Arsenal have made some very astute signings in the transfer window thus far, particularly with the marquee addition of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona.
However, one area in which they are still weak is defensive midfield. And it looks as though they are set to miss out on long-term target Sami Khedira from Real Madrid after Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti insisted the German international was going nowhere, per Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail:
"He’s not leaving, he’s a Real Madrid player. He has a contract until June 30, 2015 and that’s all there is to say."
Reports now suggest that Cheick Tiote is eager for a move away from current club Newcastle, with Arsenal supposedly interested in signing the Ivorian, per Alex Harris of the Express:
According to reports, the Ivory Coast midfielder's representatives are willing to discuss offers and the club would reluctantly cash in if their valuation is met. The 28-year-old is interesting a host of clubs in Russia, Germany and Spain and he has also been linked with Arsenal.
Harris reports Tiote's value at £8 million, vastly cheaper than the £24 million mooted by Ashton for Khedira and the £37 million buyout clause on alternative Gunners midfield target William Carvalho of Sporting Lisbon, per ESPN FC's James McNicholas.
But it is not simply decent value that makes the 28-year-old an excellent target for Arsenal as they attempt to complete their business ahead of the weekend's Premier League start.
He is vastly experienced at the Premier League level, having moved to Newcastle from Dutch club Twente in 2010 and possesses a physicality and aggression often lacking from Arsenal's play, illustrated here by Opta's fouling stats:
66 - Cheick Tioté committed the most fouls in the 2013-14 Premier League. Naughty.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 12, 2014
While committing fouls is not necessarily a good thing, it does show that Tiote is prepared to "get stuck in" in a way that more recent Arsenal sides often don't.
The Gunners are often criticised for a lack of backbone, which Tiote's arrival would help resolve. He is an imposing ball-winner and could bring some Patrick Vieira-style aggression to the Emirates, which so defined Arsenal's silverware-laden era around the turn of the century.
However, that is not to say that Tiote is merely a brute; he is also an excellent passer of the ball, as proven by his Premier League stats from last season, per the division's Twitter feed:
TOP 5 PASSES COMPLETED: 1 Y Toure 2255, 2 M Arteta 1982, 3 S Gerrard 1908, 4 G Barry 1870, 5 C Tiote 1824 pic.twitter.com/gR0SdqvbV5— Premier League (@premierleague) May 12, 2014
He would fit well into Arsenal's possession-based style of play and could work effectively in releasing the Gunners' attacking players, including the likes of Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud.
According to TEAMtalk, Tiote's 121 passes for the Magpies against Crystal Palace in March was the most in a single game by an individual player during the Premier League season, a significant stat for a team like Arsenal.
There is, admittedly, an issue with indiscipline and inconsistency when it comes to Tiote, as football statistician and writer Matt Smith points out.
However, this is a problem which Gunners boss Arsene Wenger would no doubt be able to deal with better than Tiote's previous managers due to his wealth of experience.
Should Arsenal pursue the signing of Tiote?
At £8 million, Tiote looks like a bargain. He is still young enough that he could potentially play for the Gunners for some time yet, and he would bolster a defensive unit recently weakened by the departure of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona.
For all the flair players in the world, a winning team must have someone who can protect the defence and begin attacks from deep. Tiote could provide this and potentially be a key player for Arsenal next season.