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Steven N’Zonzi has opened the door to Premier League return following his breakdown in relationship with Sevilla boss Eduardo Berizzo.
The 28-year-old’s future has been thrown into more doubt after the midfielder left the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan when his team were 3-0 down at half-time during their UEFA Champions League clash with Liverpool on November 21.
N’Zonzi was not even named on the Sevilla bench in the 2-0 win over Deportivo on Saturday, fuelling further speculation over a potential move in January.
According to a report by Italian news outlet Calciomercato, N’Zonzi is poised to return to the Premier League and is back on Arsenal’s list of transfer targets. Everton have also been linked with a move for the Frenchman, but the Gunners look likely to activate his €40million release clause as Arsene Wenger looks to bolster his midfield.
Last season, after a string of strong displays, a Spanish publication compared N’Zonzi to Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira. That comparison with Vieira may be music to Wenger, who is said to be an admirer of N’Zonzi. Arsenal have lacked a midfield general for years since Viera left the club for Inter Milan. In short, the club has lacked a Vieiraesque kind of player – strong, powerful, dominant and equally adept at passing and scoring goals.
N’Zonzi cannot be considered as a goal-scoring midfielder but he has all the aforementioned traits to suit the Gunners’ style of play. Those traits may be present in some of Arsenal’s current midfielders; while Granit Xhaka boasts a wide passing range; Mohamed Elneny has added steel to the midfield since arriving from Basel and Francis Coquelin remains a tenacious squad player.
However, none of them is a complete package and that’s where signing N’Zonzi becomes essential, who, at 6ft 3 will dictate the game from the base of the midfield. The Frenchman is a tall, imposing figure capable of covering every inch of the pitch with his typical long strides.
N’Zonzi is not just a one-paced pass master but has other aspects attached to his game that are often unappreciated by those who have not seen him play much. He doesn’t fall into the mould of ‘midfield destroyers’ but his game is all about construction and shielding the defence.
After Sevilla ended Real Madrid’s 40-game unbeaten record in all competitions last season, ex-Sevilla and current Argentina national team manager Jorge Sampaoli called N’Zonzi an “octopus”. That’s how the evolution has taken place – from Blackburn to Stoke, from Sam Allardyce to Tony Pulis, from just a gangly midfielder to a strong midfield dictator; N’Zonzi after three fantastic years at Sevilla, notably winning the Europa league under Unai Emery, is keen to make a move.
N’Zonzi, who made his international debut for France last month, has everything required to be a modern-day holding midfielder. His arrival would significantly improve Arsenal’s midfield that has been accused of being too soft for several years. In addition, the Sevilla man would prove to be an instant upgrade on Coquelin, Elneny and arguably, Granit Xhaka.
Come January, Wenger, by hook or crook, should try signing N’Zonzi, who is hungry to make a mark in the Premier League.