18 August 2014

£8m for Kostas Manolas? That would work...

Now, it's just twitter, and it's a Greek tweet to boot, which means we should take it with a hefty grain of salt, but news from +SPORT24 suggests that we have "found an agreement" with Olympiacos's centre-back Kostas Manolas. I can't tell you much about Sport24 other than that they have 36,000 followers and are a sports/entertainment website. We've already seen the reports suggesting that Manolas has undergone a medical with Arsenal, and the current rumour has us agreeing to an 8m/11m transfer-feebut as the old saw says, I'll believe it when I see it at Arsenal.com. With Kos nursing a sore Achilles (but training ahead of the Turkey trip) and Per still resting after the World Cup (and "on standby", available in an emergency), our need for an experienced centre-back feels all the more acute

Before we go any further, here is the tweet:
That's far from iron-clad; it's not even Tancredi-esque in its reliability. However, we've been linked with Manolas for a few weeks now, albeit at a low level eclipsed by other rumours, matches, and events. Even for as well as Chambers has done in his cameos at centre-back, Arsène himself has admitted that he'd be interested in signing someone else for the position, saying after the departure of Thomas Vermaelen, "If I can find another centre-back, I'll do it." By "do it," of course, I presume that he means "sign him". If he's referring simply to "finding" another centre-back, well, that might be a bit too cheeky, even for Arsène. He surely knows that we need another CB, and Manolas could fit the bill nicely.

The 23-year old came off of a "stellar" World Cup for Greece, earning a mention among The Independent's fifty best players of the Cup, and was called a "natural defender with a strong and tough personality that can pose a problem to any player in the world." He stands 186cm (6'1") and impresses with his tackling, interceptions, and aerial ability. Stats are difficult to compare, especially from a league as different from the Prem as the Greek Superleague. In terms of mindset, though, he might be less forward-thinking than Koscielny but not quite as cautious as Mertesacker, offering an interesting compromise between the two. He seems less reckless than Vermaelen was, more willing to offer a balanced commitment to defense and attack.

Could he fit in with our style of play? That's another question. From what I've seen, he's not much of a passer with a passing accuracy of 79% (courtesy of squawka), far below the 93% or so that Kos and Per can boast of. However, that might reflect the role he's asked to play (spraying long passes and clearances, for instance, rather than making shorter passes in a build-up or counter-attack) and could improve simply through playing in our system. The other "skill" he'd bring, of course, is uncoachable: height. We've already seen how a lack of height in the back-four has exposed us on set-pieces, and Manolas's aerial ability is strong enough to convince me that he'd make a nice addition at both ends of the pitch. He might very well be Olympiacos's best defender, for what that's worth.

As such, if we can find a way to bring him in, I'd say we should certainly do it.