With the season gradually drawing to a close, 8 more Premier League matches to go but 9 for some teams, Arsenal inclusive, teams have commenced plans to beef up the squad ahead of next season and our dear Arsenal are not left out.
Having previously been linked with moves for Amoboieta, N’Koulou, Isco and Goetze, the latest name on the list is Sunshine Stars’ Nigerian defender Godfrey Oboabona. The defender fresh from helping the Super Eagles win the AFCON 2013 and ever present in the heart of the Super Eagles defence enroute their march to the title. In the course of the competition, he dealt with nightmarish attackers like Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure ,Gervinho and Alain Traore.
It is no surprise that Wenger is been linked with plethora of defenders because the Gunners have been leaking goals in embarrassing ways and would certainly make do with the arrival of some quality defenders. Also, the possibility that there would be major clearing out at the Emirates in the summer, with the likely departure of Squilacci and possibly Djourou, even Miquel, Arsenal would certainly be needing another center-back to plug that hole.
The choice of Oboabona is not all that surprising, he is a classical Wenger target. Visibly talented, young and most importantly would be coming on the cheap. Reports have it that Arsenal have arranged a 4 weeks trial for him in the summer subject to approval from his Nigerian club.
The center-back revealed his preference for the Gunners when he said “Arsenal are my favourite club from childhood. It is the club I want to play for”. (Oboabona speaking on Arsenal)
I know this piece of transfer news might not excite a section of Arsenal fans that are expecting Wenger to spend big on a proven quality center-back and not a cheap bargain from a struggling league like the Nigerian Premier League. Who said only expensive buys make good and quality players? The last player Wenger made from the shores of Africa was Ivorian player Kolo Toure who he signed for peanuts from Asec Mimosas. Despite arriving as a striker, Le Prof successfully converted him to a center-back and he alongside Campbell helped the Gunners set a Premier League record of an unbeaten season and 49 Premier League matches without a loss.
The pros of signing Oboabona transcend financial gains alone. The fact that he is coming from the Nigerian league means he would be coming for a relatively low fee and would command decent wages that is certainly within the Gunners’ financial purview but the gains doesn’t stop there. The fact that he is just moving to Europe means his ego wouldn’t be too big to manage. Going for multi-million pounds defender could be risky for dressing room serenity. Top class expensive defenders wouldn’t want to sit on the bench or be played out of position, the same problem Wenger faced with Vertonghen. The ex-Ajax man rejected Arsenal in favour of Tottenham just because Wenger refused to guarantee him a starting berth and the Belgian wasn’t ready to fill another void other than that of the center-back.
At just 23, Oboabona’s best years lie ahead of him if he continues the massive improvement that saw him play regularly for the Super Eagles at the AFCON. That a player is available on a trial doesn’t make him a bad player. Arsenal have missed the services of potential superstars just because they were misjudged during trials or refused to go through trials; Yaya Toure and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Bagging Oboabona would put a Nigerian in the Arsenal fold again. The only Nigerian to play for Arsenal was lanky striker Kanu Nwankwo and it is high time another Nigerian becomes a Gunner. Looking at the Super Eagles, not too many players are of the Arsenal grade. One of such players that are good enough to play for Arsenal is the defender. Having a Super Eagles player at Arsenal would increase the Gunners’ popularity and enhance the club’s value and brand in Nigeria.
There are always two sides to a coin, just as there are positives for Arsenal moving for him, there are also negatives in making such a move. Cheap things are dangerous. Just as Arsenal have made some cheap buys in the transfer market that ended up been burdens on the club; Squilacci, Santos, to mention just a few, Oboabona could end up not making the grade at Arsenal and end up been a waste.
Also, Wenger been who he is, he is unlikely going to buy too many players to fill just a position. If he is really serious about bringing in oboabona, that could simply mean he is not planning to buy the other top notch but visibly more expensive defenders the club have been linked with. If he is not bringing in another defender and Oboabona fails to hit top form immediately, Wenger might decide to persevere with him at the expense of the club. The same way he did with Squilacci, Chamakh, Santos and Almunia.
Another challenge we might be facing with Godfrey Oboabona is the fact that he might lack the top level experience needed at Arsenal. It would take a huge leap to move from Nigerian Premier League and CAF Champions League to the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League. What Arsenal need now is a defender that can favourably compete with the caliber of central defenders currently available at Arsenal (Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny), this I doubt Oboabona can give. His presence is not likely going to challenge the aforementioned trio for places at the club.
My take is that a move for Oboabona is a good one because he is a good prospect, young, determined and cheap but Wenger should still go ahead to bag quality experienced defenders that would help the young Nigerian defender settle in well and blend in without enormous pressure on his young inexperienced shoulders. Le Prof should get Oboabona but must also try to bag Amorboeita or N’Koulou.
In other news, ex Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie has revealed his hope that Manchester United would win the Premier League title when they visit the Emirates. Well, let me burst his bubble, the Gunners are not in the mood for favours whether it’s to a former player or not. If Wenger did Fergie a favour by selling Van Persie to them, Gunners would not be towing the line by donating 3 points to their points raising for the title. Arsenal also need all the points they can lay their hands on if they are to get a top 4 finish and a Champions League berth next season. Hence, the Red Devils shouldn’t be expecting any favours, the cannon would be loaded to destroy.
It’s yet another round of internationals and Arsenal players would be doing battle. Top of the clash would be Les Bleus hosting La Fura Roja. Giroud, Cazorla and Monreal all look set to be involved. I just hope they return to the Colney unscathed.
Written By Kolade Omotosho