How many right-backs does one club need? Having lost Bacary Sagna to Manchester City on a free transfer, Arsenal appear to be on the verge of signing Mathieu Debuchy as a replacement. ITV claim the deal could be complete imminently.
The right-back recruitment drive doesn't stop there: David Kent of the Daily Mail suggests the club are "closing in" on Spaniard Javi Manquillo. Given that the club already have the promising pair of Carl Jenkinson and Hector Bellerin on the books, the Gunners appear to be well-stocked in that area.
It's something of a surprise then to see Arsenal offering a trial to Ahmed Fathy. BBC Sport say the former Sheffield United man has travelled to England to join up with the London club's training camp.
The name may be familiar to some Arsenal fans. Ten years ago, he came over for a similar trial period. Now, a decade later, he's back.
At first glance, it's a surprising move. A 29-year-old who has spent the majority of his career in the Egyptian league does not immediately seem the answer to any of Arsenal’s existing defensive problems. What’s more, there’s no numerical deficiency at right-back. Even if Arsenal fail to land Manquillo, they have plenty of depth in that position.
One possible explanation is that Arsene Wenger is already aware that one or two of his current full-backs will leave the club, albeit temporarily, this summer. Back in March, Dave Kidd of The Mirror reported that Jenkinson would move on loan this summer to gain experience of first-team football. It seems plausible that Bellerin could do the same.
That, after all, is the perceived logic behind the attempt to sign Manquillo. The youngster is seen as someone who could challenge Jenkinson to follow Debuchy. Even before Debuchy’s signing has been finalised, a succession plan is being put in place.
It’s plausible that Fathy is regarded as a cheap alternative should Atletico insist on holding onto their Spanish youth international. Fathy is, after all, a known quantity, and Wenger has had him on his radar for quite some time.
Were he to sign for Arsenal, he’d bring experience and versatility to the defensive unit. Fathy is nominally a right-back, but he can also play as a holding midfielder. He’s not the tallest, but he has been known to fill in at centre-back, too. That’s an area in which Arsenal are particularly light at the moment.
However, it would come as a surprise if this trial were to prove successful. Wenger is renowned as a generous man who is fiercely loyal to players he has encountered in the past. It’s entirely possible that this "trial period" is merely a favour to Fathy, allowing him to raise his profile in England as he seeks the last major transfer of his career.
It helps Arsenal out, too. With the likes of Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen yet to return from post-World Cup holidays, Arsenal barely have a senior defender to call on. This weekend, they begin their preseason fixtures with a match against Hertfordshire side Borehamwood.
Fathy’s presence ensures that the Gunners will have an international defender to call upon, if required. He might well just be making up the numbers.
That doesn't mean he has no chance of a move. Wenger is nothing if not open-minded. He allowed Mathieu Flamini to join training on a similar basis last summer to keep his fitness up. Within a matter of weeks, the midfielder had signed a two-year deal with the club.
However, this trial seems born primarily out of convenience. It's unlikely to result in a permanent move. Nevertheless, both the player and the club will benefit. Enjoy the sight of Fathy in an Arsenal shirt while you can—it's unlikely to last.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout next season. Follow him on Twitter here.
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