Unai Emery has reportedly been reassured that Arsenal will dip into this summer’s transfer market.
If there is one area he will definitely be looking to strengthen it’s the centre of defence. The Gunners have endured bad luck when it comes to central defenders in Emery’s first campaign since taking over from legendary (and long-serving) boss Arsene Wenger.
At various stages of the current campaign, each of his first-team centre-backs have visited the physio room. Aside from 100% reliability, in terms of fitness, there’s also a question mark over each one when it comes to their on-field performances.
Sokratis, who joined from Borussia Dortmund last summer, has been the pick of the bunch though he’s entering the twilight years of his career. Despite a plethora of options, and Calum Chambers to return from a season-long loan at Fulham, the chances are Emery will push for a new addition.
And he will undoubtedly want to get it right given the north London’s club habit of ultimately getting the wrong man. One name who has been linked with a switch to the Emirates Stadium is Jean-Philippe Gbamin, who currently plies his trade at Bundesliga outfit Mainz 05.
Arsenal were associated with his signature six months ago but the powers that be in Rhineland-Palatinate were not prepared to entertain any offers. However, that could changes this summer, which raises this question – is he the man Emery desperately needs?
Gbamin’s career so far
Key stat: Gbamin is averaging 1.1 interceptions and 1.4 tackles per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this season.
Key quote: “I basically feel ready for the next step and can well imagine starting a new chapter. Through my achievements, I have made clubs aware of me, where I see a good chance to go to this next stage in my sporting and personal development,” he told Goal.
“At the moment I give 100 per cent for Mainz and I am very satisfied with how much we have improved. What will happen after the season, we have to wait and see.”
Gbamin – born in San Pédro, Ivory Coast – began his career at RC Lens where, prior to joining their youth set-up, he was touted for greatness. After moving to Paris with his mother he signed with his village club Union Sportive de Saint-Quentin Blessy.
“He arrived from the Paris region, we didn’t even know if he’d played football before signing with us,” said Dany Penne, who coached a 10-year-old Gbamin.
“You could see immediately that he was head and shoulders above the rest. He already knew how to do everything with a ball.”
It wouldn’t be too long before a professional club snapped him up. Lens, with a credible reputation for youth development, ultimately won the young centre-back’s signature in 2007 and – five years after that landmark moment – Gbamin debuted for the Ligue 2 club in a 7-0 defeat against Guingamp.
He soon established himself as a regular starter and played no fewer than 98 times before departing for pastures new, in which time Gbamin helped the club gain promotion to Ligue 1.
The next phase of Gbamin’s journey took him to Germany in the summer of 2016 as Mainz 05 signed him on a five-year deal. So far he’s made 83 appearances in all competitions, registering three goals and creating a further three for his team-mates.
Where would he fit in at Arsenal?
Gbamin has predominantly featured in midfield under Sandro Schwarz this season. It could very well be the position he ends up playing. However, whenever he’s featured in central defence, it’s when Mainz have played a back-three.
A defensive strategy, which allows two centre-forwards to feature up front, Emery has fielded the same system eight times across his opening 36 matches in charge of Arsenal.
Gbamin’s reading of the game, which has made him a useful defensive midfielder, is one of his biggest strengths. This is illustrated by averaging more than one interception per 90 minutes in this season’s Bundesliga.
Having a presence goes a long way in the Premier League as England’s top division is one of Europe’s most demanding competitions.
Gbamin is no shrinking violet and the Ivorian international has already shown he’s a force to be reckoned with.
In both defensive and midfield roles, his organisational skills have come to the fore and this would no doubt please the methodological Emery.