Just when you think new Arsenal manager Unai Emery is happy with his midfield options, you’re proved wrong.
Various media outlets are now reporting that Sevilla’s defensive stalwart, Steven Nzonzi, could be about to make the switch to the Emirates.
But after the signing of World Cup star Lucas Torreira, and contract extensions for Granit Xhaka and Mohammed Elneny, why does Emery so desperately want to add to his midfield ranks? And is Nzonzi the right man for the Gunners?
Steven Nzonzi is 29-years-old and incredibly experienced at dominating games from a deeper-lying holding midfield position. Having been linked to the Premier League on several occasions, Nzonzi has impressed over the years with his ability to keep his passes simple, as well as ability at breaking up a game from the midfield and sparking a counter-attack. These would be invaluable assets to Unai Emery’s new-look side next season, but would Nzonzi do a better job than some of the current Gunners midfielders?
Nzonzi in La Liga
As you can see from the graphic above, Nzonzi didn’t feature in the Squawka top ten for La Liga interceptions last season. However, the Sevilla midfielder DID place eighth in the highest amount of passes in the Spanish top flight.
Let’s take a detailed look at Nzonzi’s statistics from his last campaign in La Liga, and line them up against the current Arsenal midfield set-up (including recent signing Torreira) using Squawka’s handy comparison matrix tool.
As you can see from the comparison, both Xhaka and Torreira played a significant more amount of games than the other two midfielders last season, but it is still worth weighing their statistics up against each other.
Out of the four, it appears that the pass master is, surprisingly, Granit Xhaka. The Swiss international boasted 2874 total passes, evidently keeping play ticking along nicely at the heart of Arsene Wenger‘s midfield. What is most surprising though, is the impressive amount of passes attempted by Nzonzi – 1589 in just 23 La Liga appearances. Should the Frenchman join Arsenal, it appears he would slot perfectly into their possession-based style of play.
Nzonzi leads the way for the most completed passes. 88% of every pass he attempted in the Spanish top flight last year found their target, an impressive statistic and one sure to be coveted by Emery. However, the other three midfielders also hold a high pass completion percentage, meaning that they would be equally adept at controlling a game. Once again Xhaka is Nzonzi’s biggest threat statistically, with 87% pass completion.
The one statistic that Nzonzi easily clinches victory in is total duels. The Frenchman won just under 61% of all duels in his La Liga appearances last season. To put this into perspective, Uruguyan World Cup star Torreira comes second with a vastly inferior 52.62%.
But when it comes to interceptions, Torreira’s statistics demonstrate why Emery has secured his signature this summer. The ex-Sampdoria midfielder won 67 interceptions last year, 44 more than Nzonzi.
Nzonzi also made a single error leading to a goal, a statistic unintentionally bettered by Xhaka’s three errors.
So should Arsenal go ahead and complete their swoop for Nzonzi? Despite the impressive statistics in certain places, and his experience competing in a notably physical league, I would say no.
The Gunners have already signed two midfielders this summer – Torreira and French starlet Matteo Guendouzi, who will be competing alongside Aaron Ramsey, Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny for a place in the centre of the park.
Despite the reasonable price tag being reported in the media currently, Emery has no need to stockpile midfielders this season and can rely on his ranks to challenge for a European spot already.
However, should Ramsey end up leaving this summer, then Nzonzi could certainly be a reasonable replacement.