Arsenal turn their attention to Yacine Brahimi and Wilfried Zaha
by Chirag R Bhattad
London: Arsenal are dipping into the summer transfer market to look for budget players and smart targets. They are running on a tiny budget and need to raise significant funds via player transfers to inflate their budget. With just £45 million freed up for Unai Emery to buy players, Arsenal are looking at young players or free agents.
Their radar has now turned to FC Porto, whose Algerian winger Yacine Brahimi has run his contract down and is now available on a free transfer. Brahimi is a 29-year old winger who can play as an attacking midfielder as well. He has played for French club Rennes and Spanish club Granada prior to joining FC Porto.
Brahimi was a largely inconsistent winger prior to joining Porto. At Porto, Brahimi seemed to have reinvigorated his career, with his 5 years at the club yielding 44 goals and 15 assists. Brahimi had an impressive last season at Porto in front of goal, scoring 13 times and assisting a further 4. He had 2.7 successive dribbles per game, was fouled 1.8 times per game and had 1 key pass per game.
Brahimi is strong on the ball and is a willing runner, something which Arsenal desperately lack at the moment. But Brahimi is not their first choice, with the dream being Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace. Zaha has been an outspoken supporter of Arsenal and has made it extremely clear that he wants the Arsenal move. His brother recently came on Sky Sports and said this:
“Wilfried will always hold Crystal Palace and their fans in the highest regard and all the support they've given means the world to him. It’s my brother’s dream though, to play for Arsenal.
Given all Wilfried has given to Palace to help them remain a PL club, I hope Palace will be able to see their way to agreeing a deal with Arsenal that allows Wilfried to realize his dream of playing European Football for the club he’s supported since childhood”
These are strong words from a close and reliable source, which almost sound like a come-and-get-me plea to Arsenal. Zaha was largely regarded as an extremely talented yet extremely unreliable player. But in the last two seasons, Zaha has turned it all around, producing impressive numbers.
In the Premier League, Zaha has scored 19 goals and assisted a further 8. These assists do not include almost 10 penalties that Zaha has won for Crystal Palace over the course of the last two seasons. Zaha averages 3.2 dribbles per game, 1.5 key passes per game and was fouled 3 times per game last season. He is an extremely strong runner, a mazy dribbler who can turn any defender inside out and produce the end product along with his trickery.
Crystal Palace have slapped a €100 million price tag on Zaha, and Arsenal have reportedly made a bid of €45 million opening bid for the player. Zaha has been a tireless and faithful servant of Crystal Palace, and with his dream club knocking on the door, Crystal Palace will feel an obligation to do right by him. This is one saga which might go deep into the transfer window.
Apart from Brahimi and Zaha, Arsenal have also tabled a €25 million bid for St. Etienne’s 18-year old defender William Saliba, with the deal expected to go through in the coming weeks, and an initial €16.8 million bid for Celtic left-back Kieren Tierney. Celtic manager Neil Lennon has called the bid “An insult to the player and the club” and, as expected, Celtic have rejected the bid.
Arsenal are expected to come-back with an improved €28 million bid, which they are expecting Celtic to accept. These two signings will effectively eat up their transfer budget, with Arsenal now dependent on player sales to generate more cash for the Zaha deal and a new Central midfielder to replace Aaron Ramsey.