For the whole of the January Transfer Window, Arsenal were linked with a central midfielder, they obviously needed, in Arthur Melo. At that time, with Partey and Elneny away on international duty and Xhaka serving a three-match ban, the need was obvious. Now with all three players available again, and with Arteta having all four of his senior central midfielders available to him. Arsenal are seemingly linked with another central midfielder, for whom the need is less evident.
The media are suggesting that the club is keen to revive an interest (first held during Emery’s tenure) in RB Leipzig’s French U21 international Christopher Nkunku. At 24, approaching his peak, but with improvement still to be coached Nkunku certainly fits the profile of recent Edu/Arteta signings. The slight oddity in the link for us is that the player is clearly an attacking midfielder, rather than a central midfielder, which – with Xhaka approaching 30 – seems a higher priority. Perhaps the other rumoured target, Ruben Neves, is the player to replace the Swiss skipper and Nkunku more to provide competition for Odegaard, Saka and Smith-Rowe. If so, that truly would spell the end of the line at Arsenal for Nicolas Pepe.
Certainly, the Frenchman, who Arsenal could have picked up from PSG in 2019, will cost a lot more in the summer of 2022, with his current form seeing strong calls for his promotion to the French World Cup squad. With a stunning return of 10 goals and 7 assists in 20 Bundesliga appearances for Leipzig, it is not hard to see why Arsenal might be interested, although I doubt we are alone tracking the exciting young star. Indeed, last year Liverpool were also reported to be interested.
However, it seems the pathway will not be simple as the Managing Director of Leipzig, in response to rumoured interest in his prize asset from North London, has insisted that the German club has no intention of selling Nkunku this summer. Oliver Mintzlaff was also quoted in his interview with Sky Germany as saying however that “In football, nothing is certain – but that is our plan.”
The reality might be that Mintzlaff is setting his stall out early, and were this a game of cards, one might consider his current stance, a bluff, or indeed that he is showing us his poker face. In the modern world of transfers there are no easy-to-see rules or guides (as there are for card games). As French fans of Nkunku might say, ce n’est pas possible de voir le guide des jeux de cartes et casino en ligne. The agenda of a transfer is just as likely to be set by money, the player’s wishes, his agent’s influence or indeed the availability of European football.
Consequently, the summer situation might well be heavily influenced by the respective positions of the two teams involved at the end of the season. Arsenal with games in hand are pushing for 4th place and the return to Champion’s League football, whereas RB Leipzig despite Nkunku’s best efforts are 7th, but still with it all to play for, as the gap to 4th is not a big one.
If the Gunners are back at the European top table, they will need a bigger squad and Christopher Nkunku looks a very attractive addition, as you can see below:
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