Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was recently quoted saying how much he admires Lille OSC winger Eden Hazard.
The Frenchman believes the Belgium international ‘has what it takes’ to play for a top club such as the Gunners, which has obviously led to many saying this is an indication that Wenger wants to sign the exciting playmaker.
Whether it is a precursor to an Arsenal bid or not, the question must be asked if Wenger actually needs Hazard and the whether the large sum of money it would take to sign him is worth it.
Hazard is obviously a talented footballer, if he wasn’t then teams like Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid would not be linked with moves for him. Lille have been shrewd in light of the feverous speculation that has surrounded the player from as early as last summer and have only spoken about very large transfer fees.
Hype around the future of Hazard and some of his team-mates was started by the club’s successes in Ligue 1, winning the league and cup double in 2011 with an attractive brand of fast-flowing attacking football.
It hasn’t been going so well this season and the team from northern France are currently sat in third, trailing big-spenders Paris St Germain by ten points.
This is no surprise considering that much of the championship-winning side has been broken up and sold off, including players such as Yohann Cabaye to Newcastle United and Gervinho to Arsenal.
The transfer of Gervinho is key when considering the value of signing Hazard and the size of the price tag being placed on him.
Arsenal signed Gervinho for a reported £10.7million from Lille in the summer and, even though he was in the final year of his contract, this is minuscule compared to the prices being bandied around for his former team-mate.
Comparing the two in their time together at Lille, the Ivorian has a much superior Ligue 1 scoring record to his Belgian colleague and even made more assists in their second season together.
It is difficult to compare players at the moment but from the stats available it is hard no to think the Gunners went for the more valuable and, arguably, the better option.
Gervinho aside, Arsenal have gone from having a scarce amount of options out wide to suddenly being fully equipped. This is namely down to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain bursting onto the scene in recent weeks.
The introduction of the 18-year-old seems to have refreshed what looked like a jaded Arsenal side and they have been showing a lot more attacking intent in the past few fixtures.
Maybe ‘The Ox’ beginning to establish himself has affected Theo Walcott positively because he has looked more lively than he had done for weeks in the second half against Aston Villa and the 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn Rovers.
It could be that the return of Gervinho in a couple of weeks and the form of Oxlade-Chamberlain have caused him to think his starting place may be in jeopardy. All Gunners fans will now be hoping for is that this could have a similar effect on the much maligned Russian Andrey Arshavin.
It is still early days for the new young England star and Walcott may not reignite his season in the coming weeks, but the presence of Gervinho will certainly improve Arsenal’s forward line.
The introduction of Hazard into this side during the summer could bring about damaging results.
This is because the French league is not as high tempo or as physically demanding as the Premier League and players coming over from Ligue 1 have found adapting to the English game difficult at times.
His addition could also stifle the progress of Oxlade-Chamberlain and restrict his opportunities at a time when playing regularly at the top level can be so beneficial.
However, Walcott will be in the last year of his contract come the summer, while Arshavin is unlikely to hang around if he continues to play so few games. In this scenario Hazard’s arrival could be a positive.
At the moment Arsene Wenger’s side are at a critical moment in their season and could be on the verge of discovering their best form – talk of Hazard could soon be a thing of the past.