Arsenal have been linked with a move for Montpellier midfielder Younes Belhanda in the summer, but is this wise?
Arsene Wenger has admitted to being aware of the Moroccan international and being an admirer to boot.
The Emirates Stadium boss then attempted to backtrack somewhat, possibly in order to avoid appearing hypocritical after his response to recent comments made by Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini regarding Robin van Persie.
“I know Younes well and like him a lot. But I don't want to cause problems. Only Montpellier can decide where he goes to,” the Gunners tactician is quoted as saying in The Sun.
The report also suggests that a fee of £15million would be required if the north Londoners want to bring him from Ligue 1.
That would be a sizeable sum for a 22-year-old but it is an indication of how much his game has developed in the past season and a half.
It would be a substantial step-up in class if Belhanda were to join Arsenal – would he be able to handle the change and could he become a success at Emirates Stadium?
The short answer is, quite possibly. That may sound vague but the young attacking midfielder’s style could just as easily cause him to be a great success, or he could end up being completed unsuited to Premier League conditions.
This style is one that is touch heavy; not that he has a heavy, but that he tends to take a lot of touches on the ball and is most comfortable when in possession.
An extremely talented technical player, Belhanda loves to run at defenders but is prone to overdoing it when he decides to go on a mazy dribble, although it is an attractive approach to the game when he is on song.
Predictably, his style of play is high risk and he can be infuriating at times when he does not look up for a pass and loses the ball on what seems like a run doomed to fail.
There is also a tendency to go down too easily and that is something that is hardly going to ingratiate him with English football fans, but this is a bad habit that can be discarded if needs be.
Belhanda’s tendency to fall easily seems even more frustrating when you consider his build. He is not the tallest but my no means diminutive and has a solid, athletic physique that suggests great strength.
It may be the exuberance of youth but the occasional witnessing of his passing makes you question his apparent addiction to dribbling round defenders – he can pick a pass and has the guile to unlock defences.
Blessed with good pace, Belhanda has the adaptability that Wenger is keen on in his signings and was used as a winger before taking up his current role just behind the forwards.
Set-pieces are another of his strengths and he his able to put good balls into the box, as well as being dangerous shooting directly from free-kicks.
Coach Rene Girard has compared Belahanda to former Arsenal and France favourite Robert Pires, which is high praise but may be misplaced, although there is certainly potential in the Moroccan to become a very good player.
He would fit into the current Arsenal system well and you would imagine Wenger would begin by starting him in a wide position, but he would have a tendency to drift from the touchline.
It may be a bit early for a move to the Premier League and £15million is far too high a price for a player whose assist and goals record aren’t exactly outstanding for a player who plays in the position he does.
It would not be a surprise if a team does move for him this summer as he has obvious potential, but it is hard to see where he would fit in at Arsenal right now and may be considered too great a gamble for other English sides.
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