. Under Wenger’s tutelage, Thierry Henry made the switch from graceful left-winger to deadly goalscorer. Griezmann has the brain and the technique to make a similar positional switch.
At this stage it’s purely speculative. No significant business will take place at Arsenal until the World Cup is over, and Wenger’s commentary duties with it. However, when the Gunners boss returns to England, he might attempt to bring Griezmann with him. On the evidence of his displays in Brazil, he is an Arsenal player in the making.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent and is reporting from his World Cup base in Brazil.