Arsene Wenger is weighing up a last minute move for Newcastle target Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Arsenal have been scouting Yanga-Mbiwa for nearly a year and they have been checking on him to see whether he would be suitable to come in to compete with Carl Jenkinson next season with Bacary Sagna likely to leave next summer.
Wenger has also wanted a versatile defender and Yanga-Mbiwa is also seen as having potential to be first choice in the French national team as centre half.
The move would be a crippling bout of deja vu for Newcastle, who just one week prior lost Loic Remy to QPR under similar circumstances. But one side's loss is another side's gain—and what a gain Yanga-Mbiwa would be.
The 23-year-old French national has developed into quite a player the past few seasons. Despite his tender age, Yanga-Mbiwa has logged 165 appearances for Montpellier since the 2008-09 season. Even more impressive—especially when, again, viewed through the prism of his age—is the fact that he currently wears the captain's band for his top-flight French side.
Any team could use his unique blend of size, skill and leadership. He's a precious on-field commodity that has always impressed, threatening to become a stalwart on the French National team in the near future too.
But the Gunners, in particular, would do well to break the bank for his services.
At first glance, that may not appear to be the case. Arsenal have allowed just 26 goals in 22 games this season, tied with Everton for third best in the Premiership. The problem with Arsenal's defense doesn't rear its ugly head until we consider the two teams ahead of them in goals allowed—Chelsea and Manchester City.
Arsenal currently sit sixth on the Premiership table, 11 points behind third-place Chelsea for an automatic Champions League berth (and 17 points behind second-place Man City). Those are spots Arsene Wenger and the Gunners want, expect and plan to inhabit. If not now, then in the very near future.
But they can't reasonably expect to get there without even further improving their defense. They can't allow more goals than their competition when their competition trots out Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and Frank Lampard. There's simply no way they can compete, over the course of a grueling season, with that explosiveness.
With Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in tow, however, they can reasonably expect to compete with them defensively. They could create a new identity on that side of the ball, supplementing their defensive prowess with a much-better-than-average attack. Christopher Atkins of ESPN.com further examines how Yanga-Mbiwa would fit in with the Gunners:
Technically gifted, the Central African Republic-born defender has plenty to offer any side. Arsenal like to retain possession and have encouraged defenders to get involved in the construction of play. It is certainly easy to see how he would fit in Arsene Wenger's plans in that respect.
Blessed with pace and power, the Frenchman is a master of the interception and has made this quality a defining feature of his game. His positional awareness is, for the most part, very good, leading to a high number of interceptions and clearances (stats via WhoScored). However, even if caught slightly off-guard, he normally has the speed required to mop up the situation.
Insofar as this transaction is concerned, the clock is rapidly ticking on Arsene Wenger and the Gunners. They've shilly-shallied about the Yanga-Mbiwa addition for quite some time, and now must make a firm, resolute decision.
If they know what's good for them, that decision will be an exceedingly aggressive pursuit of the Montpellier star.