06 August 2014

We're in for Nastasić, are we? Hmm...

Well, it's not the wildest of rumors, but reports from Italty's tuttosport and England's El Metro suggest that we will make a move for Man City's centre-back, Matija Nastasic. The 21-year old Serb would make for a more-than-capable upgrade on our Thomas Vermaelen (sorry, Tommy) and was good enough to replace Joleon Lescott as a first-choice CB and being named Citeh's Young Player of the Year in 2013. As unlikely as they are to sell him to a league-rival, Citeh have picked up another centre-back, paying out £32m for Porto's Eliaquim Mangala, giving them six CBs in the squad (seven if we count Sagna), and they might be willing to move Nastasic. Would we be willing to pay £15m for him? He's Prem-tested centre-back, something we may have only two of if Vermaelen completes a move to Barcelona (or, yes, Man U).

First, a few particulars. He's played in the Prem since 2012, making 34 appearances in that time. He's massive, standing 1.87m (6'2"). As you might imagine, he's strong in the air, but he doesn't seem to trade height for pace, offering speed and agility to the mix. He made just 11 starts this past season due to injury-woes (mostly to his knee). If there's a worry there, it's that he last played for club or country way back in early February. He was apparently suffering some pain in his knee which doctors struggled to diagnose. This might raise some red flags (or inspire some Gooners to quip that he's already got that Arsenal DNA. However, if this injury and the arrival of Mangala have made him surplus to Citeh's requirements, this might make him available at more of a cut-rate price (again, Gooners, prepare your quips).

One other particular to consider: he should not count against the homegrown rule, and the Prem site lists him in Citeh's U21 squad. his is a factor to contemplate, especially as our current squad already has 16 non-homegrown players, one less than the maximum seventeen that UEFA permits. We are close then to having to loan out or sell a non-homegrown player before acquiring another one, or risk being unable to register one of those for Champions League play. We need a minimum of eight home-grown players on our roster (not on the pitch), and so we do, at some level, have to be mindful of that factor. Here's a quick run-down of our players who are not home-grown:
  • Ospina, Mertesacker, Kos, Vermaelen, Monreal, Debuchy; Flamini, Diaby, Rosický, Arteta, Özil, Cazorla; Miyaichi, Podolski, Giroud, Alexis, Campbell.
On that list, of course, are two players likely to be loaned out or sold: Vermaelen and Miyaichi. Let's focus on Vermaelen as being most-relevant at the moment. If we do sell him to Barcelona and bring in Nastasić, we're accomplishing a number of goals: one, we add to the squad without adding a non-homegrown player. Two, we upgrade at centre-back, at least in my opinion. Three, we start building our post-Per/Kos defense around Chambers and Nastasić.  However, we would be doing so by keeping our number of non-homegrown players close to the limit, which starts to limit our options unless Vermaelen (and Miyaichi, among others) leaves.

Don't tell me that clubs don't sell to interleague rivals. Heck, we do it all the time.  Okay, bad example. Ahem. Could we ring up Mansour and point out that, hey, he's bought Touré, Adebayor, Clichy, Nasri, and Sagna, and maybe he owes us one? That might be a bit of a stretch, but stranger things have happened, not that we can count on this particular strange thing happening.

We know that we need more cover at centre-back. Chambers needs time and experience. Vermaelen is all but gone. As unlikely as it may feel to us to sign the likes of Nastasić, he's young, he's apparently available, he's familiar with the Prem, and it's difficult to think of another centre-back who can offer that same combination of qualities. So Citeh might inflate their asking-price. At a time when other clubs are "overpaying" for young players, is £15m for Nastasić "overpaying"?