Arsenal have started a new era at the Emirates Stadium with the appointment of Unai Emery as manager and they must now bring in the players required to push the club back into the Champions League. Their recruitment has been revamped in the last year with Sven Mislintat coming in to lead proceedings, but the new manager will be able to contribute to discussions regarding targets. The Mirror report that he wants to bring Steven N’Zonzi to the club as one of his first signings and the board could be ready to push ahead with a deal.
Emery worked with the Frenchman at Sevilla and the former Blackburn Rovers players was a crucial part of the team that won the Europa League in the 2015-16 campaign. Although the two men only worked together for a single campaign, it is clear that the defensive midfielder impressed his then-manager and it will be hoped that he can add tenacity to the Arsenal side. One huge advantage of bringing him to the Emirates Stadium is his Premier League experience. The 29-year-old has played nearly 200 matches in the league and won’t need an adjustment period if he does join the Gunners.
The squad overhaul at Arsenal won’t be an easy one as several positions need to be strengthened. Emery will have taken the job knowing that it was a long-term project, but he is correct to identify that central midfield as a position of weakness. Granit Xhaka has failed to make the defensive position his own with doubts remaining about his positioning and ball-winning ability. Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey is a more attack-minded player and Mohamed Elneny doesn’t look to be good enough to start regularly for a top-six side.
A quality defensive midfielder would solve a lot of issues and N’Zonzi has emerged as one of the best in the position during recent seasons. Last season, he didn’t feature as much as he would have liked in La Liga, but he managed to average 1.99 ball recoveries per ninety minutes. Perhaps more impressively, his aerial prowess was clear as he won 81.73% of his aerial duels. That physicality will be a great addition to the Arsenal midfield if he does move to the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners have been accused of being too soft in recent years, but that issue would be somewhat resolved by the 29-year-old.
N’Zonzi is very good at breaking up the play and dominating in central areas, but he is a good ball-player too. During the 2017/18 campaign, he had a pass success rate of 88% and is adept in the transition phase. Arsenal need to have a midfield capable of winning the ball back and distributing it to the likes of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Sevilla midfielder could be the man to do that. In addition to his passing, the Frenchman is powerful and can carry the ball forward. That is another reason why he will be well suited to this Gunners’ team.
Despite finishing in 6th position, Arsenal still have a lot of talent in their squad and it is Emery’s task to marry that with an effective style of play. The potential signing of N’Zonzi may not be exciting, but it would improve the starting eleven significantly. He has proven himself to be a very good player at Sevilla and he is ready to play for a top-six Premier League team. The Gunners have a battle ahead to re-emerge as a title-challenging team, but this would be a great move for the club.