Speculation has been growing in the media that Arsenal have activated the £22 million release clause for Everton’s Belgium international, Marouane Fellaini. With a presence in central midfield that Arsenal can’t achieve with smaller players such as Wilshere and Cazorla, many are tipping him to be the ‘new Vieira’ for the club; a strong, yet technically gifted force in the middle of the field. However, would the powerhouse that is Fellaini really work in the Arsenal side? Recent tiffs and scuffs with players in the past suggest a poor relationship with much of the squad for the Gunners, and such an attitude no longer suits the club’s style.
It’s only sensible to look at the simple side of things first: how would Fellaini slip into the current Arsenal line-up?
It’s undeniable that he’s not like any other player in the current Arsenal squad, but it’s arguable that this is only because he’s the exact player Arsenal have lacked since Vieira. Many have stated that Alex Song filled the role of defensive midfielder well, but his strengths were not as clear to see. His presence wasn’t that large. He carried a solid tackle and could track back well; but in open play, he gave little support for the defence. Fellaini would undeniably be a stronger force; he holds a bite to him that is definitely similar to that of the aforementioned Arsenal legend.
He’s not just a physical player however. With clever passes as well as holding a strong aerial threat, Fellaini could potentially fit in well at Arsenal. However, many have cited his increased level of attack-minded play in the past season as an issue in any transfer to North London, with the team holding a vast array of creative midfielders already (Rosicky, Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain to name but a few). However, in a press conference back in December 2012, the big Belgian announced he was only playing in such an advanced position because Moyes believed he could, stating that ‘[personally] I believe I am a defensive midfielder’. It’s starting to look like a decent move.
However, the transfer could also be a wrong move for Arsenal. Any die-hard fan at the Emirates will be able to recall countless scraps on the field between Fellaini and those in red. Admittedly this isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s just one of many possible issues with the deal. Maybe Fellaini could be a similar player to Vieira, but the Arsenal style has changed since those times. The defending isn’t aggressive like that of Keown and Adams; instead technique in defence has done wonders this season. The midfield relies less on counter-attacks than ever before, and so a fast-paced defensive midfielder is perhaps unnecessary.
On top of these issues, the £22 million release clause is a tall figure. The side look poised to sign one of the most established strikers in the world from Real Madrid in Gonzalo Higuain for a fee of around £23 million. Justifying the purchase of a midfielder from a mid-table side for only one million less is beyond difficult. For a smaller amount, Wenger could divulge himself in endless European talent, from Jeremy Toulalan (Malaga) to Sven Bender (Dortmund). It’s up to the Frenchman whether he will be willing to pay inflated prices for a Premiership man or whether he will risk the purchase of a European star.
It seems that although Fellaini is clearly a style of player that Arsenal are missing, a transfer may prove to be a mistake. The player has talent, but whether it’s the talent the Gunners are looking for is questionable. The £22 million figure for him is something that personally I can’t see as being sensible.