Barcelona centre-back Samuel Umtiti has fallen down the pecking order at the Camp Nou, opening the door for a potential exit.
The World Cup winner has been an integral part of the furniture in Catalonia since relocating from Lyon in 2016, but recent injury setbacks have seen him fall out of favour with head coach Ernesto Valverde.
Could Arsenal sign Umtiti? Five things to know…
- According to Spanish outlet El Desmarque Arsenal are in hot pursuit of the out-of-favour centre-back.
- The north Londoners are in dire need of defensive reinforcements following a season-ending injury to Calum Chambers.
- The Gunners have been heavily linked with a move for Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng this window.
- Arteta recently explained how he is ‘not expecting big things’ from this winter market.
- However, with Barca said to be open to offers on Umtiti, Arsenal would be unwise to overlook the Frenchman.
Umtiti, 26, was fundamental to Barcelona success in previous campaigns. So much so, they awarded the former Lyon centre-back a new contract in 2018, multiplying his prior release clause of £50m by a factor of 10 to put an end to links with rival clubs. One such club was rumoured to be Real Madrid.
Ever since, however, Umtiti has endured various ankle and knee complications, restricting him to just 17 La Liga starts in 18 months. As such, Valverde has relied on the ever-blossoming centre-back partnership of Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet to marshal his backline.
Barcelona in #LaLiga this season:
With Samuel Umtiti: WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
Without Samuel Umtiti: LDWLWDDDDDL
Key to their success. 👊 pic.twitter.com/cjrV5hLLiz
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 12, 2017
The Spaniard recently turned to Umtiti in a bid to thwart the attacking threats of Atletico Madrid in Barca’s Supercopa de Espana semi-final showdown in Saudi Arabia, but the Catalonians conceded three goals in a 3-2 reversal and missed out on the prospect of an El Clasico final in the Middle East.
Many feel Umtiti has not looked the same player since the 2018 World Cup. And it is suggested by El Desmarque that this, allied to the alleged flirtations with Real Madrid, have left Barcelona open to a sale.
Arsenal could now look to make an offer for Umtiti, in the process bolstering a backline that has been crying out for reinforcements since the summer.
Could Umtiti improve Arsenal’s defensive woes?
There is no secret about the defensive ailments of Arsenal at the minute, with fans unconvinced the likes of Sokratis, Rob Holding, David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi can restore them back to the peak of their powers.
Various candidates have been linked with a move to the Emirates, but the Boateng saga has seemingly cooled down after initial excitement, while long-term target Dayot Upamecano will likely cost upwards of £70m to secure.
If Barca were to entertain offers, then Umtiti could prove an impressive piece of business for Arsenal, as it would not only enhance their defensive qualities but also elevate Arteta’s own status as a shrewd player in the market.
Umtiti has had a number of years to adapt and adjust to the Barca philosophy, one centred on ball-retention and playing out from the back, which came to prominence under Arteta’s teacher at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola.
If he wants to put his own spin on Pep-ball, but ultimately uphold the fundamentals of Guardiola’s tiki-taka system, then he will need component ball-playing centre-backs, who can also defend. As someone who has maintained an overall pass accuracy of 92.5%* since joining Barcelona in 2016, Umtiti certainly fits the bill.
*For context, the average for defenders in La Liga since 2016/17 is 80.7%.
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But this is not the first time Umtiti has been linked with Arsenal…
The links between Umtiti and Arsenal are not new. Last summer the Gunners were linked with the defender, and France teammate Alexandre Lacazette even posted a tongue in cheek video saying he was “waiting” for his compatriot in north London.
Umtiti addressed the video in September, telling Canal Football Club: “Honestly, I don’t know where this rumour with Arsenal came from
“Overnight, I received messages from my friends saying, ‘Ah, so you are joining Arsenal?’ I’m not, I’m sorry but I’m staying at Barcelona.”
Who else are Arsenal being linked with this January?
- Nathan Ake is 5/1 to join Arsenal before February 2020, according to William Hill*. The Bournemouth defender has forged an impressive reputation on the South Coast and has been linked with a move back to London, with Chelsea also thought to be in the mix.
- Emre Can is 14/1 to join Arsenal before February 2020. He was omitted from Juve’s Champions League squad earlier this season and could now be on the move.
- Thomas Meunier is 5/1 to join Arsenal before February 2020. The Belgian right-back is said to be in the crosshairs of Arsenal, who could look to bring in competition for injury-prone Hector Bellerin.
- Dries Mertens is 7/2 to join Arsenal before February 2020. His contract expires in the summer but the Napoli forward could leave this January window and Arsenal are among the names linked with a move.
*You have to be over 18 to gamble. Please gamble responsibly. For more information, go to BeGambleAware.org