The irony of the defeat by Monaco in the Champions League first-leg was that the Principality club possessed precisely the sort of midfielder Arsenal were lacking. Geoffrey Kondogbia was combative, tenacious and offered physical presence. His main role in the team was to break-up and distribute the ball to more creative influences like Joao Moutinho. The Gunners do have Francis Coquelin, but he doesn’t have the physicality of Kondogbia, whose presence is enough to intimidate players into conceding possession. The 22-year-old began his career at Lens before moving to Sevilla for around £2.2m. This is where he began to develop his reputation, and by the end of the season, he was receiving rave reviews for his performances alongside Paul Pogba in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Gary Neville suggested in his commentary that Kondogbia was a special talent, and was very impressive and dominant in his displays at the Under-20 World Cup. His value increased after that tournament and many clubs scouted him including Arsenal, but it was Monaco who secured his services for around £18m. He has maintained his good form for Monaco and has played a pivotal role in a defence that has conceded just 26 goals in Ligue 1 games, and only two in seven Champions League games.
Borussia Dortmund have had a poor season and are currently in 12th position in the Bundesliga. But they have been boosted by the return of Ilkay Gundogan, who was injured throughout the majority of last season and made just three appearances. There were fears that the back injury he suffered could spell the end of his footballing career, but he has come back strong this seaso, making 17 appearances and scoring two goals. Before that unfortunate injury, Gundogan was one of the hottest properties in European football. In Dortmund’s run to the Champions League final in 2013, he played a pivotal role in their transitional football. Gundogan had all-round abilities: could tackle just as well as he could pass the ball, but his energy in pressing players higher up the pitch is what helped Dortmund excel that season. There are signs that he is starting to recapture that form and providing he stays free of injury, he could be a good signing for Arsene Wenger.
Wenger admitted to beIN Sports that he was satisfied with his signings during the summer, but felt he was still missing something in midfield. He said: “I’m happy with the signings but we still need a physical presence with prodigious ability like Vieira or Petit”. This was one of the main reasons he tried to sign William Carvalho from Sporting Lisbon in January. The speculation around him signing for Arsenal only intensified after he made comments about wanting to play in England. He said: “My dream is to play in England. I know some clubs are interested but my agent Jorge is looking after it and I am relaxed.” However, a transfer did not materialise but there is no reason why Wenger shouldn’t go back in for the 22-year-old. Carvalho is blessed with strength as well as speed, but it’s his positioning that makes him stand out from other defensive midfielders. He is quick to sense danger and always knows were to be on the pitch from a tactical perspective. This is an important attribute as Arsenal are often criticised for how they leave themselves so open in midfield, Carvalho could offer protection and discipline in that area of the pitch.
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