After last summer saw the arrival of costly triumvirate Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud Arsenal fans could have been forgiven for thinking that their manager’s obsession with signing young players was on the wain, but as a move for 19-year-old Freiburg midfielder Matthias Ginter nears fruition that couldn’t be further from the case.
During the close-season the Gunners have failed to yet land any of a plethora of experienced top level targets including Gonzalo Higuain, Julio Cesar, Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney and Ginter is not the only youngster that may be incoming.
Along with Yaya Sanogo – who has already arrived in North London from Auxerre – Arsenal have taken Colombian prospect Sebastian Perez on trial and are hoping to do the same with Omar Abdulrahman, an Omani playmaker who has been also interesting Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Valencia after shining in the Olympic tournament last summer.
Ginter is an immensely versatile player, who made his first senior appearance as a striker, playing six times in central midfield last term, but ultimately at his most comfortable in central defence.
As such the £6m-rated youngster may be seen as a cut-price alternative to signing the experienced Ashley Williams to provide cover and competition in a central defence weakened by the loss of form and subsequent injury of Thomas Vermaelen.
Unearthing gems from the youth teams of Europe has long been something for which Arsene Wenger has garnered special praise, but the slow decline of his side can be plotted against the aging of a group of strong characters that the Frenchman largely inherited from Bruce Rioch.
Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Lee Dixon and Ray Parlour were synonymous with the Gunners for all or part their silverware strewn 1997-2004 period, but whilst their technical abilities may have been adequately replaced, their strength of character and the fighting spirit they embodied seem not to be present in the current squad to the same degree.
Arsenal are 10/1 to win the Premier League, but if they’re to become genuine challengers once more, recruiting senior professionals who can lead by example on and off the pitch looks to be key.
Players like Wayne Rooney or Luis Suarez, even Swansea’s Williams would rate ideal recruits in this regard as – quite apart from having the requisite ability – they play the game with passion and an unquestionable will to win.