17 June 2015

£22m for Kondogbia, Vieira's heir-apparent? Bring it on!

Reports have Arsène meeting with officials from AS Monaco as an attempt at signing Geoffrey Kondogbia for £22m with plenty of circumstantial connections lending the rumour legitimacy. Arsène's own time at the club (1987-1994), our Champions League defeat at their hands, even the player's ostensible similarities to a certain Senegalese defender whose heir we've pined for lo these many years. French. Burly. Athletic. Shields the defense. Combative. More important than that, though, if it's true that he could be had for £22m, we should go for him.

so he already has an Arsenal shirt? Thanks, Mesut...
Morgan Schneiderlin might be the sexier option, but a league rival like Southampton would want to extract an exorbitant fee, especially from us after seeing us snatch Theo, Ox, and Chambers from them in recent years. While he's obviously familiar with the Prem, he's also 25. Hardly over the hill, of course, but the gap between his performance and potential is likely much narrower than for Kondogbia who, at 22, would bring a larger reservoir of untapped potential to explore.

Setting aside the superficial similarities to Vieira, let's admit that he does possess some impressive physical stature of the kind we've been lacking in the midfield. Coquelin, for all of his tenacity, doesn't cut much of an imposing figure. Kondogbia stands 188m (6'2") and weighs 76 kg (168 lbs). He's not getting much taller but could very easily find time to pack a few more muscles onto an already chiseled frame.  He's an athletic, aggressive defender who's been asked to anchor Monaco's defense. As such, he rarely ventured upfield very often (although he did it often enough to score against us...). For those who like apples-to-oranges comparisons, his tackles and interceptions in Ligue 1 compare favorably to those of Schneiderlin and Coquelin in the Prem.

For those concerned about his bedding-in process, making a switch from Ligue 1 to the Prem, consider how well Francis Coquelin did after his loans to Freiburg and Charlton Athletic. Coming back to an Arsenal that was quite a bit different from the one he last played for in 2012-13. He did pretty well for himself, suggesting if not proving that a player can slot in and impress us if he's got the grit to do so. If there's a downside to consider, then, it comes down to how similarly Coquelin and Kondogbia play. Both are rugged, tenacious players who are reluctant, perhaps even allergic, to getting forward. In Coquelin's case, that might be his mindset. In Kondogbia's, though, it might be more a result of Monaco's set-up, alternately dubbed bus-parking by critics and catenaccio by fans. However, the underlying question persists: would Kondogbia present a significant upgrade on Coquelin, who just turned in a five-month run of form that was a revelation, enough to inspire Arsène to suggest that he could be a long-term solution.

Even if Coquelin can prove that his performance is more than a purple-patch, we need depth and upgrades. Does Kondogbia offer one, or the other? Depth, or upgrade?