Locatelli: The Answer to Arsenal’s Midfield Conundrum?
The Athletic reported that Arsenal has made an official bid for Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli, with the club’s CEO, Giovanni Carnevali, confirming the North London club’s interest for their midfielder, as well as the bid. The 23-year-old midfielder began his career with AC Milan before moving on loan to Sassuolo three seasons ago and remained with the outfit after they reached a permanent agreement with his parent club. Locatelli has been an ever-present for his club, missing all but four Serie A fixtures last season but his form was deemed good enough by Italy gaffer, Roberto Mancini, to warrant a place in the Azzurri Euro 2020 squad, and he proved his worth with two well taken goals against the Swiss.
Manuel Locatelli may have scored four goals and created three assists in 34 appearances for Sassuolo last season, but he’s not just about these numbers. His true strengths are in his passing abilities (averaging 88.1 percent per match per WhoScored) with 1.7 key passes and 4.4 long balls per match, which essentially means that he can build up attacks from central midfield. His defensive side is also admirable, notching up 2.4 tackles per game, 1.5 interceptions per game, 1.8 fouls per game with the occasional clearances and blocks. He also has an eye for goal, as he’s renowned for firing surface-to-air piledrivers from his feet goalwards.
These are some impressive numbers and its evident that a player like Locatelli is exactly what Arsenal needs with the club’s midfield lynchpin, Granit Xhaka, already heading to the exit door with a move to AS Roma imminent. Xhaka moving out would create a massive void in central midfield with Thomas Partey being the only recognized mainstay in that position and we all know he struggled with fitness in his maiden season at the club. With Dani Ceballos returning to Real Madrid, Mohamed Elneny, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Joseph Willock are the only available options in central midfield, and if we are honest, they are more of quantity than quality. It’s also worth noting that Guendouzi has pretty much burned his bridges with the club and will be looking for a summer move out, while Torreira doesn’t fancy sticking around as well, so the numbers would actually be shortened.
A player like Locatelli also doesn’t come in with much fanfare, so he will be able to settle in at the club without any pressure to light up any fireworks, which will be good for his confidence. He may be young, but he’s the kind of player Arsenal would need in this project Mikel Arteta is building. On the bright side, he’s not expected to cost so much, and like Nuno Taveres’ imminent arrival, its evident that the club is strategically sorting out its deficiencies and we are hopeful that Locatelli would be donning the famous Red and White after European Championships.
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