With all the transfer speculation focusing onÂ Cesc Fabregas’Â alleged desire to leave the club, it has gone somewhat under the radar that Arsenal have been linked with a swoop for one of Arsene Wengerâ€™s long term transfer targets.
The Daily Mail and Guardian report that the Gunners are willing to shell out Â£16 Million for Marseillesâ€™s 24 year old defensive midfielder StÃ©phane Mbia.
Mbia began his career at the Kadji Sports Academy in CameroonÂ where fellow alumni include Samuel Eto’o, Carlos Kameni and Eric Djemba Djemba. In 2004, he moved to France, to join Stade Rennais after impressing many European scouts with his displays as a midfield anchor.
It took a while for the Cameroon international to establish himself at Rennais. In his first season he only made a handful of appearances, but he matured quickly and by the 2005-2006 season he was regularly playing in the first team. He made 105 appearances and scored four goals for Les Rouges et Noirs.
His performances meant that he was always going to move to a bigger club and he was linked with Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea in last seasons transfer window. He eventually settled for a move to Marseille for Â£10.4 million.
Although he was considered one of the best defensive midfielders in France, the 6ft 2 inch powerhouse played as a centre back for most of last season where he has looked a complete and utter natural.
The only problem is Mbiaâ€™s hatred for that position, he has stated: “I can’t express myself as a centre-back. I admit it’s not so apparent but I feel ill at ease there. I want to return to my old spot in central midfield as soon as possible.”
In his solitary season in Marseille he made 34 appearances, scored two goals and picked up six yellow cards as well as one red as he helped the club to the title.
Nevertheless, both as a centre back and defensive midfielder he makes use of the same core qualities. His presence, athleticism and love of the physical nature of the game makes him a formidable opponent. He is great in the air and is able to intimidate the opposition.
Arsenal fans may be surprised and happy to learn that the weakest side of his game is the technical one and whilst he has a great engine he does not have great acceleration. When he plays in midfield all he does is sit in front if the back four and shield them.
Although his transfer tag may seem prohibitive to most Arsenal fans, Mbia is a midfielder that would excel in the Premier League. He does possess versatility, which is one ingredient that Wenger prizes. If he comes to the Gunners it will be to play predominantly as a midfielder.
Mbia will make Arsenal much tighter defensively and greatly strengthen the spine of the team. The purchase of a high quality player such as this is a required tonic for Arsenal fans.