Arsene Wenger’s shrewdest signing over the summer was to bring back midfield destroyer Mathieu Flamini to Arsenal, but the former AC Milan man’s injury problems have restricted his influence over the last two weeks.
With no guarantees that the Frenchman’s fitness woes will end, the Arsenal chief has sent his scouts to run their eyes over West Bromwich Albion’s dynamic ball winning midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu and the Gunners are poised to make a £7million move in January.
Only Lucas Leiva has made more tackles and interceptions in the Premier League than Mulumbu since he signed for WBA in 2010.
Charged with breaking up play and screening his defence, Mulumbu is one of the most destructive midfield enforcers in the Premier League, making over 600 tackles and interceptions since moving to England from Paris Saint-Germain.
The Democratic Republic of Congo international did sign a new contract at the Hawthorns over the summer after interest from Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United but Arsenal have showed with their succesfull pursuit of Mesut Ozil, they now have the financial clout to get deals over the line.
Arsenal need another holding midfielder in the same mould as Flamini.
Wenger has slightly tweaked his 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation over the last 18 months, favouring playing two deep lying midfielders and one in an attacking role instead of allowing all three to be flexible in their play.
In the deep lying role, the two players charged with undertaking that job provide an important base on what Arsenal set their passing style around.
By bringing back Flamini in the summer, the Gunners added more bite and less flair to that area of the field, with his midfield bite adding a discipline and steeliness that passing guru Mikel Arteta doesn’t supply.
Although littered with central midfield options, Wenger doesn’t possess another combative player like Flamini in his squad, hence his desire to bring Mulumbu to north London.
Flamini suffered a groin injury in Arsenal’s match against Crystal Palace.
The Gunners’ key man, who has yet to taste defeat in his second spell at Arsenal when on the pitch, pulled up with eight minutes gone at Selhurst Park and early reports suggest he could be missing for the next two weeks.