According to Foot Mercato, Arsenal are clearly in the running to sign Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare, who is also on the radar of Manchester United.
The north London giants have already landed the signature of Willian on a free transfer this summer and they are currently on the verge of announcing the arrival of Gabriel Magalhaes from Lille after he underwent a successful medical yesterday.
It now appears that they are keen on signing another player from Les Dogues, having stepped up their pursuit of Soumare. The Frenchman was the subject of interest from Newcastle United in January, but he opted to snub their advances despite the transfer fee being agreed.
Obviously, he wanted to delay the decision over his future until the summer and the Gunners are now interested in landing his services. Manchester United are also said to be monitoring the 21-year-old, but they don’t have him on their priority list for the ongoing transfer window.
The Gunners currently have Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock as the specialist central midfield options, but two of those players have been fancied to head for the exit door.
Torreira has been regularly linked with a return to the Serie A and he is attracting interest from both AS Roma and Fiorentina. Meanwhile, Guendouzi has become out-of-favour under Arteta after his poor behaviour following the Brighton & Hove Albion game in June.
He did not make the matchday squad for the Gunners for their final 11 games of the previous campaign including the FA Cup final, where he was not present even in the stands to watch his team lift the trophy.
Earlier last month, he was offered in a part-exchange deal for Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey, but the proposal was rejected. Villarreal, now managed by former Gunners boss Unai Emery, are said to be exploring a loan deal with the option to buy for £30m.
Hence, it is not a surprise that the Gunners are on the search for new midfielders. They have sought to re-sign Dani Ceballos on a second season on loan from Real Madrid, but negotiations are still ongoing without any conclusion.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has regularly played as a full-back, is an option to play in the centre of the park, but according to The Athletic’s David Ornstein, he is on the verge of joining Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Soumare made 30 appearances for Lille across all competitions last term, but surprisingly, he did not feature for the club after turning down the interest from Steve Bruce’s side in January.
The internal tension between the manager and the player appear to have contributed to the decision and things don’t seem to have improved as Soumare was only a late substitute in the season opener against Rennes last weekend.
Soumare is a defensive midfielder by trade and he likes to have possession of the ball with a pass success rate of 88 percent during the course of his career. He also prefers to play long balls and averaged nearly two per game last term.
The Gunners already have Xhaka, who is capable of controlling the play with his distribution and it remains to be seen whether they want another player of a similar mould, who is not the best of tacklers.
He is currently valued at around £22m by Transfermarkt and Lille could demand a similar fee after the midfielder’s lack of playing time this year. Should Soumare join the Gunners, he would become their third purchase from Lille over the past year after Pepe and Gabriel.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com and Whoscored.com