Arsenal have reportedly turned to Torino's Alessio Cerci to offset the injury to Olivier Giroud and potential departure of Lukas Podolski, and the Italian forward would be the perfect solution to the Gunners' front-line conundrum.
The Italy international has been the subject of transfer speculation all summer, as he was widely expected to join AC Milan. The Rossoneri have yet to make an official offer, however, and Torino president Urbano Cairo has started listening to offers from foreign clubs, as he told La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t to Football-italia.net):
Since we last met, Milan sold Mario Balotelli. My club’s books are balanced, so I don’t need to sell anyone, but if a player has ambitions then I won’t clip his wings.
If the agreement is very good for us and for Cerci, then fine. If not, I am holding on tight to Alessio. What does Galliani (Milan CEO) think about that? He’s stingy... They are looking for Cerci abroad too, not only the clubs that have appeared in the newspapers. Yesterday a new request arrived.
Cerci would be the second high-profile attacker to leave Torino in the summer of 2014 following the sale of partner Ciro Immobile to Borussia Dortmund, but I Granata seem to be willing to cash in on their top star now.
Immobile was the breakout star of the 2013-14 season but any fan of Italian football will tell you he owed much of his success to the man playing around him.
Cerci is a versatile forward who spent most of his career out on the left wing but shone as a second striker for Torino. According to WhoScored.com, he scored 13 goals and laid on 10 assists during the 2013-14 Serie A season, great numbers for a league known for its strong defensive teams.
James Horncastle broke down his 2013-14 season for WhoScored, noting how he contributed to the team's output in a wide array of areas:
Only two players created more clear cut chances (11) and only two had more shots from counter-attacking situations (13) than Cerci did in Serie A last season. He also put in 260 crosses, the second most in the league behind only Antonio Candreva. It’s not hard to see why he is so highly regarded. Spanish champions Atlético Madrid are said to have put a €16m proposal on the table for him. Their Italian director of sport Andrea Berta is keen to give Diego Simeone a trident of Antoine Griezmann, Mario Mandzukic and him.
It's important to note Torino's squad was widely regarded as a mid-table team at best. The partnership of Cerci and Immobile powered them all the way to the Europa League qualifiers, a competition he is yet to feature in this year.
Cerci isn't a young prospect, and at the age of 27, he'll likely never become a superstar, or a world-class player. What he brings to the table is pace, an excellent nose for goal, a high work rate and the versatility to line up all over the offensive front.
That last bit is key. Cerci is the ultimate Swiss Army knife when it comes to the forward positions. He can provide depth on either wing, as a second striker and even as an out-and-out striker. He's an excellent dribbler and set-piece specialist, and he has a knack for scoring long-range goals.
He could realistically replace the injured Giroud, but it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest the Frenchman would have a real fight for the starting position on his hands once he returns. Giroud's knowledge of the system should give him the edge, but at that point, Cerci's versatility would come into play.
Need someone to fill in on the wing due to injury? Check. In need of a late goal against a tired defence? Watch him fly by his marker with blazing speed. Want to switch to the counter-attack? The duo of Cerci and Alexis Sanchez is the stuff of nightmares.
Sheridan Bird scouted Cerci for the Daily Mirror last season, and his assessment was very simple: "Has the talent to be a Premier League star."
If Wenger truly is desperate for offensive reinforcements, the Gunners could do a lot worse than the criminally underrated Cerci.
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