They call Kylian Mbappe the next Thierry Henry, so it’s of little surprise that Arsenal are reported to be interested.
The Gunners, however, are expected to be miss out on the teenager, with Real Madrid thought to be leading the pursuit. There is another Monaco player on Arsenal’s radar, though, and if Mbappe is the new Henry, he could be the new Robert Pires.
With the drawn out deal for Alexandre Lacazette finally done, the Gunners have now turned their focus to Thomas Lemar, with recent reports claiming two offers have already been rejected for the 21-year-old.
A third is expected any time soon as Wenger looks to strengthen his squad further ahead of the 2017/18 campaign.
“He’s a player that we follow yes, we look at,” Wenger told reporters this week, admitting his interest in the French international. “We are looking at more signings.
But there’s nothing really concrete about any singings. I am open to get some more signings, but it is not easy to find the players who can strengthen our squad, because we have top-quality players.”
They don’t have anyone quite like Lemar, though. Arsenal are well-stocked in the attacking third of the pitch, particularly after the club record signing of Lacazette, but they lack a left sided specialist.
Alexis Sanchez can play there, but is more effective in a central role. Alex Iwobi made the position his own last season, but is he really of the required calibre? Lemar would fill a problem area.
Just as Pires was the supply line for Henry all those years ago, Lemar was the man behind Mbappe’s astonishing success last season.
Adept with the ball in tight spaces with a tendency for drifting inside, he would be the perfect man to link up with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Sanchez, assuming both remain at the Emirates Stadium beyond the summer.
Lemar boasts the hallmark Wenger looks for in all his players – intelligence. His off the ball movement is exceptional, with his decision-making mature well beyond his 21 years.
He is a master of the assist, notching more (10) than any other Monaco player last season. He also managed four assists in the Champions League, with Ousmane Dembele the only French player to tally more.
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It’s Lemar’s performances in the Champions League that strongly suggest he can deliver for Arsenal at the top level.
Monaco were the most exhilarating, dynamic outfit in the competition last season and much of that was down to Lemar. Mbappe might have caught the eye, but he wouldn’t have sparkled so bright without this assister-in-chief.
Arsenal have just upgraded their frontline by signing Lacazette, but it’ll be for nothing if Wenger doesn’t put in place a support system around him.
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The Gunners have lacked quality in the wide areas in recent seasons, and so it’s encouraging that Wenger is no looking to address those deficiencies. Far too often in the past he has ignored them, to his own detriment.
The symbolism of Arsenal beating Spurs to the signing of Lemar would also be significant. Not so long ago, it seemed that Mauricio Pochettino was leading the chase for the Frenchman.
By all accounts, though, the Gunners have now leapfrogged their great rivals. Even after their highest league finish in a generation, Spurs still can’t top Arsenal in the transfer market.
Pires came to embody the class and quality of Arsenal at their very best under Wenger. Others might have found the net and the headlines more often, but he was arguably the most important player at Highbury at that time.
Times have changed, but Lemar could command a similar status at the Emirates.