Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger isn’t afraid to take a gamble on young players, and the Frenchman has once again made his move for a teen target with the reported signing of Thomas Eisfeld from Borussia Dortmund.
The German starlet will arrive at the Emirates Stadium with little, if anything, known about him in England, and not a single senior appearance to his name at the Westfalenstadion.
In fact, the only topic ‘trending’ on Twitter over the past 24 hours is the fact that Eisfeld has already suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage during his youth career.
That’s why the 19-year-old will be undergoing a strenuous medical at the club’s London Colney training ground in north London, with the Gunners hoping to make sure the youngster is up to the potential rigors of Barclays Premier League football.
A handful of players from the Bundesliga champions have been linked with a move to Arsenal in recent months, with German international playmaker Mario Gotze and midfielder Kevin Grosskreutz both thought to be on Wenger’s radar.
But ‘the professor’ has gone for a far less high-profile player than the aforementioned duo, and a long-term investment rather than a quick fix on the pitch.
Wenger is renowned for bringing young talent to Arsenal, and has constantly bolstered the youth ranks during his 15-and-a-half years in charge of the club.
Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Ramsey and Ignasi Miquel are six examples of teenage players drafted in during the Wenger-era, and all have featured to a varying degree for the first team.
Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin are two further high-profile signings, although both remain someway off the first team despite their moves from Barcelona last year.
Whilst Eisfeld is older than the young duo who moved from Spain, his first team chances at the current time should be just as slim. Whilst a record of six goals in 12 appearances for the BVB U19 side is impressive, it hardly screams of instant starter.
Instead, Wenger is likely to stick to his philosophy of developing players outside of the first team, with a possible Carling Cup chance the only sign of senior life at the club for now.
A loan move to get some valuable senior experience, similar to Jack Wilshere (Bolton) and Ryo Miyaichi (Feyenoord), would also be an option, although a return to Dortmund would not, with opportunities limited under Jurgen Klopp.
Whilst neither club has commented or confirmed that negotiations are taking place, a £600,000 figure has been touted as the fee the Gunners will have to pay for a player whose contract is due to expire at the end of the season.
January is renowned for its difficulty when it comes to making big signings, with the arrival of Andrey Arshavin 36 months ago one of the few times Wenger has broke the bank to secure a top level addition. Three years on, and the Russian has failed to produce his best in the capital and could be on his way out of the club.
Emmanuel Adebayor was another to sign in the opening month of the year, and failed to impress during the first five months of his time at the club.
The signs seem to suggest that a New Year signing will struggle to make an instant impact at the highest level on arrival, with only few exceptions to the rule in the top flight.
With this in mind, Wenger is wise to avoid a gamble on some of Europe’s top-rated young talent, although some of the fans may disagree after a handful of lackluster performances in recent weeks.
Eisfeld certainly continues the manager's philosophy of building for the future, although a more pressing concern will be finishing in the top four and securing Champions League football next season - something the teen is unlikely to be able to help with.
Instead, Wenger has shown faith in his players, and will be asking for more of the same after their rousing second-half showing against Aston Villa in the FA Cup over the weekend.
The message is simple to Arsenal's loyal supporters. Keep faith in the current senior crop, and continue to expect big things from some talented youngsters in the future.
Whilst Eisfeld is yet to make his mark for Germany at any international level, he could be another diamond to come out of Dortmund's bulging academy, and is clearly good value-for-money in the manager's eyes at less than £1 million - a bargain in the modern market.
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